Album: Toots and the Maytals, Unplugged on Strawberry Hill (Metropolis)


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The Independent Culture

Even deprived of a cooking Jamaican band, Toots Hibbert can still rouse the spirit thanks mainly to the possession of the most soulful voice in reggae.

It also helps that he's one of reggae's more accomplished writers, with tracks like "Time Tough" and "54-46" offering the most languidly infectious takes on hard times and imprisonment, respectively. The stripped-back approach, with just acoustic guitar, backing vocals, congas and occasional bass, allows the songs to shine through unencumbered – and as the hypnotic "Bam Bam" demonstrates, with no appreciable loss of groove. The only track that loses out by lacking more propulsive band backing is "Reggae Got Soul"; by comparison, the effusive "Monkey Man" is as irrepressible as ever.