Initially released as a double-vinyl album, this is arguably the best Desmond Dekker compilation currently available. Nineteen seminal songs, all hits, but Dekker released so many exceptional singles, this album still only scratches the surface and omits a host of crucial cuts. The tracks could all use a good remastering as well, and in places the sound quality is not pristine (an unfortunate fact of life with many Jamaican recordings), still surely Trojan had a less crackly copy of "Pretty Africa." Finally, the sleeve notes are minimal and particularly unhelpful. But the music -- oh, the music! The expected monster hits are all here, but the record also includes a bundle of classic songs (all also Jamaican hits) that newer fans (and most Americans) may be unfamiliar with. The exquisite "It Pays," with its soaring falsetto harmonies; the gorgeous "Pretty Africa (one of the first repatriation themed songs); the infectious "Unity"; "Warlock," showcasing a seldom heard soul side to the artist; the funky "Reggae Recipe"; the simply sublime "Hippopotamus" -- so many unforgettable songs. All date from the period between 1965-1971, and were produced to perfection by the late, great Lesley Kong. Dekker, blessed with one of the most distinctive voices around, also is one of the most emotive. From vehemently demanding to achingly delicate, forceful to plaintive, the vocalist's performance was never less than scintillating. Sadly, however, history has neglected the Aces, but their own extraordinary talents and sublime harmonies provided the backbone for all of these songs, and many, many more. The equal (or betters) of any of Jamaica's more celebrated vocal groups, luxuriate in the beauty of their singing, then just try to imagine these cuts without them. Inevitably, this compilation will merely whet your appetite for more of the same. Which surely was the point.
The Original Reggae Hitsound of Desmond Dekker and the Aces Review
by Jo-Ann Greene