Album: Various Artists

Social Classics volume 2: dread meets punk rockers uptown, Heavenly
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The Independent Culture

Compiled by Don Letts, video chronicler of the early punk scene and DJ at its premier forum the Roxy, this has to be one of the best single-disc reggae compilations ever put together, capturing Jamaican music at something like its creative high-point, when the island's peculiar rhythms were employed with an inventiveness unequalled before or since. As one of the architects of punk listening habits, Letts is to be congratulated for imposing a racial and musical openness upon a movement too easily prey to xenophobic parochialism; though once alerted to the militant rasta mysteries of cuts such as Culture's "Two Sevens Clash", Tappa Zukie's "MPLA" and Junior Murvin's "Police And Thieves", the punk audience found fellowship in the rastas' outsider status. Mercifully, this compilation eschews Bob Marley's opportunistic "Punky Reggae Party", though by then Marley was far from the cutting-edge of Jamaican music, which had moved deeper into the psychedelic sound-sculpture of dub, spectacularly represented here by King Tubby's "Bag A Wire Dub" and the legendary engineer's work on Augustus Pablo's "King Tubby Meets The Rockers Uptown". But perhaps the most significant development was the elevation, by those such as U-Roy and Big Youth, of DJ toasting into an ebullient private language whose surreal twists and turns remain unrivalled in the rap genre it spawned. Highly recommended.