The Maytals had a lot of lost time to make up. With Toots Hibbert's jailing in 1966, the band had been forced to sit out the entire rocksteady age. By the time of the frontman's release in 1968, the scene had already shifted to reggae, and nearly two years and an entire style had passed them by. It was time to get back to work. The group celebrated Hibbert's freedom with the exuberant "54-46 Was My Number," an instant smash, and from that point on the group never looked back. With Leslie Kong at the helm, the Maytals unleashed an absolute deluge of singles, right up until the producer's death in 1971 and beyond, and the band was never out of the charts. A clutch of their hits from this period have been recycled regularly on compilations, but Orange Street takes a different tack, bundling together 17 hits and two alternate versions solely from the years 1968 and 1969. Although they were all released as singles in the U.K., many of these songs have been neglected since, leaving younger fans to scour second-hand shops and eBay in search for them. Their efforts were worthwhile, for during this period the Maytals never released a less than stellar 45. The eclectic styling will come as a bit of a surprise as well, as listeners peruse the gorgeous doo wop-flavored "I Need Your Love," delve into the blues-heavy "I Shall Be Free," and bop along to the bouncy mento-flavored "Scare Him" before returning to the band's more typical gospel goodness on "Re-Born." Kong's productions were as inimitable as they were unbeatable, and his studio band, the Beverley's All Stars (aka Gladdy's All Stars), were equally so, with the backings as sensational as the Maytals themselves. It may just be a snapshot of the band's career, but regardless, this compilation is a must-have for every fan.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Jo-Ann Greene