Prince Buster

The Original Golden Oldies, Vol. 2

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AllMusic Review by Jo-Ann Greene

Volume one was given over to Prince Buster's own early hits, now the Prince bundled up the best of his early hit productions, from 1960-1963, for this compilation. With them, Buster drew the blueprint for ska. It's illuminating to compare this set with compilations culling early Clement "Coxsone" Dodd and Duke Reid productions. All three men drew from the same pool of musicians, an aggregate of sessionmen which would evolve into the Skatalites. These musicians stamped their own imprint on every song they performed, yet the young upstart Prince still carved out a unique sound which set his releases far apart from his competitors. At a time when Jamaica-fied boogie and R&B was the flavor of the day, Buster added a heavily percussive sound to all his productions. It's unmistakable on a song like "Chubby," where the Prince had Bunny & Skitter sing a cappella with only Count Ossie & the Wareika's nyabinghi drumming for accompaniment. But it's equally notable on the classic "Oh Carolina," which fleshes out the nyabinghi drums with handclaps and a piano that simultaneously carries the melody and the rhythm. Handclaps were a prominent feature of Buster's sound; they're evident on his own song, "Blackhead Chinee Man," and are equally integral to Derrick Morgan's "I'm Gonna Leave You." On that latter number, they transform an otherwise breezy song into a slap in the face, their sound reverberating like a slamming door. Equally important was Buster's innovative use of brass, and beyond the ubiquitous middle-break solos that featured in virtually every song released by every producer during these years, Buster also utilized them as a percussive element. On "Shake a Leg," "Millie Girl," and most emphatically of all "Blackhead," the Prince had the brass blare on the offbeat, further emphasizing the strong rhythms. Occasionally, he used them for the opposite effect, as with "Humpty Dumpty," where the smoky sax solo smooths out a rambunctious boogie. An album stuffed with unforgettable songs performed by many of the greatest of Jamaica's first recording stars and brilliantly overseen by a producer of genius.

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