Various Artists

Flag Flown High: The Best of Bobby Digital's Roots Productions

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Flag Flown High: The Best of Bobby Digital's Roots Productions Review

by Jo-Ann Greene

King Jammy protégé Bobby Digital launched his own label, Digital B, in 1988 with a clutch of seminal releases from Cocoa Tea and Shabba Ranks. Both men had previously cut singles for Jammy, but it was their later work with Digital that really wowed the crowds. Soon after, established vocalists, top ranking DJs, and up-and-comers would all be quickly benefiting from the producer's skills. This compilation looks at that latter group of artists, sweeping up some of Digital's best work between 1991 and 1997 drawn exclusively from the cultural realm. Garnett Silk sets the stage with his powerful "Mystic Chant," one of three numbers from the late singer within, while Cocoa Tea and Shabba Ranks offer up the scintillating title track. Surprisingly Tea's own "Heathen" is not included, although that's been well anthologized elsewhere. Instead we get Ranks' incendiary version, "Heart of a Lion," and Morgan Heritage's "Protect Us Jah." Digital was the first to record the latter band, and two more of their early hits are also bundled up here. Beyond discovering new talent, riddims are Digital's real forté, be they his own creations or stunning versions of others. "Moving On" is one of the former, a riddim first rode by Sizzla on "Black Woman & Child," but here we're offered Cocoa Tea's splendid vocal cut. The producer also tackled popular riddims to stunning effect: "Real Rock" "Leave Out a Babylon," "Stalag" "Every Knee Shall Bow," "Drum Song" "Fire Bun," "Mr. Bassie" "Weep Not," and "Satta Massagana" "Raggy Road" included, phenomenal versions one and all. However, Digital also has the ability to pull out a less favored tune and turn it into a smash. "Good Ways" and "Tell Me Why" are grand examples of this talent, versions of Alton Ellis' "Breaking Up" and "Live and Learn" respectively, while "Trod Mount Zion" is an inspired remodel of Junior Byles' "Fade Away." Equally notable are the arrangements and productions themselves, although as digitized as his name they're still awash in atmosphere, melody, and swinging rhythms that even older roots fans can appreciate. There's not a less than sensational riddim within, and the performances from the day's hottest newcomers, now mostly huge stars, are uniformly magnificent. Digital helped lay the foundation for the return of culture to the dancehalls, and this set shows you precisely how.

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