Various Artists

Blood & Fire: Hit Sounds From the Observer Station

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Producer Winston "Niney" Holness helped the revolution along more than helmed it, but he was there when rebel music reared its angry head in Jamaica, and while he wasn't the groundbreaking idea man his close friend Lee Perry was, his output contains a wealth of important tracks. Named after his largest contribution to the rebel music canon, Sanctuary's Blood & Fire contains too many curios and merely interesting numbers to be considered a first purchase. On the other hand, the two-CD set will bring reminders of the high-quality, deep-interest compilations the Blood & Fire label puts out, further evidence that Sanctuary's handling of Trojan's catalog deserves the respect of roots fans and is going a long way toward righting the wrongs that the catalog suffered in the early days of CDs. The liner notes shed new light on Niney's career, the package is great to look at, and the tracks have been cleaned but not dulled. Besides the title track, there's the very important "Flat Foot Hustling" with DJ Dillinger dropping mento quotes over the kind of sharp, driving beat Niney and his crew became famous for. Michael Rose's solo stab at "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," Gregory Isaacs' perfect "Slave Master," Max Romeo's caustic "Rasta Band Wagon," and Junior Byles' bouncy "Weeping" refuse to grow old, and while the dubs and redundant versions of some tracks pull the collection's punch, hearing how Niney's hungry little studio took advantage of whatever riddim sparked fire helps zero in on the excitement that would ignite his biggest hits. Heavy with history but hardly unapproachable, Blood & Fire fleshes out Niney's place on rebel music's second line of attack.

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