Various Artists

Tougher Than Tough: Rude Boy Ska Rock Steady & Reggae

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The title of this compilation makes clear that the rude boy phenomenon influenced many Jamaican music styles, of course peaking with Jimmy Cliff's 1973 soundtrack to The Harder They Come, biopic of original rude boy and fugitive Vincent "Ivanhoe" Martin. Some of the tracks within demonstrate Jamaican musicians' respect for the island's criminal set: Desmond Dekker & the Aces immortalize rudies on the easy-swinging ska vehicle "Rudy Got Soul," and Honey Boy Martin defers to the ruthless outlaws on "Dreader Than Dread." The majority of acts represented here, though, point a collective finger at the gangster fringe: reform is recommended by Dandy on "Rudy A Message to You," while Derrick Morgan takes things to trial on "Court Dismiss" -- Morgan seems to split the difference of opinion, in fact, with his contrasting praise on "Tougher Than Tough." Whether pro or con, the 18 high-quality selections here offer up a fine overview of the rich first decade of Jamaican music, including well-known songs like Desmond Dekker's "007 (Shanty Town)" and the Slicker's "Johnny Too Bad," as well as obscure gems like Boris Gardiner's organ-driven rock steady instrumental "Scarface." Another plus is the overall high-quality sound, which is not always the case with Trojan reissues. If your musical tastes run to the topical and you feel the need for a good introduction to the beginnings of reggae, then this is the disc to get. To be more democratic, the high-quality selections here make this a must for both the casual and serious fan of Jamaican music.

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