Various Artists

Trojan Sunshine Reggae Box set

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Sunshine Reggae, a three-disc box set from Trojan Records, is a sugary delight, with 50 tracks of reggae odes to the sun and the beach, subjects obviously dear to the hearts of Jamaican musicians. Disc one opens with a wonderful version of the dockside tallyman's work song "Day O (The Banana Boat Song)," which is probably best remembered in the hit version by Harry Belafonte, done here by the Techniques. Also featured on the first disc is "Another Scorcher" by the Tennors, Jimmy Cliff's "Hello Sunshine" (produced by Leslie Kong), and Bob Marley's classic "Sun Is Shining" (produced by Lee "Scratch" Perry). Gregory Isaacs and Cool Sticky (Uziah Thompson) pull off a measured and leisured version of the pop standard "You Are My Sunshine" on disc two, while a thundering rhythm track gives teeth to B.B. Seaton's rendition of the classic "Summertime" (one of three versions of the Gershwin piece included here), and Byron Lee & the Dragonaires cover Arrow's soca dance anthem "Hot, Hot, Hot." Disc three shifts focus somewhat to the U.K. reggae scene, and in many ways it is the strongest and most varied of the three sequences, featuring the Jivers' "Down on the Beach" (with its strolling, relaxed piano), Selwyn Baptiste's "Mo' Bay" (a steel drum version of Bobby Bloom's "Montego Bay"), the Pyramids' mento-styled "Mosquito Bite," and Danny Ray & the Falcons' hooky piece of sunshine reggae-pop, "There's Always Sunshine." The box concludes with the odd vision and idiosyncratic production genius of Lee "Scratch" Perry on "Seaside (Mystic Mirror)." The various Trojan box sets are always worth checking out -- regardless of the theme -- but Sunshine Reggae contains enough rare tracks to make it particularly worth owning, and it might well turn out to be just what the doctor ordered on a wickedly cold day in the dead of winter.

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