Various Artists

Solid Gold from the Vaults, Vol. 2

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This is the second of four Trojan compilations featuring rare ska, rocksteady, and early reggae. The emphasis this time out is on ska and reggae sides, with the Wailing Wailers (featuring a young Bob Marley), the Skatalites, and the Maytals being the only high-profile acts present. While these legends all make spirited contributions, what really dazzles is the more obscure material like Tommy McCook's dizzying instrumental "Out of Space," Baba Brooks' rude boy theme "Seven Guns Alive," and Don Drummond's loping trombone number "Dragon Weapon." Switching from ska, the second half of the disc includes an early reggae mix of soulful vocals, DJ cuts, and instrumentals. The rarely heard singer Hemsley Morris particularly impresses with his smoky and vulnerable delivery on "Little Things," while DJ U-Roy Junior "let(s) the music shock you" on "Sharper Than a Razor" and Dice & Cummie bring Jamaican patois to the fore with their amusing ganja dialogue "Real Collie." Getting top honors here, though, are Randy's Allstars' massive groove on the organ grinder jam "Solid Gold" (presumably the series namesake as well) and producer Herman Chin Loy's innovative, early dub exploration "Invasion." A great and nicely varied collection with decent to fine sound throughout. Once again, kudos to London DJ Lionel Young (aka Sir Tropical Downbeat) for the tasty excavation work in selecting the tunes.

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