Wednesday, 24 April 2019

The Story Of Trojan Records Box Set


This is a wonderful box set that encompasses the remarkable output of the legendary Trojan label, that, in many ways WAS reggae. Of course, that would do a disservice to Island and Virgin/Front line, but certainly Trojan was the label that laid the foundations and was responsible for so much great Jamaican reggae music, particularly that material that was became so successful in the UK from the late sixties onwards.

There are five CDs included in this set and this is how they basically pan out.


This CD includes a lot of the "usual suspects" - big, commercial hits that really put reggae on the map in the UK. "Red Red Wine" by Tony Tribe, "Young, Gifted And Black" by Bob And Marcia, Nicky Thomas's "Love Of The Common People", Desmond Dekker's "You Can Get It If You Really Want", "Double Barrel" by Dave & Ansil Collins and "Moon River" by Greyhound. These were all tracks that I listened to as a twelve-thirteen year-old and they inspired a lifetime's love of reggae. I always loved John Holt's brassy, melodic cover of "Help Me Make It Through The Night" too.


That is the end of the well-known material, though. Now we get some rarities, often from familiar artists, such as Jimmy Cliff's "A Little Bit Of Soap" and Desmond Dekker's "Sentimental Reasons". We are also introduced to "conscious" roots reggae too in U-Roy's "Black Heart" and DJ "toasting" in Big Youth's "Natty No Jester". Also, dub appears in the shape of Augustus Pablo's "The Great Pablo".


This CD starts with a fair bit of early ska and rock steady lively material and early skanking cuts from later roots artists like Niney's "Skankey Baby". There are also inventive tracks like Joe White's "Expression In Dub" and Ken Boothe's funky-ish "Got To Get Away".


This is also pretty much a rock steady/early roots disc and features quite a lot of rarities like "Bongo Jah" by The Immortals, "Black Panther" by Sir Collins & The Black Diamonds and "She Caught The Train" by Roy Martell & Joe's All-Stars (later covered by UB40 on 1983's "Labour Of Love" album).


There are some real rarities on here, including several female vocalists such as the underrated Candy McKenzie with the sensual "Sky At Night" and Nora Dean's "Mama". There is also a CD SIX available to download via a link included in the box. This also contains even rarer stuff, like "Amapola" by The Islanders and "Wreck It Up" by JJ All-Stars.

Overall, this is an excellent set, with rarities liberally included and covering an awful lot of reggae and its sub-genres that Trojan released. I do feel a bit more dub and roots could have been included and also DJ/toaster artists like Prince Far I, I-Roy and Big Youth could have been better represented. By the way, I do not have a problem with the intentionally "shabby chic" artwork of the outer box and inner booklet. I actually quite like it. Anyway, for me, it is always about the music, man - and that is great.


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