Various Artists

Reggae Reggae: 60 Classic Reggae Hits

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To be fair, this compilation stretches the definition of reggae a little by including not only some ska and rocksteady, but also material from the Two Tone era. But if you can forgive that, the 60 tracks here do qualify as classics. There's some pre-fame Bob Marley with "Sun Is Shining," and plenty of the big hits from a vast number of artists, ranging from Gregory Isaacs (the truly wonderful "Night Nurse") to lovers' rock, and even the mighty Judge Dread, as well as Toots and the Maytals, Horace Andy, and Black Uhuru. Nor are these offcuts when it comes to songs; it's all absolute high quality. It probably won't function quite as a primer of Jamaican music, but it could certainly form the basis of a collection, since there's ample gold in these nuggets, such as the original of "Police and Thieves" or the seminal "S90 Skank," the piece that effectively launched toasting (and from there, rap). Going back to the pre-reggae period does help put the music on context, and the earlier songs are superb listening. Considering the three-CD set is low priced, it's most certainly a bargain.

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