Various - Tighten Up! Deluxe Edition (4 stars)

Various - Tighten Up! Deluxe Edition



The times around the birth of Trojan Records were turbulent ones: 1968 witnessed social unrest and uprising from Cuba to Belfast, London to Vietnam. Musically, the sound emanating from Jamaica, popularised by Britain’s West Indian communities, was something fresh and new – a radical shift from the pop in favour at the time. The sound of ska, bluebeat, reggae and rocksteady grew more popular, thanks in part to the establishment of Trojan Records, which showcased tracks from the island’s hive of prolific producers including Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and Clancy Eccles and singers like Derrick Harriott and Byron Lee.

The culture of the music was always singles-based and Trojan were keen to collect some of the 180 singles it had released during its first few months on a compilation record. Thus Tighten Up Volume One was born. The series ran for eight volumes up until 1973, but this, the record that started it all, remains not only a fascinating document but is also home to some sublime skanking pop. Many are ska reworkings of popular pop songs of the time like ‘Spanish Harlem’ and ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’, but most are original recordings. This two-disc set brings together the original album with the 12 respective B-sides plus a second disc of tracks from the same era. The result is a beast of a compilation that illustrates just how infectious and addictive Trojan’s output can be. Tighten Up functions not only as a snapshot of a particular moment in time – a brief few months in this case – but also functions as a warm welcome to anyone unfamiliar with the label’s effusive, sunny joys.

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