Although they achieved their first big break opening for the legendary Bob Marley, Third World always embellished -- some would argue diluted -- their reggae with hefty elements of soul, pop, worldbeat, and R&B. While that infuriated Jamaican purists, it allowed them to achieve worldwide crossover popularity. With their cover of the O'Jays' Gamble & Huff-penned "Now That We've Found Love" and Stevie Wonder's "Try Jah Love," they even landed on the U.S. singles charts. The band occasionally strayed so far from their musical Rasta roots and -- later in their career -- into synths and drum machines, they lost much of what made them distinctive by wallowing in a studio sheen as commercially driven as anything Ricky Martin unleashed. By the time of 1985's "Sense of Purpose," with its processed percussion and slick pop, they had all but abandoned the island rhythms and sounded more like the Thompson Twins than reggae ambassadors. Later tracks find them gradually, but not totally, incorporating a more roots approach. As the only single disc, multi-label retrospective available as of 2001, this generous 20-song, 77-minute album hits most of the highlights of Third World's nearly quarter-century career from 1976-1999. Justifiably heavy on their Island years -- which comprise half the tracks and playing time -- the compilation also includes four cuts from their Columbia stint (although nothing from Hold on to Love), four from their Mercury albums, and two relatively rare singles, "Roots With Quality" and "Dem Man Deh," both of which are welcome additions. It's important to note that edited single versions of six tunes are used in order to squeeze everything onto one disc. Assuming hardcore fans already own the individual albums, that shouldn't dissuade the majority of casual listeners from picking up this successful and consistently enjoyable compilation from one of Jamaica's longest-lasting, popular, and soulful exports.
Ultimate Collection Review
by Hal Horowitz