Various Artists

This Is Reggae Music: The Golden Era 1960-1975

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This Is Reggae Music: The Golden Era 1960-1975 Review

by Steve Leggett

The history of Jamaica's music is a fascinating one, and seldom has a nation's pop music been so celebratory, political, and concerned with civil rights, all rolled into an upside-down one-drop rhythm that is as recognizable as it is pervasive. Part mento, part African drums, part American jazz, soul, and R&B, part a Marcus Garvey-derived treatise on human rights and repatriation, Jamaica's reggae is pop music with clear revolutionary goals, intent on dancing in the face of Babylon while forthrightly chanting it down. This four-disc box set from Trojan covers "the golden years" of reggae (1960 to 1975), cutting off just as Bob Marley's Island releases were about to take Jamaica's music all over the world. Arranged chronologically, beginning with some mento and ska sides, building through the rocksteady and early reggae years, and climaxing in the rise of roots reggae in the mid-'70s, This Is Reggae Music hits most of the historical high points, including Jamaica's entry into the international pop market with early hits like Millie Small's "My Boy Lollipop" (arranged by the venerable Ernest Ranglin) and Desmond Dekker's "Israelites," following these up with key tracks from Jimmy Cliff's The Harder They Come soundtrack (including Cliff's own "Many Rivers to Cross," the Maytals' "Pressure Drop," the Melodians' "Rivers of Babylon," and the Slickers' immortal "Johnny Too Bad") and some early reggae gems like Marley's "Duppy Conqueror" (produced by Lee "Scratch" Perry), the Heptones' "Hypocrite," and Cliff's "Vietnam." The final disc finds reggae poised to take over the world (on the wings of one Bob Marley), and includes essential tracks like Delroy Wilson's "Better Must Come," Zap Pow's bit of reggae-meets-Stax, "This Is Reggae Music," Slim Smith's stunningly beautiful "The Time Has Come," and the concluding song, the classic Jack Ruby-produced "Marcus Garvey" by Burning Spear. Committed reggae collectors will have most of these sides, but it's nice to have all these songs in one package, and as a capsule history of the early years of reggae, one that hits the corners hard and fast, Trojan has done the trick. Again.

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