Max Romeo

Wet Dream

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Not to be confused with Max Romeo's debut album, 1969's Pama-released A Dream, nor with the Trojan best-of set, this Wet Dream is a mix-and-match collection of hits and rarities drawn from the early reggae age. It's a rather eccentric selection, but then so was Romeo's work during this period. The set kick offs with the title track, a rude reggae smash, which created as big a stir in the British reggae scene as the Jamaican, preceded by its instrumental version. "Pussy Watchman" falls into the same innuendo-laced category, as does "My Dickie," which isn't a Romeo number at all, but a Derrick Morgan song. That singer famously turned down "Wet Dream," and was obviously making up for his mistake. But it's "Fowl Thief" that sweeps the silly stakes, a nursery rhyme-type song filled with appropriate barnyard noises. Equally superfluous is a cover of the Wailers' "Mr. Chatterbox," along with an equally unnecessary version of the Limelites' much-covered hit "Stick by Me." More impressive is Romeo's emotive take on "Sometimes," and best of all "Chi Chi Bud," a revved-up reggae version on an old mento song, which Romeo rode straight up the chart. But there was more meat to the artist than the suggestive smashes and recycled standards suggest, for as the '70s dawned, Romeo began recording a stream of seminal cultural numbers. Such was the success of his self-produced and released "Macabee Version" that it prompted Niney Holness to have a go himself, resulting in his groundbreaking "Blood & Fire." On "Macabee," Romeo proudly proclaimed his Rastafarian faith, renewing it again with the equally impressive "Holla Zion." The calypso-fied "Rent Man," meanwhile, drove home the singer's sympathy for the sufferers. But it was 1972's "Let the Power Fall" that had the greatest impact, its message taken up as a campaign anthem by the People's National Party, which promptly swept into power in Jamaica that year. Such numbers sit uncomfortably with the likes of "Wet Dream" and "Fowl Thief," and, in fact, Romeo had worked hard to put such excesses behind him. By 1972, they'd been forgiven -- if not already forgotten -- by the public, but unfortunately, one can never quite shake one's past, as this set makes clear.

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