Various Artists

Trojan Box Set: Singles

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Showcasing a decade of the Trojan label, from 1968-1978, the sleeve notes claim this three-CD box set is "an ideal introduction to the company's output." However, this is a rather disingenuous statement considering that a number of the label's biggest stars are missing, and there's few enduring hits to be had within. So once again, Trojan offers up a box that is not really what fans want, yet inevitably contains tracks they need, scooping up minor hits and rarities, the crucial and the disposable willy-nilly. As is all too typical, no attention is paid to sound quality, and a number of the tracks are taken off vinyl, with the Silverstars' badly scratched "Old Man Say" reaching a nadir of virtual unlistenability. For non-specialists, the points of entry are the Maytals' exuberant "54-56 That's My Number," Derrick Morgan's inspired reggae remodel of his ska classic "Fat Man," and Ken Boothe's pop-soul delight "Keep My Love From Fading." Most everything else will draw a blank, although the many names of artists and bands will convince fans to take a chance. Disc one, which covers 1968-1969, includes such small masterpieces as Clancy Eccles' devaluation classic "Bangarang Crash," the Silvertones' harmony-laden "Promises," and two excellent numbers from former Paragon vocalist Tyrone Evans. Scintillating instrumental versions are strewn across this disc and the entire box. Disc two, culling from 1970-1973, boasts a pair of soulful singles from the much underrated Joe White, two songs from the always-fabulous Jackie Edwards, and the Deltones' phenomenal cover of "I'll Take You There." By this point in time, Trojan was moving toward a much more mass-market sound, a style that both the Pioneers' offerings amply illustrate. Disc three, which encompasses the remaining five years, takes this style to its obvious conclusion. It's an acquired taste, but for those who like their reggae light and their production slick, there's a treasure trove of tracks here -- and a comedy of errors. John Holt's "Reggae From the Ghetto" is attributed to Marcia Griffiths, while Louise Mark's "Think It Like It Is" is credited to the former Paragon. Regardless, both are standouts, as is B.B. Seaton and Ken Boothe's "Whole World's Down on Me." This entire disc reverberates with sublime examples of phenomenal vocalists imbuing soul into otherwise lifeless songs. Trojan Box Set: Singles illustrates both the strengths and weaknesses of the label during this decade, and while it's far from the ultimate introduction to the company, for those who want to take a walk down a less-traveled road, the set provides an intriguing journey.

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