Various Artists

Easy Star, Vol. 1

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This is an exceptionally good collection of reggae singles from a fledgling New York-based label. Although all of the tracks benefit from state-of-the-art production technology, the singing and playing are all reminiscent of the late '70s and early '80s, the period when Rastafarian-themed roots reggae was ceding ground to the slicker and more secular dancehall styles that would rule the charts during the coming decade. The best tracks are from the least famous names -- Ossie Dellimore sings "Time Has Come" in a rich, sweet voice over a propulsive, vintage-style rhythm; Father Sweets delivers a powerful DJ performance on "Sight of an Eagle"; the venerable Sister Carol and Jr. Demus share a rhythm to fine effect, as her "Original Drum" includes the immortal lines "What a blessed thing like the thing named genetics/Not to mention the thing metaphysics." The prime mover behind this album is producer Michael G, who provides all the rhythms and a virtuosic touch at the mixing board. Highly recommended.

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