Various Darker Than Blue: Soul From Jamdown 1973-80

Perhaps this is a response to Soul Jazz's successful series of 100% Dynamite groovers from Jamaica, but it's done in a manner befitting Blood and Fire. Other than the monumentally funky opening cut from Boris Gardiner, this collection showcases some of Jamaica's most loved soulful vocalists. Many compilations tend to shy away from cover versions of American tunes in favour of more Rasta or dub-oriented material, and as a result, important artists such as Ken Boothe, Delroy Wilson and Alton Ellis don't get the revisionist treatment they deserve. The songs of Darker than Blue favour socially conscious American tunes as interpreted by a more diverse selection of artists than Blood and Fire usually covers. Of the many highlights, Tinga Stewart's "Why Can't We Live Together?" and Boothe's "Is It Because I'm Black?" hit particularly hard. As the disc moves on into the late '70s, there are a number of primo Sly & Robbie cuts, and Wilson tears through the Temptations' "Get Ready" harder than the more famous Gregory Isaacs version. Last but not least is the Tamlins' bionic version of Randy Newman/Nina Simone's "Baltimore," versioned on Welton Irie's "Hotter Reggae Music," which incorporates much of "Rapper's Delight"; definitely one of my favourite musical moments so far this year. A collection that fulfils its purpose for both soul and reggae fans alike. (Blood and Fire)