Various Music Works Classics: The Gussie Clarke Story

It's about time that the digital reggae era started getting the same analysis as the "classic era" of the late '60s and late '70s. VP Records, possibly the most important contemporary reggae label, have launched four anthologies revisiting the late '80s and early '90s. There are greatest hits discs from Yellowman and Ninjaman and retrospectives of the Penthouse label and producer Gussie Clarke. It's the Clarke set that will appeal to fans of an earlier sound. Clarke's career in Jamaican studios has lasted close to 30 years. Fittingly, the first track on this comp is the Mighty Diamonds' smash "Pass the Kouchie," from 1981. Together with engineer Steven Stanley (Grace Jones, Tom Tom Club) at the Music Works studio, Clarke's productions are full sounding, highly musical mixes, whereas much dancehall of this era sounds skeletal. Singers and DJs are given equal time, as is slackness and consciousness. The hits are numerous, featuring Gregory Isaacs "Rumours" and its version , J.C. Lodge's "Telephone Love" and the infamous "Twice My Age" by Shabba Ranks and Crystal. The liner notes are as comprehensive as any Blood and Fire set in telling the story of this important producer. Let's hope that these compilations will recontextualise some of these artists' careers and rank them with the same stature as those from the '70s. (VP)