Michael Rose

Happiness: The Best of Michael Rose

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Those with a just a passing interest in roots reggae are generally aware of Michael Rose's Grammy-winning group Black Uhuru, but the man himself doesn't have the same name recognition. With any luck, the grand Happiness: The Best of Michael Rose will change all that. A solo artist well before Uhuru, Michael Rose's output has equaled -- and arguably topped -- his work with Uhuru, and Happiness does a great job of representing. Kicking off with the original version of "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" and ending with the brilliant/quirky Fat Eyes production "Rough Life," Happiness brings to mind the mighty Bob Marley Legend compilation with its filler-free track listing. Just like Legend, Happiness is only an introduction to Rose, and while the man has released too many great, fully formed albums to say this is definitive, Happiness only misses the extended 12" side of his career and covers everything else splendidly. The Uhuru-ominous "Rent Man" fades out way too quickly in the included single edit and if the video for "Short Temper" had been dropped it would have made more room for Rose's music, but these are minor complaints. Following Rose from his rugged roots beginnings through his classic R&B-incorporating middle years and on to his risk-taking 2000s is nothing short of thrilling. It's all held together by Rose's depth as a songwriter and his warm, emotive voice. The little bit of Black Uhuru featured here is welcome, as are Rose's more commercial-minded collaborations with Shabba Ranks and Maxi Priest and the urgent live tracks. While the liner notes are a bit skimpy, they're helpful and filled with reverence. With such a broad career that has taken more than a couple twists and turns over the years, compiling Michael Rose is no easy task. A history lesson would have been the icing on the cake, but as it is, Happiness is an exciting and well-conceived introduction to one of reggae's greatest treasures.

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