Black Uhuru

Liberation: The Island Anthology

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During the band's heyday in the late '70s and early '80s, Black Uhuru was one of the most unique and influential reggae bands in the world. This was partly due to their distinctive vocal sound -- which was dominated by the keening wail of Michael Rose and the haunting harmonies of American expatriate Puma Jones -- but in large part it was also due to their backing band, which was led by the legendary drum-and-bass duo of Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare and was one of the few that could challenge the Wailers in terms of telepathic tightness and sheer rhythmic wallop. Liberation goes one better than most retrospective compilations: instead of simply collecting two discs' worth of previously released singles and selected album tracks, it takes familiar songs (such as the anthemic "I Love King Selassie" and the apocalyptic "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner") and presents them in live versions, early mixes, 12" "showcase" versions (wherein the dub mix follows without a break on the heels of the vocal mix), and more. Little of this material is actually rare, and a good chunk of it actually does consist of standard singles and album tracks. But the rarities are plentiful enough to please fans, while the two-disc program is comprehensive enough to serve as a fine overview for beginners. Highlights abound, but they particularly include the showcase version of "Darkness" and the 12" mix of "Sponji Reggae." Excellent.

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