Various Artists

Heartbeat Reggae [Heartbeat]

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When the still-young Rykodisc label began dipping its toes in the waters of reggae in the late '80s, it did so primarily by licensing compilations from other American indie labels like RAS, ROIR, and Heartbeat. This Heartbeat compilation is especially good. It demonstrates both the qualitative depth and the stylistic breadth of the label, with tracks from such masters of dread social commentary as Burning Spear ("Jah Say") and Black Uhuru ("Guess Who's Coming to Dinner"); dub poets like Mutabaruka ("Set de Prisoners Free") and Breeze (the acerbic "Aid Travel With a Bomb"); and offers smooth, party-time reggae from the likes of Sugar Minott ("Good Thing Going") and the inimitable Gregory Isaacs ("Top Ten"). Then there are the dire pronunciations of the relatively obscure Oku Onuora and the dancehall invitations of the really obscure Papa Finigan and Junior Ranking. Every track's a gem, and each one will lead you on a different path into Heartbeat's very impressive catalog.

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