Casual Bob Marley & the Wailers fans can be forgiven for assuming that the band began its career with the rise of reggae at the end of the '60s. Certainly a search through the reggae racks will not dissuade them from this view, so prevalent are the compilations that draw exclusively from this era. American fans are at a particular disadvantage, for at least in Britain the group's earlier singles can sometimes be spotted at rummage sales or in Grandma's cupboard. And so Heartbeat now begins to seriously redress the balance with this superb compilation that resurrects the glory of the Wailers' early canon, all cut for Studio One in the mid-'60s. With collectors in mind, Simmer Down at Studio One includes one unreleased number, "This Train," as well as three alternate takes seeing the light of day for the first time. "Train," recorded in 1966, kicks off the album, but the rest of the set proceeds in chronological order, beginning with the group's debut 1963 single and first Jamaican hit, "Simmer Down," and ending with 1965's sweet-as-honey "Love and Affection." This is a far different group from that which began to emerge into international stardom in the reggae age; for starters the Wailers weren't a trio, but a quintet, and occasionally a sextet, with the lead shared around Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, and band baby Junior Braithwaite, whose piping tones gave the group its distinctive sound. A number of the songs here were recut to greater or lesser effect in later years, including "Mr. Talkative" (aka "Mr. Chatterbox"), "Lonesome Feeling," "Love and Affection," and, of course, the mighty "One Love." This music has been too long neglected by archivists, and now fans can hear where it really all began for this iconoclastic band.
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AllMusic Review by Jo-Ann Greene