The Untouchables

Greatest and Latest: Ghetto Stout

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In their embryonic days, the Untouchables seemed to be pulling in a dozen musical directions at once. The studied sonic cool of the Velvet Underground; the determined acoustics of the Modern Lovers; the proto-skank discordance of such British post-wavers as the Slits, the Pop Group, and the New Age Steppers; and on the syncopated side, the delightful goofiness of Madness, the storming, double-pronged attack of the Selecter, and the breezy calypso lilt of the Jamaican tourist board. By the time of the release of their Live & Let Dance EP, the band had alighted on a more straight-ahead Two Tone and rootsy reggae sound. And while both stylings would remain amongst their repertoire, at heart the groups were mods, and their love of soul, funk, and R&B would inevitably rise to the surface. Fans need to acquire Cool Beginnings 1981-1983 to hear where the group began, for Greatest & Latest doesn't delve that far back, but does provide a sensational overview of the Untouchables' power and glory, with a baker's dozen of tracks that showcase the spectrum of their songs from later years. The emotive roots rockers of "What's Gone Wrong," the reggae-licious "Whiplash," the compulsive Two Tone-laced "Mandingo," and the Latino-fringed ska instrumental "Lonely Bull" all highlight the band's easy grasp of Jamaica's ever evolving musical styles, and their ease with and adoration of them all.

But as every reggae fan knows, ska itself evolved from American R&B, and the Untouchables follow that path too. The jazzy excesses of "Movin' N' Groovin," the R&B pop of "Twist 'N' Shake," the BritBeat-flavored "Keep on Pushing," the Stax styled soul of "Free Yourself," and finally the funky "Wild Child" -- across them all the band delve into R&B's continually shifting history and make it their own. But the true beauty of the Untouchables was not just their strolls down two separate memory lanes, but the effortless way they bring these roads together, creating a musical avenue all their own. However, this compilation will only leave you craving more, for 13 tracks will in no way sate your appetite, which perhaps is not such a bad thing.

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