Dennis Brown

Emmanuel

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As a child star at Studio One, Dennis Brown enchanted Jamaicans with covers of pop hits and sweet, romantic singles, a direction he initially continued as a teen star. In 1973, however, the singer linked with producer Niney the Observer and began unleashing a stream of seminal cultural numbers, including "Wolves & Leopards," which opens this compilation. A couple of years later, Brown and Niney parted ways, and the singer launched his own DEB label, and with it, another stream of roots masterpieces. These included such self-produced hits as "Emmanuel," "Children of Israel," "Lately Girl" (aka "Promised Land"), and "Party Time." Even while Brown was thrilling roots fans with these releases, however, he joined forces with the Mighty Two, producer Joe Gibbs, and engineer/producer Errol Thompson, to further flood the market with the likes of "Whip Them Jah Jah" and "Created by the Father." However, it was "Money in My Pocket," a major British hit, that peaked A&M's interest, bringing a deal and a trio of Mighty Two produced album releases to the international market. Brown and the Mighty Two were desperate to break the American market, bending their sound in hopes of pleasing U.S. audiences. They failed, and their efforts rebounded badly back home, although Brown held on for one final Mighty Two produced set, the Jamaican only Love's Got a Hold on Me, five of whose tracks appear here. Inevitably then, this set feels quite unbalanced, with equal weight given to roots classics and '80s aberrations. Thankfully, the selector at least had the sense to keep the two halves apart, rather than interspersing them. Emmanuel's title suggests an album of Brown's greatest cultural numbers, and you indeed get some, but you also get a good deal of material the singer himself would dearly have loved to forget.

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