Various Artists

Young, Gifted and Black

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Along with the two-CD expanded edition of the soundtrack of The Harder They Come, this compilation -- also two CDs, and with a whopping 50 tracks -- is the best anthology of early reggae music. (In fact eight cuts appear on both compilations, though the duplication certainly isn't excessive.) Some more roots-oriented reggae fans might argue that the selection on Young, Gifted and Black is too obvious and too geared toward songs that crossed over into the pop charts. But for most general listeners, whether avowed reggae fans and otherwise, this is simply a great collection of many of the 1960s and 1970s reggae recordings that were both among the best and most popular the style had to offer. Spanning 1960-1978, it includes some of the genre's biggest hits: Millie Small's "My Bob Lollipop," Desmond Dekker's "Israelites," Johnny Nash's "Hold Me Tight," Jimmy Cliff's "Wonderful World, Beautiful People," and Dave & Ansel Collins' "Double Barrel." There are also a number of tracks that were big pop hits in the U.K., though not in the U.S.: Bob & Marcia's cover of "Young, Gifted and Black," Max Romeo's controversial "Wet Dream," Greyhound's "Black and White" (the same song made into an American smash by Three Dog Night), Judge Dread's "Big Seven," and Susan Cadogan's delectable "Hurt So Good." And there are tunes that will be familiar to rock fans through covers, even if these specific versions aren't: Dandy Livingstone's "Rudy, a Message to You," Eric Donaldson's "Cherry Oh Baby," the Paragons' "The Tide Is High," and Junior Murvin's "Police & Thieves," for instance. That still leaves room for look-ins at other major reggae performers (Bob Marley & the Wailers, the Maytals); good reggae covers of American pop and soul hits; and enough fine, relatively little-traveled tracks to ensure that everyone will hear something new and good they haven't come across before, unless they're already a seasoned reggae collector.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 2:43
2 2:43
3 2:00
4 2:29
5 2:31
6 2:57
7
2:31 Amazon
8 2:34
9 2:44
10 2:51
11 2:44
12 3:04
13
2:48 Amazon
14 2:35
15 2:31
16 2:56
17 3:12
18 2:48
19 2:53
20 3:44
21 2:38
22 2:43
23 3:25
24
3:12
25 3:10 Spotify

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 2:39
2 2:19
3 2:38
4 2:24
5 2:15
6 3:10
7 2:47
8 2:24
9 3:08
10 2:56
11 3:03
12 2:29
13
2:35
14
3:18
15 3:47
16 3:06
17
3:46
18 3:05
19 3:19
20
2:23
21
3:51
22 3:17
23 3:53
24 3:51
25 3:58
blue highlight denotes track pick