Various Artists

Reggae's Greatest Hits, Vol. 1

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What do you do when you have a deep back catalog of high-quality reggae compilations, most of which have long since dropped off the record-buying public's radar? You reissue them at budget price, of course. The first of 12 volumes in Heartbeat's Reggae's Greatest Hits series, this one features a selection of singles originally released on Gregory Isaacs' African Museum label; the compilation itself was originally issued on Heartbeat under the title African Museum Selection: Togetherness. The program includes two from Isaacs himself: the exquisite and archetypal "Top Ten" and the slightly less compelling "Cream of the Crop," as well as excellent contributions from the Mighty Diamonds, Ronnie Davis, the Viceroys, and Bobby Melody (all backing instrumentation is provided by the Roots Radics, though that information is sacrificed in the budget-line series packaging). Isaacs' famously cool, laid-back style seems to settle over everyone; you expect this sort of gentility from the sweet-voiced Mighty Diamonds, but even Melody's rockers-inflected "Got to Be True" comes across as more of a gentle croon than a stern admonition. Luckily, the mighty Roots Radics are on hand to keep things from getting so light that they float away. Highly recommended.

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