The Maytals

Maytals [Dressed to Kill]

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The Sensational Maytals by any other name is still a stunning set, and even more so when you throw another pair of the trio's hits into the mix. Having launched their career at Studio One, within a few years the Maytals had moved on, working first with Prince Buster, and then linking up with Byron Lee in 1964. The first fruits of their labor with the latter was the Jamaican chart-topping single "It's You," which was eventually knocked off its perch by the single's B-side, the soulful, doo wop ballad "Daddy." By the time the trio released their second single, the skanking "Fever," all of Jamaica was bitten by the Maytals' bug, and hits just kept flooding forth. "Never You Change"'s gospel exuberance, the adamant "If You Act This Way," and "My New Name"'s exhilarating goofiness; each of them rocketed up the Jamaican chart. Best of all, the trio's exhilarating gospel-flavored vocals suited any style, be it the sweet blues of "It's No Use," the jazzy brass-drenched "What's on Your Mind," the fabulous R&B found on "I Know," which also boasts a superb solo from guitarist Ernest Ranglin, the mento flavored "She Will Never Let Me Down," and, of course, myriad propulsive ska numbers. So strong were these singles that before 1965 was out, an impatient Lee bundled up a batch and pressed them onto a full-length album, appropriately titling the set The Sensational Maytals. Although many more hits were still to come, this set permanently captured the group at their ska height.

Although not presented in the original set's order, Maytals [Dressed to Kill] includes the album in its entirety, but kicks the action off with the non-album "Bam Bam," another smash hit, and the number which grabbed top honor at the first Independence Festive Song Contest in 1966. "Pomp & Pride," the other non-album offering, was another festival winner, but this one from 1972. Needless to say, this reggae number is quite out of place here, but it's a splendid song regardless, and still immensely popular, so doubtless few fans will complain.

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