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World Music CD Reviews Reggae & Caribbean

Desmond Dekker

By Jeff Tamarkin
Published March 30, 2007

The Essential Desmond Dekker

Arriving shortly after his death earlier this year, this British double disc is hardly the most comprehensive Dekker collection available, but it does live up to its title as one of the best. At 40 tracks, The Essential may in fact offer considerably more than the neophyte requires, but by venturing beyond the basics it provides a thorough re-assessment of one of reggae’s (not to mention rocksteady’s and ska’s) most overlooked pioneers. Of course it includes Dekker’s sole U.S. chart hit, 1969’s “Israelites,” as well as the other ’60s and early ’70s recordings that made him a star in Jamaica and in the U.K., like “It Mek,” “007 (Shanty Town),” “Pickney Gal” and the superb cover of Jimmy Cliff’s “You Can Get It If You Really Want.” A handful of rarities and worthwhile oddities dot the playlist, and the set wisely avoids Dekker’s comeback recordings of the ’80s and ’90s.