Culture ‘Natty dread taking over’ (VP) 2CD + DVD 5/5

As Jamaican dcvotees the world over celebrate this year as the fiftieth anniversary of the country’s independence, comes this anthology which chronicles arguably the finest roots reggae group of them all. The impecable selectinon of songs, all the classic and then some, is matched by the stylish presentation in a handy digipak plus inner sleeve photos. John Peel was a massive fan of the group and regularly invited them onto his show when they were touring the UK for a session. It is fitting, then, that one of the very best of these from 1982 should be included here in full, previously only available on vinyl. For those who are just discovering the band, this is now the first port of call and what a treat you will have in store. The compilation neatly cuts across the various producers so that Joe Gibbs and Errol Thompson (aka the Mighty Two) are included alongside Sonia Pottinger, Joesph Hill himself and, later on in the group’s career, Junjo Lawes and King Jammy among others. CD 1 gets down to business with a host of classic numbers such as ‘Love shines brighter’, the title track, ‘I’m not ashamed’ and of course the seminal ‘Two sevens clash’. Onto the second CD and the quality is just as high with ‘Lion rock’, ‘Cumbolo’ and ‘Natty never get weary’ a trio of stunning songs. Where this anthology wins hands down in relation to thers that have gone before it is by going that bit further to incorporate much later pieces such as the fine tribute to one Robert Marley on ‘Psalms of Bob Marley’ and ‘Why am I a rastaman?’ Social concerns are covered throughout in the songs, a feature of the group ethos, and ‘Poor people hungry’ typifies their empathy for other less fortunate human beings. To top matters off, a well put together DVD of their 2003 UK tour is included and you can judge for yourself why this group were so highly regarded by reggae and rock critics alike. As an indication of Jamaican popular culture in the second half of the twentieth century, simply indispensable.

Tim Stenhouse