Various Artists

Reggae Songbirds: 17 Great Tracks from the High Note Label

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While female reggae singers aren't exactly rare, they've never been exactly thick on the ground or well-represented on the charts, either. Female reggae producers are almost unheard of, and this compilation is a valuable document if for no other reason than the fact that it brings together examples of both. The High Note label was owned and operated by Sonia Pottinger, one of Jamaica's finest producers. The 17 tracks on this compilation demonstrate the enduring quality of her work, both with such famous names as Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt (both former members of the I-Threes, Bob Marley's backup trio) and more obscure artists like Sonya Spence and Lillian Williams. Highlights include Sharon Black's gorgeous "Struggling," the majestic "Stepping Out of Babylon" by Marcia Griffiths, and Judy Mowatt's classic "I Shall Sing." Pottinger's production style is elegant but simple -- the mix never draws attention to itself, but the balance is always perfect and the bass heavy and clear. This is one of Heartbeat's finer collections.

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