Alton Ellis was one of the sweetest of Jamaican crooners, blessed with a high falsetto but also a strong register to bring it across over some of the heaviest sound systems in existence during the late '60s. Trojan's Soul Groover, the longest collection of Ellis' songs yet seen, compiles 26 of his best singles from the '60s and early '70s (though less than a quarter of his output during the period), the vast majority of them recorded for Duke Reid's Treasure Isle label. Ellis did most of his best work with Treasure Isle, beginning with his first hit (as Alton Ellis & the Flames), the rudeboy dismissal "Dance Crasher." From there, Ellis was nearly unstoppable during the late '60s, birthing an entire style with the gloriously lurching "Rocksteady" and walking a fine line between love and heartache with "Girl I've Got a Date," "Why Birds Follow Spring," and "Ain't That Loving You." He acknowledges his roots in American R&B with a pair of Chicago soul covers ("Duke of Earl" and "Willow Tree," the latter one of his biggest hits) and two from the Motown vault ("What Does It Take [To Win Your Love]" and "You've Made Me So Very Happy"), and even flaunts his skills behind the boards with the self-produced "My Time Is the Right Time" and "The Message." Still, Soul Groover doesn't quite have the last word on the rocksteady king; it misses "Can't Stand It" and "Cry Tough," a pair of classics found on Heartbeat's 1993 compilation Cry Tough.
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AllMusic Review by John Bush