Various Artists

Roots Rasta Party

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In the sound systems and clubs both in Jamaica and abroad, the arrival of the 12" "disco mix" in the mid-'70s was met with delight, as songs now seamlessly spun from vocal numbers into instrumental dubs and/or DJ versions. Modern compilations have made many of these extended mixes available again today, but rarities still abound, with Silver Kamel bringing together eight excellent, exceedingly hard to find classics. The set is all pure culture, but bounces around between time, producer, and artists, with the party kicking off with earliest of the batch. Cornel Campbell's "I Heart Is Clean" was released in 1976, with the backing Aggrovators strutting their stuff across the instrumental "Zinc Fence." There's a forceful rockers revelation from producer Niney Holness. The Soul Syndicate band back Phillip Fraser across two powerful numbers from the turn of the next decade, with the production shared by Fraser, Earl "Chinna" Smith, and T. Hailey. The singer may remain the same, but the DJs showcase the shifts in toasting with Prince Alla's pleas to the "Boss Man" far removed from the Clint Eastwood & General Saint styling of Peter Ranking & General Lucky. A pair of Jah Thomas productions also date from this era, although so dread is the roots supporting Barry Brown and Ranking Toyan's "Peace & Love"/"Judgement Time" that it feels like it was cut several years earlier. In contrast, there's no doubting Linval Thompson and King Rolex's "Guntalk"/"Everyday a Shot Dem Bus" date, backed by the Roots Radics, it's a prime slab of the early dancehall stylee. Incidentally, the little known Rolex delivers one of the most ferocious toasts on this disc. The Mighty Threes also offer up two excellent two numbers, both produced by member Carlton Gregory, with the potent toasts coming courtesy of Ranking Trevor. As with a number of the tracks within, the singles are so extended -- "Sit Down & Reason"/"Tribute to the King" clocking in at nearly 10 minutes, that it expands from the usual paired vocal and DJ version to encompass a dub instrumental as well. Careful sequencing helps the disc drift from rockers to roots reggae, into early-'80s dancehall, onto dread, and back again, finishing with a flourish with the Augustus Pablo dubby production of "Earth Wind & Fire"/"Ras Menlik Congo." A stunning set.

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