Little Roy

Packin' House

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Earl "Little Roy" Lowe began cutting singles in the rocksteady era, but it wasn't until the reggae age that the singer notched up his first hit, 1970s "Bongo Nyah." By then Lowe was a fervid Rastafarian, composing exclusively conscious numbers. In 1973, discouraged by producers' less than avid response to his cultural songs, Lowe began self-producing his own music and, in conjunction with the Jackson brothers, Maurice and Melvin, launched the Earth and Tafari labels.

The Tafari Earth Uprising compilation bundled up Lowe's biggest songs from this period, with Packin House picking up rarer or unreleased numbers, as well as packing in singles and versions from other artists released by his labels. Working with top engineers, including Errol Thompson, Barnabus, and Sylvan Morris, and the cream of Jamaica's musicians, the high quality of Lowe's work on both sides of the console continues to impress. The singing-co-producer's own quartet of songs are an eclectic batch, ranging from the Wailers styled "Hurt Not the Earth" to the calypso tinged, blues flecked "Natty Yard," across the militant "Rat Trap" to the splendid "Ticket to Zion," a fabulous version of the Beatles' "Ticket to Ride." The Heptones, too, deliver a pair of scorchers -- the fiery, funky "Revolution" and the rocking "Forward on a Yard," proceeded by their instrumental versions, and in the case of "Revolution," a surprising DJ cut from Heptones' member Leroy Sibbles. Dennis Brown fans will be thrilled to see his rare "Set Your Heart Free" single included here, which also is twinned with its instrumental version. John Clarke is no relation to the far more famous Johnny Clarke, but his desperate search for a job during Jamaica's "Recession" will resonate with anyone who's been left unemployed with the wolf at their door. However, it's Carl Dawkins' searing "Burnin' Fire" that is arguably the best track on this set, running a very close second is DJ Winston Scotland's incendiary "Zion Fever."

There again, everything on this album deserves attention, even if the sound quality is a bit patchy in places. An excellent compilation from an artist/producer only now beginning to garner the reputation he's so long deserved.

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