Inevitably you're going to get an argument from fans when you call your compilation "Very Best of the Wailing Souls" and leave out such classics as "Very Well," "Back Out," "Feel the Spirit," and many more besides. But there's no pleasing some people, and there's obviously more to the Souls' sound than their seminal recordings for Channel One, as the self-produced "Spirit" proved. Besides, three Jo Jo Hookim numbers are here -- the masterful "Things and Time," the effervescent "Jah Jah Give Us Life to Live," and the stunning "War" which kicks off the set. Even as the Souls were knocking out the hits with the Hookims, they'd launched their Massive label, debuting it with their self-produced classic "Bredda Gravalicious" in 1977. At the dawn of the new decade, they cut a few numbers for Sly & Robbie, including the smash "Old Broom," then briefly linked up with Linval Thompson, for whom they cut "Who No Waan Come." Soon after, the Souls joined forces with Junjo Lawes, unleashing another stream of seminal singles, the glorious "Firehouse Rock," the powerful "Kingdom Rise Kingdom Fall," and the bouncy, dancehall fave "Baby Come Rock" amongst them. Bolstered by success, the Souls returned to self-production, unleashing a clutch of singles including "Down on the Rocks," which entitled their 1983 On the Rocks album, "Sticky Stay," which drolly tells their tale of getting stuck in California, and "War Deh Round a John Shop," while "Stop Red Eye" also dates from this period, and was drawn from the Rocks album. The quartet split up soon after the release of 1984's Stranded, and it was a new-look Souls that reappeared a couple of years later. Thus this set succinctly rounds up the band's classics from their "classic" period, evenly dividing up the tracks between some of their most important producers. Obviously, it only scratches the surface of the flood of music the Souls released during these years. And while many will argue about whether this compilation presents the Very Best, it certainly provides an excellent overview.
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AllMusic Review by Jo-Ann Greene