Various Artists

Am I Black Enough for You?: Jamaican Songs of Freedom

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Black pride and cultural awareness were exploding across the globe in the '70s, from soul and funk rave-ups in the U.S. to Afrobeat and highlife workouts in Africa and finally to reggae meditations in Jamaica, ground zero for the Trojan collection Am I Black Enough for You? Jamaican Songs of Freedom 1970-1979. A slightly different stripped-down mix of Ken Boothe's classic (and hauntingly paranoid) reading of Syl Johnson's "Is It Because I'm Black" leads off the set. Covers of U.S. soul tunes have always been popular with Jamaican crowds and artists, yet the resonance between the two black communities is particularly high here, as Jamaica's independence in the early '60s coincided with the peak momentum of the civil rights movement in the U.S. The Chosen Few, from Jamaica but based for a brief time in Miami, deliver a delicious synth intro to their cover of Billy Paul's "Am I Black Enough for You," and Derrick Harriott glides effortlessly across Eddie Kendricks' classic falsetto in his version of the Temptations' "Message from a Blackman." With their own history of slavery and a deep history of identification with African roots, especially with regard to Rastafarianism, Jamaica's black pride wasn't a mirror of America's Afro-American zeitgeist. The best tracks on Am I Black Enough for You? are homegrown: the Heptones anthem "Black On Black (Be a Man)," "Black Man's World" by Alton Ellis, and Bob Andy's "Fire Burning" are just a few examples. A few choice rarities, including the little-heard "Black Oppressor" from Leo Simpson and "Don't Call Me Nigger" from the Soul Twins, round out this inspired set.

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