Set the control (for the heart of BASS) !
The story of SMITH & MIGHTY is closely bound up with the musical history of Bristol, their hometown. For a good decade Rob Smith and Ray Mighty ( joined nowadays by third member Peter D. Rose) have featured among sound pioneers like Massive Attack, Tricky, Portishead and Roni Size who have enjoyed worldwide success. However, despite their huge influence on the ‘Sound of Bristol’, whereas the aforementioned have been able to celebrate their well-deserved successes, SMITH & MIGHTY have always had to take a back seat due to a plethora of unfavourable circumstances. In spite of some excellent 12" releases and their totally cool debut album ‘Bass is material’, an international breakthrough was not forseeable for the time being. This only changed in 1998, with their self-compiled release for the DJ Kicks series, which firmly put them back on the map and earned them much respect internationally. But let’s start at the beginning:
In the mid-eighties a scene arose in the St.Paul’s district, based around DJs like Nellee Hooper (later founder of Soul II Soul ) Miles Johnson and Mushroom, who soon dubbed themselves the Wild Bunch, going on to father the ‘Sound of Bristol’ by blasting a bassy melt-in-your-mouth mix of fusion, dub, reggae, soul und hip hop out of their soundsystems on to the streets of St. Pauls. What was initially played through traditional soundsystems progressed into the production of their own tracks, and the ‘Wild Bunch’s first recording ‘Look of Love’ clinched them quite a local hit. Co-producing was a second Bristol team, namely Rob Smith & Ray Mighty, who had established their own soundsystem called ‘3 Stripe’ In 1987 SMITH & MIGHTY released a cover version of Burt Bacharch’s ‘Walk On By’, shortly followed by ‘Anyone (Who Had A Heart) on their label, also dubbed ‘3 Stripe’. With this brace of tracks and their mellow basslines, soulful vocals and deep arrangements SMITH & MIGHTY had set the precedent for successive releases in the British port. (Such as a certain Massive Attack’s debut single ‘Any Love’, which they produced.)
They were also producers of ‘Wishing On A Star’ by Fresh Four (a one hit wonder featuring the then 17 year old DJ Krust) at the end of 1989, marking the beginning of a five year odyssey through the lowlands of the (major) music industry. After the huge success of ‘Wishing On A Star’, record companies began to take an interest in the boys from Bristol. They refused a lucrative offer from Virgin’s Richard Branson, commenting ‘We just don’t like his style, and the way Margaret Thatcher portrayed him as the ideal business mogul. Maybe it’s got something to do with the fact that we used to be punks" (Ray Mighty). The deal signed with London Records proved to be disastrous. They still went ahead with producing Carlton’s album, ‘The Call Is Strong’, exposing a real source of inspiration, but the record company couldn’t handle their visionary downtempo beats when England was obsessed with fast house and techno beats. To this day the album is regarded as the ‘great lost album of the Bristol Sound’. Further SMITH & MIGHTY productions were greeted with the same lack of recognition by the record company and mostly weren’t even released.
After their deal with with the major had expired, the first album on their own label More Rockers appeared in 1995 ( a dub version of an LP originally recordrd for London Records). Due to woeful distribution, this album only managed to make its way to hard core fans, yet rave reviews in the press consoled SMITH & MIGHTY. The next stagewas to concentrate on the project and label More Rockers, run with third member Peter D. Rose. They started laying down tracks with groundbreaking breakbeat and Drum ‘n’ Bass again, which were picked up and reworked by producers like Roni Size and DJ Krust. Hence the arrival of ‘Bristol Jump-Up’.
Hip hop, reggae, soul and mainly a great love of dub make the songs on the new album somewhat of a "missing link between Bob Marley, Soul II Soul and Laury Hill" as the Billboard says (12/99). The album was recorded over a period of two years, with vocals by the likes of Tammy Payne, Alice Perera and Rudy Lee, who all also hail from Bristol, and SMITH & MIGHTY’s deeply-embedded roots in the city make the whole thing into rather a family affair.