Sound System: The Island Anthology
compiles the first three Steel Pulse
albums, all recorded for the Mango label, were easily the best they ever made. This two-disc set compiles the entirety of those three albums (Handsworth Revolution
, Tribute to the Martyrs
and Caught You
, the last of which was titled Reggae Fever
for U.S. release) along with a handful of B-sides and live versions. The familiar pleasures are all here -- the dry, heavy skank of "Bun Dem" and "Soldiers," the strangely dreamy outrage of "Tribute to the Martyrs," the lighter grooves that buoy "Shining" and "Rumours (Not True)." The extra tracks aren't much to write home about; frankly, the two B-sides and two live tracks sound like filler. But the 12" version of the majestic "Babylon Makes the Rules" feel like divine revelation, as does the dubwise extension of "Heart of Stone" that was hinted at so tantalizingly in its original album version. For all of his jazzy excesses, David Hinds
remains one of the finest reggae singers around, and there has never been a rhythm section to match this one for brick-wall solidity. An essential collection of top-flight British reggae.