Cornell Campbell

Original Blue Recordings: 1970-1979

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Cornel Campbell's position as one of the smoothest and most skillful falsetto singers in reggae history remains unchallenged more than 30 years after his career began. Like all great song interpreters, he is able to take songs of mediocre quality and endow them with grace and meaning; when the material is as good as his voice, the results are invariably spectacular. So anyone who knows his reggae history will approach this collection with great anticipation: it brings Campbell together with Bunny Lee, one of the greatest reggae producers of the 1970s, working with similarly well-regarded backing bands the Aggrovators, the Soul Syndicate and the High Times Band. Strangely, though, the quality of the material on this collection is spotty. "Just One Kiss" and the musically simple but emotionally powerful "Jah Jah a Go Beat Them" rank with Campbell's finest work, and his cover version of the Gregory Isaacs classic "Once Ago" is also very fine. But inexcusably bad production mars "Won't Be Your Fool Again", and Campbell's take on John Holt's "I Am Your Man" is flatfooted and uninspired. His version of Sam Cooke's "I'm Just a Country Boy" is fun, but far from essential. It's difficult to imagine that this collection really does represent the best of Campbell's long relationship with Bunny Lee, since both have created so much better material in other contexts. Still, for fans this album can be recommended with some confidence.

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