With Bob Marley & the Wailers' break into the international market, suddenly reggae was hip and the major labels were all keen to make a killing in this new market. To that end, United Artists made their way to Kingston, gobbled up whatever was on offer, and unleashed the 14-album Anthology of Reggae Collector's Series. It's clear from the records' clueless sleeve notes that United Artists had virtually no understanding of what they had bought, but the material was of such high quality that they still ended up releasing seminal albums -- just not necessarily filled with the "reggae" material they assumed they were getting. In a number of cases, Jamaican producers had offloaded old rocksteady or early reggae numbers from now-hot roots artists onto the unknowing United Artists. Clement "Coxsone" Dodd was particularly guilty of this bamboozle, and artists like Delroy Wilson and Horace Andy were ill-served by the U.S. appearance of best-of sets drawn exclusively from their early years at Studio One, less so the Heptones and Meditations, whose rocksteady/early reggae material remained irresistible even to contemporary fans. But so ignorant was the label,they didn't even know the difference between DJs versioning a song and contemporary dub. Which is why Dillinger, the label's sole DJ, toasting over the instrumental version of Willie Williams' "Armagideon Time," represents dub here. It may not have been what reggae (or more accurately rockers and roots) fans of the day were looking for, but what music was captured within regardless. Reggae Sampler offers up 23 numbers spread across two vinyl discs and showcases at least one track from each of the artists. This includes newer offerings from the Abyssinians, Jacob Miller, the Skatalites, and Pablo Moses. The latter -- who barely made a splash in the U.S., but was particularly hot at the time at home -- rates three; the rest -- Burning Spear, Ken Boothe, Max Romeo, Dobby Dobson, and Jackie Mittoo -- are fobbed off with one. And thus, Anthology of Reggae Collector's Series spans the spectrum from ska, rocksteady, reggae, roots, rockers, and DJs. Incidentally, the ska track comes courtesy not of the Skatalites, whose own offering is drawn from the African Roots album, but from an early version of the Wailers' "One Love." Dodd cashes in again, and United Artists got to put Bob Marley on their sampler. Now everyone's happy.
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AllMusic Review by Jo-Ann Greene