This is a truly wonderful 115 track compilation from the legendary Arthur "Duke" Reid’s Treasure Isle label, covering various initial reggae sub-genres such as Ska, Mento, Rock Steady, Bluebeat and early reggae. There are also several rarities from the vaults, such as What Have I Done by The Versatiles and There She Goes by Hopeton Lewis and I have to say as well that the sound is absolutely outstanding, considering that early reggae recordings are often pretty lo-fi. The remastering of many of the tracks is clear, sharp, warm and bassy. Check out the bass and percussion on Tyrone Evans' Cry Little Girl, Cry or on Don't Run For A Hiding Place by The Silvertones. It is really impressive for reggae from this period.
The highlights are too many to mention individually, unfortunately, but here are a few.
Boys And Girls Reggae by Phyllis Dillon is magnificently lively, deep and thumping (as also is her groovy Don’t Stay Away). Try keeping your feet still to it. It uses the Brown Girl In The Ring vocal refrain in places along with some Dave & Ansil Collins-style organ breaks. Her cover of Marlena's Shaw's Woman Of The Ghetto is superb too.
Ken Parker’s I Can Hide is similarly fast, melodic and uplifting. Proper rock-steady skanking. Some Rasta-style chanting is included on the beat to Margarita’s Woman A Come. The Melodians’ I Will Get Along Without You was covered by soul singer Viola Wills in 1979. UB40 have also covered it.
The infectious tones of ska are all over the set in numbers like The Skatalites’ Latin Goes Ska and Eastern Standard Time. Check out the infectious groove of Stranger Cole’s Yeah Yeah Baby or the bass on Alton Ellis's cover of Blood, Sweat & Tears' You Make Me So Very Happy. Ellis's Rock Steady has now become an iconic number.
Early roots is there with Justin Hinds & The Dominoes’ Sinners (Where Are You Gonna Hide) and early Lovers Rock in Joya Landis's Moonlight Lover. The latter, however, suffers a little from slightly inferior sound, compared to some of the other songs. Justin Hinds also contributes the addictive Save A Bread with its The Tide Is High beat. His early but enthusiastic Rub Up Push Up is pretty irresistible too.
Treasure Isle as a label sometimes gets overlooked by its parent label Trojan, Island and latterly Virgin's Front Line releases which should never be allowed to happen as there was some seriously good material released during the formative years of reggae. The foundations of so much later reggae can be found here. A listen to this excellent collection is always an uplifting experience.