Understandably, the Brits got the better box, the four-CD The Compact Two Tone Story, while the U.S. had to make do with the abbreviated two-CD The 2 Tone Collection. Compact compiled the A- and B-sides of every single released by the 2 Tone label, plus bundled in a bumper crop of rarities and live material, as well as George Marshall's definitive book The Two Tone Story. Obviously, Collection is going to pale in comparison to all that. However, one does get all the label's A-sides, and the flips as well in the case of double A-sided singles, with the sole exception of the two songs accompanying "Ghost Town." In their stead are Roddy Radiation & the Specials' "Braggin' and Tryin' Not to Lie" and Neville Staple's "Rude Boys Outa Jail," originally paired on a free single included with early copies of More Specials. There's also the Specials' "Raquel," the only other rarity here, which was the flip of the Dutch "Concrete Jungle" single. Since the majority of the singles' B-sides were culled off of studio albums, their omission is at worst inconvenient, but it does mean you have to shop elsewhere for the Selecter's live "Carry Go Bring Come" (the flip of "Missing Words"), as well as for a wealth of later B-sides. Then again, only the most fanatical will find these latter tracks much of a loss. Today, 2 Tone is synonymous with the genre it helped invent; however, in their later years the label left much of that sound behind, signing the likes of new romantic wannabes the Apollinaires and the Higsons, and Northern soul lightweights the Friday Club. Even the later Special A.K.A. material left much to be desired, as their chart placements reflect. But for all its eventual flaws, 2 Tone was one of the beacons of Britain's music scene, and at its peak a glittering success story of indie defiance and inspired creativity. Even in this truncated form, The 2 Tone Collection makes that glorious past come back to life.
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