Various Artists

Bob Marley and the Story of Reggae

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This beginner's guide to the wonderful world of reggae is cleverly pegged to the music's most renowned icon, Bob Marley. Still, it's a sumptuous set that offers an entertaining overview of the scene, although thoroughly skewed toward the British market. Kicking off with seven excellent tracks from the Wailers themselves, drawn, no surprise here, from the early reggae years, Bob Marley and the Story of Reggae then dramatically shifts gears and returns listeners to reggae's roots. Three tracks from popular singer Lord Tanamo, revered trumpeter Baba Brooks, and idolized Skatalites saxophonist Roland Alphonso sum up the ska years with amazing alacrity. Skimming just as quickly through the glories of rocksteady, listeners abruptly arrive back in the early reggae age. What follows is a soundtrack of Britain's reggae scene. Big hits, skinhead faves, pop crossover classics -- every number here was a standard at U.K. clubs back in the day. But wait, what about the Wailers? Unfortunately, they weren't making much of an impact yet, and wouldn't for another a few years. But having stuck Marley's name on the cover, the selector tosses on seven more period numbers, all save one drawn from the group's two early-'70s Trojan albums. Inevitably, this provides a warped view of the Wailers' actual standing in the scheme of things, but at least it places their music in an appropriate context. Having done so, the set goes out in a fiery reggae blaze that swings from the nadir of the genre -- John Holt's cover of "Mr. Bojangles," to cultural classics from Dennis Brown and Junior Byles. This Story is true enough from the British perspective, even if the gaps and omissions are sizable, and for novices, it's a tale well worth hearing.

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