Various Artists

The Trojan Story [1980]

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First released in 1980 as a three-record box set, this two-CD compilation traces the history of Jamaican pop music from 1961's pre-ska days -- songs only a few steps away from rhythm & blues -- to the birth of reggae in 1970. It's an essential collection drawn from numerous singles and B-sides (don't expect the best sound quality, as many were mastered from vinyl) featuring such greats as Jimmy Cliff (a very early "Miss Jamaica"), Desmond Dekker, the Ethiopians, the Skatalites, the Maytals, and Lee Perry. There are 48 songs in total and not a single bad one. Some highlights: the Technique's mysterious "Oh Babe," the whirling funhouse ska of "Syncopate" by the Astronauts, the original "Pressure Drop" by the Maytals, and "Rudy, a Message to You" by Dandy Livingstone. This set is not to be confused with the 1997 release with the same title but a different track listing.