Various Artists

Trojan Seventies

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People who complain that all reggae sounds the same are missing the point. It's supposed to sound the same, mining the idea that a good rhythm is worth ten good songs, at least in the dancehall, where familiarity (with micro alterations) breeds success. Reggae in this regard has much more in common with rap and hip-hop than it does rock or pop. Stripping a song away from a proven rhythm and sticking an entirely new song over the top of it is a recipe for the dancefloor, not the radio, and reggae rhythms are amazingly cosmopolitan and adaptable in this regard, as this three-disc 50-song set of 1970s pop covers from Trojan/Sanctuary makes clear. Some of these versions are laughable, but even then, they're also danceable, which is always the point with Jamaican music. Some of the highlights here are a chugging version of James Taylor's "Fire and Ice" done by the Gaylads, Max Romeo's credible (and sexier) rendition of the Partridge Family's "I Woke Up in Love This Morning" (Romeo also turns in an are-you-kidding-me take on Neil Diamond's "Cracklin' Rosie"), and a sturdy instrumental romp on Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Alone Again, Naturally" by the Now Generation. Toots & the Maytals take John Denver's "Take Me Home Country Roads" to church, while Skin, Flesh & Bones pull off an eerie, dub-laced version of another Diamond song, "Solitary Man." The best adaptation here, though, is Derrick Harriott's delightful cover of session pianist Pete Wingfield's brilliant doo wop parody "Eighteen With a Bullet." The song manages to be both reverent to the genre and wickedly mocking of it at the same time. Like all the Trojan box sets, this one contains rare and hard to find singles, and if the set list comes off as a little surreal and goofy, it hardly matters, because reggae can co-opt any pop song to its own purposes (as long as you can dance to it).

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