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World Music CD Reviews Reggae & Caribbean

U-ROY

By Eric Seyfarth
Published September 8, 2005

This Is Crucial Reggae
Trojan/Sanctuary

This compilation of the legendary ranting Rastafari cuts fat slices from three periods of U-Roy’s storied career, organized around his collaborations with a trio of the best producers in the business: Arthur Reid, Bunny Lee and Mad Professor. With the assistance of such creative studio hands, U-Roy gained a reputation as one of the best DJs (“toasting” or rapping over instrumental tracks) on the Jamaican sound system scene, laying down his frenetic vocal stylings, earning the nickname the Originator, and providing continued inspiration for rappers to follow nearly two generations later. This CD picks up with U-Roy’s early-1970s meteoric rise when he was a nearly permanent fixture on the Jamaican charts, topping off with “Wear You To The Ball.” U-Roy’s success brought a flotilla of DJs to Kingston’s studios during this period, and a cover of his hit “Soldering” by none other than Hall and Oates in 1975 catapulted his popularity. After a relatively lean period, U-Roy returned to the studio with Mad Professor in 1991 to record “True Born African,” which is also on this collection. The U-Roy-Mad Professor collaboration continued through the 1990s, and the juxtaposition of the DJ’s rapid patterns and the producer’s slow-burning dub rhythms is a tribute to reggae’s unmatched ability to remain relevant.