Various Artists

Independent Jamaica

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No record label in the history of popular music has found as many ways to recycle its catalog as the British Trojan label. But even by Trojan's high standards of creativity, this one stands out, and it's actually quite an interesting and enjoyable historical and musical document. Jamaica became an independent country in August of 1962, and that year saw a huge number of songs in a variety of styles celebrating the new nation's birth.Independent Jamaica brings together 25 chart hits from that year, many of them (such as calypsonian Lord Creator's triumphant "Independent Jamaica" and the young Jimmy Cliff's "I'm Free") offering an explicit celebration of independence, while others (such as Lloyd Robinson's "You Said You Loved Me" and the Continentals' "Going Crazy") dealing with more mundane topics. While some of the tracks here come straight out of the calypso tradition, most are steeped in the ska and rocksteady styles that were already in the ascendant by the early '60s. Not every track is essential -- "We'll Meet" by Roy & Millie suffers from terrible singing on Millie's part, and Derrick Morgan's "Forward March" is kind of silly -- but overall this compilation offers a fascinating window on a pivotal moment in Jamaica's history. Recommended.

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