Toots & the Maytals

The Very Best of Toots & the Maytals [Music Club]

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Toots Hibbert is generally credited with giving reggae music its name with his 1968 song "Do the Reggay." That was only one of a string of hugely influential hits, all of which drew heavily on American R&B styles and combined them with the rocksteady and reggae sounds that were tearing up the charts in late-'60s Jamaica to create a unique hybrid that no one else has since tried to emulate. Songs like "Funky Kingston" and "54-46 Was My Number" owe as much to James Brown as to any Jamaican influence, and Toots even had the guts to cover John Denver (with "Take Me Home Country Roads"); luckily, he also had enough raw talent to make it work. But unique as it is, his sound fits squarely into the category of rocksteady, a bouncy, elastic beat that shimmered and bopped at the nexus between ska's galloping up-up-up and reggae's slower, smokier groove. And the Toots influence has continued to be felt: "Pressure Drop" was covered by the Clash on their debut album, and "Monkey Man" became one of the signature songs of the Two-Tone ska revival in turn-of-the-'80s England. All of the classics are here on this compilation, including the glorious "Pomps and Pride" and his ill-advised (but, again, amazingly effective) cover of "Louie, Louie." These songs are an essential part of any reggae collection.

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