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World Music CD Reviews Reggae & Caribbean


By Tom Pryor
Published October 13, 2005

Trojan/ Sanctuary 06076-80499-2

This three-CD boxed set digs deep into the vaults of the U.K.’s venerable Trojan label to come up with 50 forgotten early reggae jams gems and fan favorites, with most of the included titles nominated directly by fans on the label’s website. The result is a trip back to the very late ’60s and early ’70s, when reggae was considered to be a kind of novelty music by a lot of folks in the U.K.,  and reggae musicians in Britain were willing to try just about anything to get airplay. Nicky Thomas’ great “BBC” captures the spirit of those days, setting his plaintive “It’s a long walk to the BBC/But I’ve got my walking shoes on” against a backdrop that’s part chugging early reggae and part Bay City Rollers. It may be hard to imagine just how pop-oriented reggae was in the days before Bob Marley cemented the bond between reggae, roots and Rastafari, but such gorgeously cheesy, string-sweetened covers as the Greyhounds’ “Moon River” and Teddy Brown’s “Rose Garden” make the pop-star yearnings of thousands of also-rans achingly real. But this collection isn’t all fun novelty tracks, and there are some true lost classics here, too. From sweltering rocksteady scorchers like the Spanishtonians’ “Suffer Me Not” and The Soul Leaders’ “Pour On the Sauce” to “skinhead reggae” favorites like the Cimmarons’ “Check Out Yourself” and Dave Barker’s “Shacatac,” this indispensable collection will fill in gaps in your reggae collection that you may not have even known you had.