Various Artists

Better Off Dread: An MVD Reggae Collection

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This DVD sampler offers a great way for reggae fans to familiarize themselves with a dozen of the reggae titles distributed by the MVD company. Most of their catalog features artists caught live on-stage, and if this were a show, Better Off Dread would have been one helluva festival. The standouts include the born-to-perform Morgan Heritage, the consummate entertainer Yellowman, and the legendary Don Carlos. One can always rely on Toots & the Maytals to deliver up a performance to remember, while Half Pint continues to please, as does Pato Banton. The latter artist may have been better served, however, by a track that wasn't carried away by the audience. The clatter-bang-crash sound quality on Sublime's offering is also unfortunate, and when the song cuts off halfway through, it's almost a relief, but the biggest disappointment is Gregory Isaacs, whose overused voice disintegrates before your very ears. Israel Vibration, in contrast, sound great, but their performance barely scratches the surface of their Reggae in the Holyland DVD, where the real excitement is in sharing their sheer joy and wonder upon visiting Israel for the first time. Nor does Peter Tosh's track do justice to the Stepping Razor Red X DVD, which, while including live performance footage, is more notable for previously unheard interviews with the artist. For reggae fans, the Rockers movie needs no introduction, although one does wonder what those who haven't seen it yet will make of the clip of Jacob Miller and Inner Circle performing live at a resort hotel, and the fabulous Kiddus I in the studio, intercut with footage of a record processing plant. They're probably as baffled by this as by the bizarre footage from Southlander. Regardless, Better Off Dread is an excellent marketing tool, hopefully encouraging reggae fans to pick up all these titles.