Here comes the warm sound of roots in the classic style, with fourteen tracks from reggae’s best. Produced by Tapper Zukie, this compilation features a range of tracks from the Stars label he set up in the 70s. Instrumental support is provided here from musicians including Tony Chin, Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare, Vin Gordon and Ansell Collins, amongst others. On Side One, things get off to a bright start with ‘Liberty’ from Junior Ross and the Spears, followed by tracks from Prince Alla and Linford Nugent, the latter offering a melodic and upbeat ‘Black Princess’. Next up is a rota of reggae royalty in the form of Cornell Campbell, Dennis Brown, Horace Andy and the Mighty Diamonds. Of these, Dennis Brown’s ‘Death Before Dishonour’ reveals its relatively late (1988) origins in the form of the distinctive percussive sound and the relatively minimal instrumentation, while the Mighty Diamonds contribute ‘Morgan the Pirate’, a great little track in slow deliberate roots style.
Side Two begins with Rockey Dread, Ronnie Davis and Freddy McKay; of these, Ronnie Davis’s ‘No Weak Heart’ is a great early (1976) reggae song, powered along by the vintage rhythm section (featuring Vin Gordon) and the echoing drum sound. Next comes no less than the venerable Alton Eliis with a surprisingly contemporary-sounding ‘We A Feel It’, and the album concludes with the Mighty Diamonds, Cornell Campbell and Horace Andy. Of these, Cornell Campbell comes close to a dub sound as the track closes (and some dubs of these songs would indeed be good to hear). The Mighty Diamonds add their typically sweet vocal sound. All in all, a fine compilation of roots reggae music and a joy to hear.
Tapper Zukie: Stars Ah Shine: Stars Records 1976-1988; release (vinyl) March 2016; Kingston Sounds label