Although newcomers should be directed to Trojan's 1997 best-of, The Original Rude Boy, among the many retrospectives, fans of Dekker and original Jamaican ska, rocksteady, and founding reggae are well served by this narrowly focused CD. Ostensibly a reissue of his 1969 U.K. LP of 1966-1968 recordings, which had been rushed out on the heels of his breakout number one hit there that March, "The Israelites" (more surprising, the song hit the U.S. Top 10, exposing American masses to reggae, too!), this CD takes the collection's 12 cuts and adds 19 more from 1966-1968. At 31 songs and 80 minutes, it makes for a thorough, pleasing guide to the Jamaican legend's productive rocksteady mid-period. A renowned writer who again became a British star when the Specials covered This Is Desmond Dekker's classic opener, "0.0.7 (Shanty Town)" (a 1967 U.K. number 14 later made famous in The Harder They Come soundtrack), this presents a wealth of his finest compositions, all set to the soothing midtempo style so prominent in later-'60s Kingston. Relaxing but never mellow, and often addressing the island's "Rude Boy" gang violence and poverty, Dekker uses his pleasant but deep, high-ranged voice and languorous timing to complement the swaying, offbeat rhythms. Dekker may have given the world Bob Marley (by introducing his nobody coworker Robert to his producer in 1961), but his own canon remains significant too, and this is a highly agreeable slice at a great value.
This Is Desmond Dekkar Review
by Jack Rabid