Toots & the Maytals

Broadway Jungle: The Best of Toots & the Maytals

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To listen to a chronologically arranged program of hits by Toots Hibbert and the Maytals is to hear the progression of 1960s-era Jamaican pop music from ska to rocksteady to reggae. It's also to hear one of the most influential voices in reggae history, a pioneer of the harmony trio configuration, and the man who is widely credited with giving reggae its name (with the song "Do the Raggay"). There are any number of fine Toots & the Maytals collections on the market, and this one can take its place next to any of them. All the expected classics are here: "Pressure Drop" (which would later be covered by the Clash), the bouncy but poignant "Time Tough," "Monkey Man" (later a hit for the Specials during the second-wave ska revival of the late '70s), the amazingly beautiful "Pomps and Pride." The gospel tradition from which Hibbert emerged continued to inform his singing and writing throughout his career, and that influence adds a certain richness to songs like "Pomps and Pride" and "Redemption Song" (not the Bob Marley composition), but it's clear that American country music, rock & roll, and R&B were equally important influences -- "54-46 Was My Number" owes a clear debt to James Brown, and he covers not only "Louie Louie" but also, bizarrely, "Take Me Home, Country Roads." All of this adds up to a varied and highly satisfying set.

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