Various Artists

Treasure Isle Time

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One-half of Duke Reid's Treasure Chest, the Heartbeat label's double-album collection drawn from Treasure Isle's back catalogue (the other half can be found on Treasure Isle Mood). The liner notes claim the record showcases rocksteady, and the appearance of U-Roy verifies that notion. In actuality, tracks from the early reggae era slip in, but as the tempo remains in slow rocksteady mode, only the purists will mind. Regardless, it's an intriguing set, with a few notable hits, a large group of lesser-known delights, and a handful of rarities amidst its 21 tracks. Many of Reid's best-loved artists are here: Justin Hinds, the Techniques, the Melodians, and more. The only obvious omission is the Paragons; they, however, are featured on Treasure Isle Mood. Hopeton Lewis, the Three Tops, the Sensations, and Phyllis Dillon are among those appearing here who were all stars in Jamaica, but never made much of an impact abroad. It's time they were given their due. Girl Satchmo is particularly intriguing. She had a stream of releases in both her homeland and the U.K. in the '60s, but modern selectors found her Louis Armstong impression less than impressive, and her work has remained neglected for years. Her raspy, soulful vocals still pack an emotive punch, and it's wonderful that Heartbeat has included her. Except for the Jamaicans, who are presented here with their smash hit, "Ba Ba Boom," the album makes a point of not pairing the artists with their biggest hits, and on the odd occasion that they do, as with Alton Ellis' "Girl I've Got a Date," they include an alternate version. So, this is a collector's dream. However, that shouldn't suggest that lesser-quality material was chosen. Every one of these tracks is masterful, and there's no time like the present for Treasure Isle Time.

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