Various Artists

Trojan Jungle

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With ragga jungle at its peak in England in 1996, the idea of premier reggae label Trojan dipping into its vaults and giving some of its classics a breakbeat-heavy jungle makeover -- along the lines of the two excellent Ragga Jungle Anthems collections, which reworked dancehall hits into cutting-edge electronica -- seemed a plausible move, at least. But in practice, it's more horrible than even the naysayers could have imagined. Producer Mike Bennett desecrates vintage tracks by artists like Bob Marley & the Wailers, Dennis Brown, Big Youth, and Gregory Isaacs, offering updated versions with hardly a hint of flair or originality. (He even mucks up a couple of ska outings by the Specials and the Selecter for good measure.) In his defense, it's doubtful Bennett had access to any master tapes in compiling this collection, which probably made it a losing proposition to start with. But even though his MO here is simply to run standard-issue jungle loops underneath a random sample or two from the song in question, any number of ragga jungle singles of the time employed the same approach with superior results. These tunes are simply unrecognizable as the original versions and completely unappealing in their new forms. Though it's hard to imagine after this debacle that Trojan would give it another try, a second volume did indeed appear later.

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