Various Artists

The Complete UK Upsetter Singles Collection, Vol. 1

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In 1968 and '69, the rock steady sound of Jamaican pop music was slowing down and becoming what would shortly be called "reggae." It was also the period during which the British label Trojan Records finally realized that Lee Perry's Upsetter label in Jamaica was making some of the best reggae and rock steady recordings anywhere. So over the course of 1969, Trojan released 25 Upsetter singles in the U.K., all of which are presented with their B-sides on this two-disc set, for a total of 50 tracks. Now, 50 is a big number, and it would be unreasonable to expect every one to be spectacular. And indeed, there is an instrumental version of "Moonlight Bay" that has absolutely no reason for existing. But pretty much everything else here actually is fairly spectacular. Early tracks by David Isaacs (including a wonderful cover of the Jim Reeves hit "He'll Have to Go") and Winston Jarrett, classic Upsetters instrumentals like "Return of Django" and "Cold Sweat," obscurities by such little-known groups as the Ravers and the Bleechers -- all of it shimmers with that special weirdness that seems to suffuse all Lee Perry productions. The Upsetters' rhythm section would later form the core of the Wailers, and you can hear the beginnings of the heavy but stately, almost thoughtful groove that would typify their work with Bob Marley on these early singles. This set is the most enjoyable history lesson you may ever sit through.

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