It began in 1977, with Yabby You handing the then Prince Jammy one of his riddims. The budding producer-to-be refashioned it into Black Uhuru's "Born Free," a 45 that singularly failed to excite the market. But Jammy wasn't discouraged. More recordings followed, but it wasn't until the next decade that the heir apparent began making his mark. King Jammy in Roots bounces around the producer's early years, from the late '70s through the early '80s. For those yet to forgive the producer for single-handedly ushering in the ragga age, this is a potent reminder of just how roots driven Jammy's sound was pre-1985. Besides releasing Black Uhuru's debut single and album, and giving the band's future frontman, Junior Reid, a big career boost, Jammy also worked with veterans like Johnny Osbourne and Augustus Pablo. Two of Osbourne's biggest hits cut for Jammy during this period bookend the set, with "Lend Me Your Chopper" helping fuel the rage for the "Real Rock" riddim. The Fantails' "Name of the Game" gave a similar boost to the "Death in the Arena" riddim, albeit not their vocal cut, but its spectacular dub version, which sadly is not included here. Still, with two instrumental/dubs and a hat trick of extended mixes, there's plenty of opportunity to luxuriate in Jammy's splendid riddims.
Barely remembered artists like the aforementioned Fantails, Lacksley Castell and the aptly monikered Echo Minott (aka Noel Phillips) rub shoulders with the stars, among them Hugh Mundell. The inclusion of the latter's irresistible "Walk with Jah," cut over another "Arena" version, and the glorious "King of Israel," versioning "Queen of the Minstrel," are particularly welcome, especially as the latter is proceeded by Pablo's fine instrumental take, "King Pablo." Of course, this compilation just brushes the surface of Jammy's work during this era, but with its combination of hits and rarities, it still provides a glorious overview of the period.