Various Artists

Island Life: 50 Years of Island Records

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Following its great DVD video collection in 2007, Universal issues this ambitious compilation of singles originally issued on Chris Blackwell's Island Records. Of all the record labels out there, Island was the truly maverick one. Beginning in 1959 as a tiny indie imprint in Jamaica, Blackwell began by issuing calypso and other forms of Caribbean music -- and would eventually issue groundbreaking sets by Bob Marley, Desmond Dekker, Junior Murvin, Jimmy Cliff, Gregory Isaacs, Burning Spear, Black Uhuru, Linton Kwesi Johnson, and dozens of others. But as this triple-disc collection suggests, reggae, ska, and calypso were far from the only styles of music Island issued. Here are tracks from the careers of U2, Traffic, Cat Stevens, Bad Company, Robert Palmer, the B-52's, Pulp, Nick Drake, Jethro Tull, John Martyn, Sandy Denny, Sparks, Tom Tom Club, Slits, Amy Winehouse, in addition to others from the Caribbean artists above. Here are 39 singles from Island's catalog, along with a third bonus disc of contemporary artists covering classic ones on the label. Examples range from Winehouse covering Toots & the Maytals' "Monkey Man," Paul Weller re-versioning Drake's "River Man," Joe Cocker covering Cliff, and Keane paying tribute to Pulp on "Disco 2000," to name a few. There are 14 tracks on the bonus disc. This is an excellent introduction to Island, though of course it is wildly incomplete, and an undeniably great mix of music for the money.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 3:49 Spotify
2 3:34 Spotify
3 4:04
4 3:54 Spotify
5 3:39 Spotify
7 3:35 Amazon
8 3:46 Spotify
9 3:55 Spotify
10 3:56 Spotify
11 3:03 Spotify
12 6:49 Spotify
13 3:51 Spotify
14 3:17
15 3:49
16 3:07 Spotify
17 3:32 Spotify
18 3:56 Spotify
19 3:38 Spotify
20 3:23
blue highlight denotes track pick