Ernest Ranglin - Below The Bassline

12 January, 2012

By Red


You might not have heard of the name 'Ernest Ranglin' before, but unless you've been living in a nuclear bunker since 1948, your communication with the outside world restricted to carrier pigeons and smoke signals, it's almost certain you've heard his tantalising brand of jazz/reggae/blues at some point in your life.


It's hard to describe what Ernest Ranglin has done for music without using hyperbole and similes, so I'll just stick to the facts: He learnt to play the guitar on an instrument which comprised of a can of sardines and wires. His very first studio recording turned out the be the first album ever released by the now legendary Island Records. He played, recorded, and toured with Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, the Skatalites, Prince Buster, Peter Tosh, and Lee Scratch Perry, amongst others. You can hear him on tracks as diverse as the Melodian's 'River of Babylon' and Millie Small's 'My Boy Lollipop'. He recorded the soundtrack to James Bond's 'Dr No'. He is credited with having participated in the very first recordings of what later became known as ska, rock-steady, Jamaican rhythm and blues, and reggae. And if that wasn't enough, the dude is still alive today, and touring, at the tender age of 79. And he's still of the most technically accomplished guitar players in existence.


So how do you describe the musical style of someone that invents brand new musical genres? You don't. You buy, download, torrent, steal, copy, or borrow a copy of Below the Bassline, you sit back, light up a big one, and you listen.


If some of the tunes on Below the Bassline sound familiar, it's probably because they are. This album takes classic Rock and Roll era songs (Congo Man, 54-46 Was My Number (in turn covered by Sublime), or Black Disciples), and gives them the Ernest treatment: a ska, reggae, and dub instrumentilisation (is that even a word?) , with a jazz touch. It also includes a few tracks written by the man himself, and as such provides an educational opus of Jamaican music history. It's chilled, playful, subtle, melodious, and invokes a delicious, mellow elegance. Unlike, say, Justin Bieber's Under the Mistletoe, it's also multi-layered and understated, meaning that every time you listen to it you hear something new: a little lick here, a teasing riff there, a change of gear which turns ska into reggae.


If I was to be locked up in a nuclear bunker, my communication with the outside world restricted to carrier pigeons and smoke signals, Below the Bassline would be one of the first albums I would take with me. It might not prevent me from going insane, but it would at least ensure that I'd enjoy the process.




Primary Genre: Reggae

Subgenre: Jazz-funk

Release Date: 1996

Label: PolyGram

Influences: Charlie Christian

Like This And You'll Probably Also Like: Monty Alexander, Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare

Album Highlights: Congo Man Chant, Satta Massagana, Ball of Fire, Below The Bassline










"My brother Nikolas first got me into Ranglin back in the 90's and I've never looked back since. This is best known album and for good reason! 7/10"






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6 Fluffy Reviews
"From the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing can ever be made"
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Half Iroquois Chief, half Shaolin monk, a quarter Jewish, and a bit of French. Currently auditioning to play a cat in the musical: 'Punk Rock - Anarchy in the EU?
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Chuck Ragan
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Ernest Ranglin