How the West Was Won

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Ranking Toyan was already an established hitmaker by the time he linked up with producer Henry "Junjo" Lawes in 1981. Leaping from the sound systems to the studio, the DJ cut a string of popular singles initially for Don Mais and the Hoo Kim brothers, and by the end of '70s and early '80s many more producers as well. Meanwhile, Lawes was swiftly toppling the competition and setting himself up as the premier producer on the island, powered by the phenomenal riddims laid down by his studio band the Roots Radics. However, Lawes handled Toyan's album a bit differently than usual, though, allowing the tracks to bleed straight into each other, thus evoking the feel of a live sound system set. But that was after the fact, and thus doesn't explain the DJ's ferocious performances within, overall his best work from the period. It may be simply due to his excitement at working with Lawes or the sizzling riddims he was handed. These include Johnny Osbourne's "Ice Cream Loves" ("Children Children"), the Wailing Souls' "Bandits Taking Over" ("Capital Offence") and Michael Prophet's "Gunman" (the title track). The latter, an homage to the western, was initially released on 45, its popularity inevitably led to this full-length, with most everything included of similar high standards. And whether commentating on the boxing match between Dread and Baldhead on "Big Showdown," paying his respects to the late General Echo on "Tribute Entertainer," urging revolution on "Capital Offence," pushing the "Pope in a Di Corner," or even spouting nursery rhymes "Children Children," Toyan delivered the goods every time. Detractors found the DJ's style too derivative, but on this set its allure, especially live, was obvious, and Toyan played his part in insuring that "Reggae Gone International." The CD reissue appends a clutch more period cuts to the set, adding further value for money. Toyan never quite reached top-ranking status, regardless of his moniker, but How the West Was Won finds him at the top of his game regardless.

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