October 25, 2004
Reggae, Rocksteady, Reggae-Pop, Lovers Rock, Ska, Smooth Reggae, Roots Reggae

Album Review

Delroy Wilson began his singing career as a teenager at Clement Dodd's Studio One (where seemingly everyone in the Jamaican music business appears to have started out), eventually working with nearly every producer on the island, including Sonia Pottinger, Joe Gibbs, Winston "Niney" Holness, Keith Hudson, Leslie Kong, and Bunny Lee. As he matured, Wilson's voice rounded into a hoarse, smoky tenor that was as soulful a vehicle as Jamaica ever produced, and although he isn't as well known as later singers like Dennis Brown and Gregory Isaacs, his approach and phrasing influenced them all, even Bob Marley. This two-disc, 50-track collection covers Wilson's rocksteady era, from 1968 to 1978, and while it doesn't include early sides like his cover of the Tams' "Dancing Mood," it features a solid representation of what was clearly his peak period, especially his work with Bunny Lee, which spawned such classics as "Better Must Come," "Cool Operator," and "Here Come the Heartaches." Also worth noting here are the tracks Wilson cut with Keith Hudson, including the odd "Adisababa" (a repatriation anthem based on the melody of "House of the Rising Sun"). "False Rasta" (sometimes known as "Rascal Man"), produced by Niney, is another high point, as is Wilson's fantastic cover of Marley's "I'm Still Waiting," produced by Lloyd Charmers. Wilson was fascinated by Motown (as was most of Jamaica), and he recorded several of the label's songs, including the subtle redefinitions of "The Same Old Song," "Ain't That Peculiar," "This Old Heart of Mine," "Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever," "Get Ready," and "Baby Don't You Do It" (which Wilson retitled "Can You Remember") that are included here. Sort of Jamaica's Marvin Gaye (or perhaps Al Green), Wilson was pivotal in moving the island's music toward its brilliant, skewed, upside-down version of American soul, and his warm, assured phrasing is the equal of any Motown or Stax star. This compilation, concentrating as it does on the singer's best years, is darn near indispensable in assessing his considerable talent.
Steve Leggett, Rovi