Reggae is now a church so broad that it’s conceivable that somewhere in a distant cave there is an Islamic Fundamentalist DJ letting the rock steady echo out to the faithful; while within skanking distance of the Gaza Strip, there is an Ultra-Zionist rhythm section hip to the Skatalites, in thrall to the sub-atomic bass rumbling through hand-made speakers.
So, if you’re going to release a CD claiming “44 Massive Tracks From The Masters Of Reggae”, like Capital Gold have attempted to do, you’ve got an awful lot of bass-es to cover. Who do they claim are the assembled “Masters of Reggae”? Well, we have some inarguable claimants to that title, ranging from the predictable (Bob Marley, Toots Hibbert) to the dubious (Eddy Grant, Boris Gardiner) and the specious (Shaggy, CJ Lewis, China Black). We have to count our blessings that Ace of Base were left off by Capital’s own in-house Selecta.
There are of course, numerous gems worth panning for. For generalisation purposes, Disc One concerns itself with a pick ‘n’ mix assortment of revival classics. In the lovers’ corner we have Dennis Brown‘s Money In My Pocket, Gregory Isaacs‘ Night Nurse (and not a Mick Hucknall in sight), and 10 000 volts of John Holt‘s, er, Hey Jude, a song that the Music Journalist’s Handbook tells me is a cover version.
There are a number of unit-shifting, pop crossover numbers – Jimmy Cliff‘s paean to hippydom Wonderful World, Beautiful People; Boris Gardiner‘s ’80s, Ritzy-style, last-dance number I Want To Wake Up With You; and Red Dragon‘s Compliments On Your Kiss, which surely curdled an all-new variety of cheese back in 1994 , despite being produced by the once all-conquering Sly and Robbie. As for Junior Murvin‘s Police And Thieves, if you haven’t already spent four minutes in the company of this tune par excellence then, my friend, you’ve got some living to do.
Disc Two offers up a more rag-tag selection with an uncertain nod towards modernity (without any of the more confrontational stylings by the likes of Red Rat, Lady Saw et al). So we are served up Steel Pulse‘s tough Handsworth Revolution, through to Lionrock‘s party-starting, trenchtown homage Rude Boy Rock, and Apache Indian‘s ever-endearing Boom Shack-A-Lack. There’s also the welcome inclusion of (one-time TV actress) Janet Kay‘s Silly Games, and UB40‘s surprisingly enduring King.
This is a collection for those individuals who believe they have an extensive library of Reggae records because they own Bob Marley’s Legend compilation. If you’re really curious about Reggae’s rich back catalogue one is respectfully directed towards the Soul Jazz label’s %Dynamite Series, and innumerable Greensleeves and Tighten Up collections. This kitchen-sink, Kelloggs Variety style approach offered up by Capital Gold doesn’t really work. Mind you, it could’ve been worse. They could have included The Rolling Stones‘ version of Cherry Oh Baby. But that’s another story…