Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Freedom Sounds Box Set (2012)


This is a box set released by the Trojan record label in 2012 to mark the 50th anniversary of Jamaican  independence and covers a lot of the development of reggae music and its numerous sub-genres, highlighting just what an incredible contribution to music this one (comparatively) small Caribbean island has made.

The five CDS in the box mainly follow these lines:-


This CD mainly concentrates on the devout and the militant, political side of reggae music, with several notable "roots" cuts from artists like Culture, Burning Spear, The Heptones and Black Uhuru. There are also several songs concerning "freedom" and pride, such as (This Is) My Country by Cornell Campbell, Third World's Freedom Song and Judy Mowatt's My My People. A song worthy of mention is The Heptones' roots cover of Bob Dylan's I Shall Be Released, which showed that reggae could successfully cover music from other genres. Also, Lloyd Charmers' cover of Curtis Mayfield's (We The People Who Are) Darker Than Blue.


This CD includes some of Jamaica's biggest hits over the years. Yes, there are several of the "usual suspects" here, such as Desmond Dekker's iconic Israelites, Jimmy Cliff's The Harder They Come, roots cuts like Culture's Two Sevens Clash and Gregory Isaacs' sensual groove in Night Nurse. There are also a few lesser-known gems, however, like Dennis Brown's Your Love's Gotta Hold On Me, Marcia Griffiths' Steppin' Out Of Babylon and Justin Hinds & The Dominoes' Carry Go Bring Come. Some have questioned the need for Trojan to include this "hits" CD, but I disagree, some of these huge tracks simply can't be ignored in what is a celebration of Jamaican music, and it is not all full-on hits anyway. Many big hits are not included at the expense of less popular cuts.


This includes quite a lot of rock steady material such as Ken Boothe's Love And Unity  and the early Bob Marley & The Wailers cut, Bus Dem Shut. There is some of the reggae that struck big in the UK charts in the early seventies - "skinhead reggae" like Nicky Thomas' Love Of The Common People (included here in its Jamaican mix without strings) and Tye Tye (Fatty Fatty) by The Chuckles. Also present is some deep, heavy roots stuff in the crucial Blood And Fire by Niney & Big Youth and Freedom Train from The Gladiators.


This CD gets seriously roots. Johnny Clarke's devout None Shall Escape The Judgement, The Heptones' Brothers, Weep And Mourn by Israel Vibration and Dillinger's Bionic Dread provide excellent examples of "conscious" reggae, while The Mighty Diamonds' Your Heart's Desire exemplifies how a roots "riddim" could be combined with a romantic feel and lighter, harmonious vocals. It is a cool, laid-back, beautiful track. Dub makes an appearance in Augustus Pablo's Last Of The Jestering.


This CD contains mainly rare and unreleased stuff, a lot of which wasn't familiar even to me. Quite a bit of ska and rock steady, plus some early seventies gems like the original Jamaican mix of The Pioneers' Let Your Yeah Be Yeah and Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song) from Toots & The Maytals. More rarities can be found on CD SIX, which can be downloaded via link contained in the box.

Overall, it is an excellent and often interesting box set. There are a lot of rarities included. The sound quality is really good. Personally, I feel it could have included some dub from the likes of King TubbyLee "Scratch" Perry and Peter Tosh are sadly missing (of course, Tosh didn't record on Trojan!). These are minor things though, and should not remotely put anyone off getting hold of this treasure trove.


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