It's hard to believe that this compilation launched what was later revered as a legendary series. In fact, with hindsight, this debut volume was the weakest of the group, heavily weighed down by reggaefied covers of pop fluff. The best of this batch belongs to George A. Penny's "Win Your Love," but that's because even an overly percolating reggae rhythm couldn't dent the Sam Cooke classic. Joy Landis delivers up a delightful soul version of "Kansas City," but then blots her copy book with a truly excruciating cover of "Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da." Equally unnecessary are takes on "Angel of the Morning" and "A Place in the Sun." A special award goes to the Uniques' "Watch This Squad," a cover of the Buffalo Springfield's anti-war classic "Watch This Sound." Not only is it an exceedingly poor choice of a song to be reggaefied, it also sports one of the most unsympathetic arrangements ever recorded. The Uniques seem at a total loss and take nearly half the track to get their vocals into line. In contrast, the two instrumentals, both covers of course, are quite entertaining. Byron Lee's "Soul Limbo" has a real panache and flair missing from its vocal counterparts, while Val Bennett's "Spanish Harlem" boasts a laid-back island feel across a fine performance. But the real treasures lie elsewhere. Derrick Morgan's "Fat Man" is a classic, while Lee Perry's title track is one of his best pop offerings ever, a singalong melody wed to a sizzling beat. The Kingstonians' "Mix It Up" is equally infectious, while Brother Dan All Stars (a trio that included Dandy Livingstone) offer up "Donkey Returns," a slow John Crow skank featuring a harmonica and delicious vocals. Over time, people forgot the clunkers and recalled only the classics. On this volume, however, those gems are as rare as diamonds.
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AllMusic Review by Jo-Ann Greene