Dennis Brown

Money in My Pocket: Anthology 1970 to 1995

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This generously packed and attractively priced two-disc set stands up nicely to the competition, which is fierce -- Dennis Brown compilations seem to crop up everywhere, especially since his tragic and untimely death in 1999. He was only a teenager when he recorded his first hit records, and he continued throughout his life to enjoy a surprisingly sustained level of popularity and critical respect; equally at home uttering stern Rastafarian pronouncements and crooning the sweetest of romantic ditties, he was a utility player with a rich voice and an unerring interpretive gift. His versions of "Black Magic Woman" and "Dock of the Bay" are justly praised, but his signature tune is the epochal lover's lament "Money in My Pocket," which appears here in two versions -- the original 1973 single and the 1978 version that propelled him up the U.K. charts. You'd expect a collection of 48 tracks to contain at least a few clunkers, but Brown was always consistent almost to a fault; his voice and style remained remarkably stable through work with producers as varied as Joe Gibbs, Winston "Niney" Holness, and Lee "Scratch" Perry, and through decades that spanned the history of reggae from rocksteady to dancehall. In fact, if there's a complaint to be made here, it's with the sameness of his execution. But the quality is so consistently high that it's hard to find fault even there.

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