Various Artists

Original Jamaican Sound System Style: 21 R'n'B Scorchers

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It'll take a while to explain this record to your friends, but what a concept. To be brief, Jamaican sound systems were once hungry for music (hard to imagine since rocksteady and reggae records would soon be issued as fast as newspapers), so the DJs turned to the world of American R&B. Original Jamaican Sound System Style features many of the American tunes Jamaican DJs were spinning in the '50s, and it's evidence that they had excellent taste. The liner notes are fantastic, and you can't even pretend that every song on here isn't anything but jaunty and rollicking Friday night fish-fry fun. But don't forget that the sound systems overdrove these tracks through monolithic but cheap speakers; they mixed the tracks in with their own Jamaican R&B, and entranced audiences with shouts of babble. To hear it would be amazing but the ultraclean digital remasters here only hint at the experience. It's unfortunate that no one dug up a tape of the real deal, but this is evidence that someone should try.

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