Various Artists

From Chapter to Version: 20 Reggae DJ Classics

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The Dutch Jamaican Gold label has staked their reputation on high quality reissues and compilations, and From Chapter to Version: 20 Reggae DJ Classics carries on this tradition. The early DJ scene has been the most poorly served of all Jamaican genres, and even as more and more material hits the shelves, quality is erratic and information patchy. Jamaican Gold has worked hard here to give the DJs their due, with this splendid collection all drawn from producer Alvin Ranglin's 1970-1974 archives. Ranglin worked with many of the top toasters of the day, most notably U-Roy and Dennis Alcapone, who will be most listeners' point of entry. This set features three and four of the superstars' tracks, respectively. From a social/historical perspective, "Musical Alphabet" is of particular note, as Alcapone toasts around a recitation of the alphabet, a potent reminder of the great literacy push instituted by the newly elected PNP government back in 1972, a campaign further reflected in many of the DJ's favorite catch phrases. However, it is Charlie Ace who is the primary focus of this set, and five of his scintillating tracks are included. Today barely remembered, at the time he was quite popular, and his is a welcome inclusion. Check out his exuberant "Do Something" and fast-paced "The Harder They Come." Another forgotten hero is Shorty Perry, who sang as well as he toasted. Chapter also includes a clutch of DJs who barely registered even at the time, now resurrected from total obscurity. They each have their charms, but the standout is Carey & Lloyd, two former singers who hooked up to toast, an almost unique phenomenon at the time. The one was a more laid-back MC, the other a flood of engaging patter; their "Scorpion" is a lost masterpiece and rivals the very best from their bigger brethren. What makes this collection even more crucial are the copious liner notes including full bios of each of the artists, information on the individual tracks, and, best of all, a "Riddim-O-Graphy," which identifies the songs' backing rhythms and artists.

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