Various ‘Strong Like Sampson: Linval Thompson presents the 12″ Mixes’ 2CD (Hot Milk) 5/5

linval-thompsonAce producer and roots singer Linval Thompson was always going to have a sympathetic ear when it came to producing other reggae singers and so it proves on this wonderful anthology of his classic 12″ productions that follows on from the excellent Linval Thompson and the Revolutionaries, ‘Boss Man’s Dub’ re-issue (Hot Milk, 2013). The genius of this compilation is that it spans a relatively short period of just over a year and this provides a genuine look back at and re-investigation of a critical era of stylistic change when the dancehall groove was about to take over, yet roots reggae had not yet totally abandoned its just cause. While Linval Thompson produced on a variety of labels (including for Greensleeves in the UK – see their excellent compilation for an ideal accompaniment), he reserved his very best disco 12″ for his own label Thompson Sounds and this is precisely what we have here. The impressive roster of musicians is neatly divided to include the cream of roots singers such as Freddy McKay and Rod Taylor, those that straddled roots and early dancehall with Barry Brown and Barrington Levy in pole position, and then a coterie of DJs with Sammy Dread and Papa Tullo among them. If anything the second CD is even stronger than the first with the producer outstanding on his own ‘Mr Boss Man’ and ‘Promised Land’ by Rod Taylor and ‘Natty Dread Nah Run’ by Barry Brown running it a close joint second. That said, the first CD does contain the wonderful ‘Africa’ by Anthony Johnson and the witty ‘Stereograph Style’ from Jah Thomas (himself an accomplished producer of others). Essential listening for the summer and well beyond.

Tim Stenhouse