Truth to tell, there isn't anything particularly special about this Toots & the Maytals collection. This Is Crucial Reggae: Toots & the Maytals doesn't boast anything unusual in the way of packaging, track sequence, or audio restoration, and there isn't anything here that isn't available on a handful of other collections. But slap it into your stereo, push play, and you'll discover what is remarkable about this disc -- it features 12 stone classic slices of early reggae from one of the finest and most soulful acts the island of Jamaica has ever produced, Toots & the Maytals, and if that isn't reason enough for you to fork over for a midline-priced CD, then one might suggest that your priorities are a bit out of order. Anchored by the transcendent lead vocals of Toots Hibbert and the unrelenting groove of Leslie Kong's studio band, Crucial Reggae captures Toots & the Maytals at the peak of their powers, and with "Pressure Drop," "Funky Kingston," "Time Tough," "Sweet and Dandy," and "54-46 That's My Number" all in the running order, this is indeed as crucial as any listener could hope for. Anyone looking for a broad picture of Toots' remarkable career is advised to pick up either Island's Time Tough: The Anthology or Trojan's 54-46 Was My Number: Anthology, 1964-2000, but if you're looking for an affordable introduction to this pioneering reggae act, This Is Crucial Reggae: Toots & the Maytals will set you on the right path, though further exploration of their catalog is strongly advised.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming