27 Jan 2022


All time 70s roots classic

'This superb collection, which consists primarily of rare tracks, shows Albert Griffiths and his band at the height of their powers in the early to mid-'70s. The core of the album is fifteen tracks recorded at Clement Dodd's Studio One, and there's a surprising variety of sound in evidence, from the drum machine-driven version of "Roots Natty" to the dark and reverb-drenched setting of "Bongo Red." While the Gladiators were a harmony trio along the same general lines as the Mighty Diamonds and Culture, they distinguished themselves from their peers by being accomplished instrumentalists as well; they play with a tight assurance that underscores their vocals nicely. As a special bonus, this album is appended by two songs ("Time" and "Ungrateful Girl") recorded with Lee Perry at his legendary Black Ark studio. "Ungrateful Girl," in particular, shows a powerful synergy between the Gladiators and the Upsetter; the singing is top-rate and Perry achieves a guitar sound that is both perfect and slightly bizarre. This is an unusual but essential reggae document.' -Review by Rick Anderson

Albert Griffiths – The Gladiator (1946 – 2020)

by Mr.T at Reggae Vibes

It’s an understatement to say 2020 wasn’t a good year for reggae as probably no other year saw that many reggae artists passing away. The list includes such reggae icons as Bob Andy, Toots Hibbert, Apple Gabriel, Naggo Morris, Norris Reid, Derrick Lara, and producer Bobby ‘Digital’ Dixon. And now, we can sadly add Albert Griffiths, one of the most inspiring voices in reggae, to that list. The singer had been sick for a while and passed away on December 16th at his home in Aberdeen, in the parish of St Elizabeth, Jamaica. Born on New Year’s Day, Griffiths died two weeks before his 75th earthday.

Founder of The Gladiators, singer and guitar player Albert Griffiths, had some local success with a song called You Are The Girl (a B-side to The Ethiopians hit record Train To Skaville and credited to Al & The Ethiopians), before he formed the original Gladiators with childhood friends David Webber and Errol Grandison in 1966. The first single they recorded for Studio One was Hello Carol (with lead vocal by Nicky Thomas), which topped the Jamaican chart in late 1968. Shortly afterwards, in 1969, Webber was stricken with illness and was replaced by Clinton Fearon, one of Griffiths’ proteges. Similarly Grandison left the group in 1973 for family commitments and was replaced by Gallimore Sutherland. Across the first half of the 1970s, it was Studio One that released the bulk of the trio’s recordings. Classic followed classic, as a stream of roots masterpieces was released. Roots Natty, Bongo Red, Jah Jah Go Before Us, and Mr. Baldwin were all huge hits in Jamaica, as well as in UK’s reggae fraternity.

The Gladiators signed up with UK-based Virgin Records in 1976, and the result was the release of four solid albums, which took their career on an international level. The Gladiators created some of reggae’s most enduring songs. Albert Griffiths’ sensibilities as a songwriter and singer, complemented perfectly by the sweetness of Clinton Fearon’s voice and Gallimore Sutherland’s harmony made for one of the genre’s greatest vocal trios. Like the original Wailers, the Gladiators’ vocal abilities are matched by their musical talent, making them one of the rare Jamaican groups that actually are a band in the true sense of the word. Thus, while every vocal group has its own unique sound, the Gladiators created a distinct style, one that shone forth regardless of producer. In the ’80s, when roots reggae was declining, they split up. Both Clinton Fearon and Albert Griffiths then started to concentrate on a solo career. When Griffiths was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the early years of the new millennium he stopped touring entirely in 2006.

See also
Interview with Albert Griffiths (The Gladiators) by Bob Kondrak

1. Roots Natty Roots (Extended) 5:43
2. Watch Out 2:45
3. Bongo Red (Extended) 5:04
4. A Prayer to Thee 3:09
5. Happy Man 2:44
6. Mr. Sweet 2:21
7. Fling It Gimmie 2:58
8. Don't Fool the Young Girls 3:59
9. Pretending 2:56
10. So Fine 3:26
11. I Said I Love You 3:03
12. Seven Time Rise 2:52
13. Millionaire of Love 2:28
14. The Kicks 2:27
15. Tribulation 3:44
Bonus Tracks
16. Time 2:27
17. Ungrateful Girl 3:11