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Date: 1972-1975
Release: Collectables #5202
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Like Jimi Hendrix, the eight members of Cymande were all phenomenally adept self-taught musicians. And also like Hendrix, they were masters at synthesizing funk, soul, blues, and psychedelic sounds, creating a music that resists any convenient labeling. They could funk on a reggae groove, put a heavy dose of soul into a psychedelic jam, and lay down some bluesy riffs around a Caribbean spiced vocal.

Cymande‘s members came from Guyana, Jamaica, and St.Vincent, and they imported a strong island vibe into their cosmic sound. This album is at once raw and polished, extraordinarily diverse, and consistently grooving. The tunes run the gamut from the hypnotic Santana-influenced instrumental, “Dove,” to the New Orleans funk of “The Message,” which actually made it to #22 on the domestic R&B charts in 1974. The spectacularly funky “Bra” was included on Spike Lee‘s highly recommended “Crooklyn” soundtrack.

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Date: 1996 (release)
Release: Island #524219
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“Reggae means comin’ from d’people, you know. Everyday ting, like from the ghetto. Majority beat. Regular beat that people use like food down there. We put music to it, make a dance out of it. I would say that reggae means comin’ from the roots, ghetto music. Means poverty, suffering, and, in the end, maybe union with God if you do it right.”

– Fred “Toots” Hibbert, interviewed by Stephen Davis, The New York Times

While Bob Marley & The Wailers have now come to symbolize reggae, Toots & The Maytals were equally important figures in the evolution of Jamaican music, from ska, through rock steady, and into reggae. Formed in Kingston during the ska wave of the early ’60s, the Maytals were comprised of Toots, Nathaniel “Jerry” Mathias and Raleigh Gordon. A favorite singer of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, Toots is not only one of reggae’s most glorious founding fathers, he is widely credited with giving the genre its name with his 1968 hit, “Do The Reggay.”

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Date: 2001
Release: Rounder #617665
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For almost four years I lived in an endless summer. I inhabited a tiny room in a ramshackle beach house built on pier pilings right on the sand in Malibu, California. "This is not a dream!" I reminded myself daily. Every weekend was spent in the warm surf, beach combing, or reclining with friends on my balcony overlooking the vast Pacific. Without fail, I’d drag out my hefty stereo speakers, douse myself in sunscreen, crack open a magazine or book, and put on some music. It didn’t take me long to realize that I had become a barely tolerated DJ to my neighbors. I guess they weren’t fans of the Buzzcocks and the Clash. My spinning habits were politely adjusted to include a more beach friendly cross section of my CD collection. The soulful Jamaican sounds of the Studio One label became an essential component of languid Saturdays basking in the grateful smiles of my friends and neighbors. I had found my weekend theme music. If I had all the money in the world to commission somebody to create the most perfect music for lounging seaside in the hot sun, they would be hard-pressed to come up with anything that could rival the classic recorded output of Studio One

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Date: 1994
Release: HEARTBEAT
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A musical mish mash of 33 rocksteady, ska, and dancehall tracks of the highest order, all recorded at Clement “Coxsone” Dodd’s legendary Studio One. Dodd was the Berry Gordy of Jamaica, and like Motown, his label consistently cranked out hits which combined strong song-writing with catchy melodies and heavy rhythms to set you moving. For a while there in the 60s and 70s, this was the Jamaican studio that was hard to beat. This compilation reveals why. Featuring the absolute best from the Studio One vaults, it delivers a perfectly flowing mix capable of converting the most reggae-hating elements of Babylon to the Red, Gold, Black, and Green.

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