Various Artists

On-U Sound Celebration

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Before Adrian Sherwood's scrappy On-U Sound label instituted its own compilation series (the infamous Pay It All Back collections), there was this obscure gem released on the German Trance label in 1988. As an introduction to the controlled chaos that is On-U Sound, one could hardly do better: it includes representative cuts from the avant-retro roots combo Creation Rebel ("Creative Involvements," "Independent Man"), a great version of the reggae classic "A Love I Can Feel," the underappreciated DJ Jah Woosh (Woodpecker Sound), as well as Playgroup, Judy Nylon, London Underground, and others. The best tracks, predictably, come courtesy of the late, great Prince Far I (whose super-heavyweight "Quante Jubila" runs away with the program early on and never gives it back) and Singers & Players, who remain the class of the On-U stable. Those who prefer things a bit more abrasive will also enjoy the tracks from Voice of Authority, a band whose membership is never specifically revealed but which boasts distinctly Doug Wimbish-like basslines and a certain robotic funkiness. The Pay It All Back titles are easier to find, but this one is definitely worth scouring the bargain bins for.