Various - Reggae Chartbusters Volumes One-Six (4 stars)

Various - Reggae Chartbusters Volumes One-Six

With its origins in New Orleans R&B (through tinny transistors broadcast from the US), reggae music took hold in Jamaica in the early 60s, evolving from its up tempo, ska-beat cousin. While today, it is something of a specialist genre – which appears in the Top 40 only when indulged in by contemporary R&B, soul and hip hop artists, – there was a time when reggae was as prolific and powerful a force as any pop music around. These compilations snatch a look before during and after these halcyon days.

Split into six budget volumes (and sold individually), Reggae Chartbusters, gathers together an array of classic UK hits like Jimmy Cliff’s ‘Wonderful World, Beautiful People’, Desmond Dekker’s ‘Israelites’ and Tony Tribe’s rendition of ‘Red Red Wine’. Lest we forget lesser-known beauts like ‘Liquidator’, ‘Return of Django’ and ‘Skinhead Moonstomp’, perfect for some strictly come mod-dancing.

Volume two follows the same pattern: ‘You Can Get It If You Really Want’, ‘Montego Bay’, ‘Love of the Common People’, ‘Young, Gifted And Black’ and ‘Rivers of Babylon’, all subsequent reggae to pop standards, while any purist would choose The Maytals’ two-some (‘Monkey Man’ & ‘54-46 Was My Number’) over the lot there’s still much to commend this disc.

From the early 70s, volume three comprises two tracks each from The Pioneers, Greyhound, Bruce Ruffin and the magnificent Dave & Ansil Collins (including their chart-toppers ‘Double Barrel’ & ‘Monkey Spanner’); ‘Johnny Too Bad’, ‘Starvation’ and ‘Cherry Oh Baby’ will be more familiar to UB40 fans.

Volumes four and five follow reggae through a transitional period in the mid-70s when the likes of John Holt, Ken Boothe and Dennis Brown hit paydirt with that most swoonsome of reggae offshoots: lovers rock.

Ploughing through the whole 119 tracks here at once might seem a something of a chore, albeit a fascinating one, but really these collections are best served up at parties … lots of ’em.


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