The Maytones are a rarity among Jamaican vocal groups: a duo instead of the usual trio. Lead vocalist Vern Buckley, and backing singer Gladstone "Son" Grant, are childhood friends from the market town of May Pen, from which they took their name. Very early in their career, Alvin Ranglin became a member, and he remains very much the group's third member, as manager, co-writer of most of their songs, and producer.
The Maytones cut their first records in 1968, but the earliest numbers are "Bowee Wowee" and "Little Boy Blue," from 1970 and 1971, respectively. The bulk of this compilation, however, appears to be drawn from the latter half of the '70s. The term "appears" is used because the album is not sequenced chronologically, few tracks are dated, and the liner notes/band biography doesn't add any further information.
Regardless, six of the 14 songs appear here for the first time on CD, including the extended DJ version of "Money Worries," featuring the eternally popular I-Roy, while the two bonus tracks are previously unreleased extended mixes boasting DJs Trinity and U-Brown. Even better, there's minimal overlap with the excellent Trojan label compilation, Brown Girl in the Ring. That album is particularly crucial in representing the duo's early years, and this set, Their Greatest Hits, fills in the gaps beautifully.
The Maytones' rural roots are evident in their singing style, and are beautifully showcased by Ranglin's sympathetic arrangements and productions, which emphasize, or counterpoint, the performances with a stunning blend of vocal and studio vision. They are not a militant band, preferring to reason or warn rather than threaten, but their religious feelings run deep, imbuing even their love songs.
Big hits like "Madness" and "Money Worries" speak directly to and for the masses; equally powerful is "Africa We Want to Go," while even a lighter cover, like the romantic smash "Sha La La Disco" is filled with soul. "One Way" is simply gorgeous, and every other number on this set is a stunner.
As an introduction to the band, Their Greatest Hits is a superb place to begin. Inevitably, you'll want more, at which point save your pennies and buy the import Trojan set; together they paint the best picture of the group in all their glory.