Various Artists

The Trojan Story, Vol. 1

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This double-vinyl album was released in 1976, and judging by the track listing, may have been single-handedly responsible for the advent of Two-Tone. "Long Shot Kick De Bucket," "Red Red Wine," and "Guns of Navarone" -- you can bet every band of the day owned at least one copy. Music fans have learned to lower their expectations when it comes to Trojan compilations -- accept misleading album titles, mistitled songs, sketchy sleeve notes, and a chronological jumble of tracks with little quality control. What's shocking is to discover that it wasn't much better in 1976. This may be The Trojan Story, but it's told poorly. There's no label history, and as the tracks are sequenced with no regard to chronology, this isn't a story at all, but a scattershot of songs. The record flies between styles and years, but listeners should be thankful that at least the four DJs are lumped together, though to then immediately segue into Dennis Brown's cover of "Silhouettes" (one of several mistitled tracks) is pretty excruciating. The album swings from Trojan's greatest heights to its lowest nadirs. Jamaican classics rub shoulders with pure pap (the worst moment is a toss-up between John Holt's "Mr. Bojangles" and the aforementioned Brown cut; the Maytals' "Take Me Home Country Roads," contrary to what most would think, is actually pretty good). Meanwhile, rude reggae leers at love songs and the superstar DJs clash with superstar singers. The album scampers back and forth between genres and rocksteady fans will be particularly disappointed, as the genre is barely addressed. In some ways, annoying as it is, this approach gives listeners a true overview of the label. Trojan pumped out records by the hundred -- some were indeed classics, others were just duff. In the end, the jewels here far outweigh the fool's gold, and this set remains a fine entry into the world of Jamaican music.

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