Various Artists

Trojan Box Set: Rare Groove

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The sleeve notes state this three-CD box set is a companion to Trojan Box Set: Singles, although somewhat truncated, as Trojan Box Set: Rare Groove concentrates exclusively on songs from 1968- 1973, while Trojan Box Set: Singles continued on to 1978. Disc one, spanning 1968-1970, boasts excellent offerings from the Pioneers, Stranger Cole, and former Paragon Roy Shirley, while Owen Gray gets the set skanking with "Reggae Dance." However, the real rarities are found amongst the many versions that fill the disc, either instrumentals of big hits or DJ versions, notably Roland Alphonso's fabulous "Music House" and Dice the Boss' evocative "Teahouse From Emperor Rosko." Disc two, covering 1970-1972, also contains a menagerie of music. There are fine vocal tracks from the Jamaicans, Ken Parker, the Linkers, Keith Hudson, and a barely remembered cover from Horace Andy. The instrumentals are just as diverse, from Ansel Collins' "Nuclear Weapon" -- a cover of Harry J All-Stars' "The Liquidator" -- to the mind-boggling medley of Love Generation's "Medicine Man." DJ King Smiley offers his own take on Big Youth's "Tippertone Rock" and Hugh Roy Jr. does his namesake proud with a version of Audley Rollins' heartfelt "Repatriation." But the most startling track is "Chairman of the Board," where dueling DJs cavort over a flock of faux birds and Bongo Herman's exuberant drumming. Disc three, devoted exclusively to 1973, leans heavily toward instrumental and DJ versions, the latter often twinned with their bared rhythm track. A trio of rare I-Roy numbers is a big plus, as is a hard-to-find Big Youth cut. Big Youth twice versioned K.C. White's "Anywhere but Nowhere," and it's a joy to find the original vocal track here. There's also a much-sought-after Delroy Wilson single; a sublime offering from Cornel Campbell; a lovely deep roots number from Earl Flute and Horace Andy cut over Keith Hudson's "True True" rhythm, which is itself featured on disc two; and another sizzling song from Hudson himself. As with Trojan Box Set: Singles, the sound quality is variable and not all the tracks are top drawer, but for collectors and dedicated reggae fans, Trojan Box Set: Rare Groove is a rare treat indeed.

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