The Heartbeat label continues collecting up the brightest moments from the Studio One label, with this latest compilation dedicated to Coxsone Dodd's work in the early reggae age. A new crop of producers were making their name with incredibly jittery rhythms, but even as Dodd hardened his own sound, the lavish melodies and heady atmospheres remained at the forefront of every production. This is easily heard on the quartet of songs that open the set, each one more moody than the last, cresting with the Abyssinians' cultural masterpiece "Declaration of Rights," a roots classic that predates roots. But this broody styling actually reached its apotheosis on Ernest Ranglin's "Surfing," an instrumental literally swept by the sounds of the surf, and mournful backing vocalists who sigh out like a sea breeze. These five numbers were all groundbreakers, with Dodd foreshadowing the roots age to come, but always versatile, the producer was equally capable of unleashing the bouncy riddims the sound system crowds craved. You can hear those best on the Helpers' magnificent "Help Me," John Holt's sweet heart-aching "I Don't Want to See You Cry," and most notably on the stop-start rhythms that punctuate Ruddy Thomas' cultural gem "Parent's Fault." Every backing here is sensational, while the instrumentals, which includes Jackie Mittoo's superb "Iron Side," are masterpieces. As has come to be expected from this series, hits and well-known artists are counterpointed with little known acts and rarities. The always popular John Holt grabs four tracks, which beautifully highlights the singer's own little noticed diversity. Alongside such giants as Alton Ellis, Delroy Wilson, and a teenaged Dennis Brown come such unknowns as the Helpers and Wayne McGhie, insuring this set will be equally appreciated by the general fan and collector alike. Indeed this set is pure gold.
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AllMusic Review by Jo-Ann Greene