Sly & Robbie/Various Sly & Robbie's Taxi Sound

This is the best collection of Sly & Robbie’s production work from their most crucial period. Spanning the late ’70s to mid-’80s, there isn’t a duff track here — even their version of "Billie Jean” holds up well against the original. The early years of their partnership, presented beautifully in collaboration with Gregory Isaacs, show Dunbar throttling down the furious energy of his rockers style into a more reflective mood where the interplay with percussionist Sticky Thompson’s unusual sounds and rhythms make for some distinctive grooves. These tracks are virtual templates for Grace Jones’s Warm Leatherette album. Once Dunbar buys some syndrums (think M’s "Pop Muzik”) he gets ideas that would transform reggae rhythms, begin the new era of dancehall, and spur Shakespeare’s lyrical bass leads, so atypical of reggae before or since. The Tamlins version of the Undisputed Truth’s "Smiling Faces Sometimes” puts the Motown-ish vocals of the groups against a super-chilled goose stepping groove. By the time the mid-’80s hit, their transformation into reggae cyborgs is complete. Sugar Minott’s "Rub a Dub,” with its techno-ish keyboard sounds and laidback synthetic bounce sounds both hilariously of their time but also still highly contemporary. It’s the epitome of reggae in this period: murderously clean over a sound system, but sprinkled with vocal sunshine. (Auralux)