Various Artists

The Creole Reggae

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Creole Records began as a British management and booking agency founded by Bruce White and Tony Cousins in the mid-'60s, but the pair soon began releasing Jamaican music on their own under the Creole imprint, later branching off into other labels (Cactus, Revue, Glitter, Winner) as well. While the Creole label family tended to stick close to the European reggae-pop market, by 2003, when the catalog was sold to Sanctuary/Trojan, an impressive and varied backlist had been developed, and the evidence for that is here in this three-disc retrospective. The three volumes are presented chronologically, with the first disc featuring several pop hits from the late '60s and early '70s, including Mighty Sparrow's decidedly non-Jamaican sounding "Only a Fool Breaks His Own Heart" from 1969 and a trio of reggae-based sunshine pop hits from Barry Biggs ("Work All Day," "Sideshow," "Three Ring Circus"). The second disc, which covers the mid- to late '70s, is the most immediately compelling, with impressive tracks from Dennis Walks ("The Drifter"), the Upsetters (1974's "Cloak and Dagger," produced by Lee "Scratch" Perry), and two nyahbinghi-based cuts, "Sam's Intro" (a jazzy take on the horn intro to the Ides of March hit "Vehicle") by Cedric "Im" Brooks and the great Count Ossie, and Eric Donaldson's majestic "Freedom Street" from 1977. Disc three covers the dancehall era of the 1980s and early '90s, and includes delightful tracks from Beresford Hammond ("What One Dance Can Do," which turns the dancefloor into something resembling the OK Corral), Ruddy Thomas (the elegant and wise "People Make the World Go Round" from 1990 opens with a round of herb-inspired coughing), and Garnett Silk (whose smooth tenor puts an intangible poignancy into the lyrics of "Green Line," released in 1992). Jamaican music fans will love this set, and since most of these tracks have been seldom anthologized, it makes for an interesting alternative history of the past 30 years of Jamaican pop, from nyahbinghi and ska to dancehall reggae.

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