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World Music CD Reviews Reggae & Caribbean


Published May 31, 2006


At night the ionosphere reflects AM radio waves back to the Earth’s surface and sends them farther than they can travel during daylight. Nighttime was when Jamaicans, during the heyday of rock and roll/rhythm and blues, turned on their transistor radios and listened to America. They picked up on all of what we sent out over the airwaves, even country music, and made it their own—hundreds of Top 40 U.S. hits got the ska/rocksteady/early reggae treatment. Some 24 of them are collected here, familiar tunes like Simon and Garfunkel’s “Cecelia,” Elvis Presley’s “In The Ghetto” and Little Anthony and the Imperials’ “Tears On My Pillow” taking on a bit more chunka-chunka than the originals offered. It doesn’t always work—some of the covers are dull and derivative—but when it does (Dennis Brown’s reworking of Otis Redding’s “Dock Of The Bay,” Marcia Griffiths’ hopped-up reconstruction of Freda Payne’s “Band Of Gold”), it’s easy to imagine coming back to these as often as the originals. In particular, the early ’70s material stands out: Boris Gardiner’s “You Make Me Feel Brand New,” Zap Pow’s “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” and Inner Circle’s “Rock The Boat” are guaranteed party-time conversation pieces.