In their few years at Studio One in the early '70s, the Soul Defenders were the sound behind scores and scores of classic cuts with the likes of Alton Ellis, Dennis Brown, and the Heptones, among many others. But beyond being the Studio One house band, the Soul Defenders were a true group in their own right, fronted by a glee club of singers -- the Selected Few, Joseph Hill (later of Culture fame), Freddie McKay, Clifton Gibbs, and Vin Morgan (who also played keyboard and drums with the band). Thus, this compilation focuses purely on the group's own recordings, not their work as a backing band. And what an extraordinary catalogue it is. A third of the album is given over to their entertaining instrumentals, the rest is split between the vocalists, with McKay grabbing the lion's share of tracks, but with the others all showcased with at least one offering. The Selected Few's "Selection Train" is a knockout, a slowly simmering song with an evocative, dreamy quality. Morgan's "Face Your Trouble" is one of the most haunting the group ever recorded. In total contrast is the gaily bouncy "High School Dance," with McKay at his sweetest. Meanwhile, Hill's "Take Me Girl" somehow manages to merge a love song with religious devotion, half hymnal, half doo wop. The strength of the Soul Defenders lay not just in their diverse and considerable vocal talents, but in the equal ability of the musicians within who expertly mold themselves around each song's mood. "Picture on the Wall," for example, features a reggae rhythm, but the bassline has a pensive quality that accentuates the track's longing feel. Every song is equally sympathetic to the singer, while on the instrumentals, the band take pleasure in playing with other styles, within a reggae framework of course. After departing Studio One, the group carried on for a bit, then splintered as the members began pursuing solo careers. Catch them here all together and at their best.
AllMusic Review by Jo-Ann Greene