Various Artists

Studio One Rockers

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Released by the U.K.-based Soul Jazz in 2001, Studio One Rockers is an excellent introduction to the mighty Jamaican label's undeniable strength and depth. Clement "Coxsone" Dodd's outlet as a producer and label head is paid due here, combining the well-known with the unknown so fluidly that some dedicated fans might be hard-pressed to separate the classic from the unearthed. Not only do you get the 15 fantastic songs -- which flow with the greatest of ease from roots to ska to funk to rocksteady to dub -- but you also get a hefty booklet, which contains an exhaustive interview with Dodd that recalls the days he spent spinning records at his mother's Kingston restaurant. Regrettably, there's zero recording information about the tracks, but that fault falls in line with the majority of reggae reissues. To look on the bright side, it almost adds to the mystique. Differing from most compilations of any genre, this isn't a disc that you dig up from time to time to play a favored track or two. This is something that begs to be played from front to back, since it's wildly varied and well-sequenced. But most importantly, it sounds spectacular. Sequentially, Horace Andy's sublime "Skylarking" gets sandwiched between Freddy McGregor's political "Bobby Bobylon" and "Village Soul," a mallet workout from Lennie Hibbert. Tough and dynamic dancehall duo Michigan & Smiley ("Eye of Danger") precedes Dawn Penn's classic, torrid, languid "No No No," only to be followed by the horn punches of the Skatalites' "Phoenix City." Other noteworthies include instrumentals by Sound Dimension (the disc-opening "Real Rock"), Studio One's music director and organ master Jackie Mittoo ("Hot Milk"), and guitar legend Ernest Ranglin ("Surfin'"). Truly a reggae compilation to be bought with no reservations whatsoever.

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