Various Artists

Trojan Box Set: Roots

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"Unlike other forms of Jamaican music, 'Roots Reggae' has no precise definition," state the skimpy sleeve notes to this budget-priced three-CD box set. That well may be, but most fans would sum up roots as a late-'70s style exemplified by such crucial acts as the Wailers, Black Uhuru, the Wailing Souls, and Burning Spear. None of those artists are included here, thus anyone looking for a round-up of roots' most famed classic cuts should search elsewhere. Trojan has chosen to define roots less in musical terms than in lyrical ones. Therefore, while the message is pure dread, the songs run riot across the musical spectrum from bubbly reggae, rockers, nyahbinghi-laced numbers, through heavy roots, and onto dubby dancehall. Absolutely no thought is given to sequencing, unless the selector deliberately set about mixing up the different styles as much as possible. Placing one's CD player on shuffle normally improves upon the original sequencing. However, regardless of these drawbacks, Trojan Box Set: Roots is a weighty collection, 50 songs strong, with a wealth of roots sure to please most aficionados. Seminal inclusions are Johnny Clarke's "None Shall Escape the Judgement," Prince Far I's "Under Heavy Manners," the Abyssinians' "Yim Mas Gas," Dennis Brown's "Africa," and the Ethiopians' "Condition Bad a Yard." There's also a clutch of excellent Mighty Diamonds and Heptones cuts, and exceptional offerings from Big Youth, Sugar Minott, and Cornel Campbell. Although not the ultimate roots collection by any means, this box does manage to encompass the fluidity of the roots genre, rounding up a wealth of crucial material neglected elsewhere, with the inclusion of DJs particularly inspired, and opening new vistas to the mainstream, hopefully leading listeners to further broaden their horizons.

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