Various Artists

The Story of Jamaican Music: Tougher Than Tough

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A superlative introduction to the world of Jamaican music, Tougher Than Tough is a treasure trove of information, filled with unforgettable music. Across four discs and 95 songs, this set spans the entire history of the island's vibrant music scene, hitting all the major stylistic bases along the way, and rounding up many of Jamaica's greatest artists. It's evident that a great amount of thoughtful time and effort went into this package and, although collectors will howl at the many omissions and some of the selections, this set wasn't intended for them, but for a general audience interested in beginning to explore the music more deeply. With that in mind, the package includes a lushly illustrated 65-page booklet written by Steve Barrow (author of The Rough Guide to Reggae), who provides an exceptionally lucid historical overview. The rest of the booklet offers information on every track, including producer, composer, and release date. The music itself is sequenced chronologically, allowing the listener to chart the myriad of stylistic changes over the years. Disc one begins in 1958 with the Folkes Brothers' "Oh Carolina," arguably the first ever proto-ska release, cut during producer Prince Buster's first ever recording session. It continues through the rise of pure ska and through the shift to rocksteady. Disc two concentrates on the reggae years and the rise of the DJs, while the third is given over entirely to roots. The final disc brings things bang up to date, following the trajectory of the dancehalls. The set comes full circle with the final track, Shaggy's smash hit cover of "Oh Carolina." From rude reggae to ragga, dulcet vocal groups to dueling DJs, The Story of Jamaican Music is indeed just that. Of course, there's a wealth of equally masterful music that didn't make the cut, and the booklet discusses a multitude of songs not included. But this is history 101; hopefully, students will continue their studies on their own.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:40
2 2:47
3 2:27
4 2:50
5 2:40
6 2:50
7 2:25
8 2:01
9 2:25
10 2:48
11 3:23
12 2:51
13 2:28
14 2:56
15 3:22
16 2:26
17 2:24
18 3:06
20 3:20
21 2:49
22 3:20
23 2:42
24 3:05
25 3:31
26 3:15
27 2:31
blue highlight denotes track pick