20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: Best of Black Uhuru

by: Black Uhuru

A reasonable if abbreviated summation of one of the most popular reggae bands of the '80s, this bargain-priced, 11-track collection is nonetheless a compelling listening. It covers the highlights of their four studio Island albums, adding the "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" B-side of the "Sinsemilla" 12". Uhuru was helmed on these tracks by the producer/rhythm section of Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare. Their crisp rhythms, rugged playing, memorable riffs, and intricate studio touches like the chiming glockenspiel on the chorus of "Sponji Reggae" nearly burst out of the speakers. Although backing vocalists Puma Jones and Duckie Simpson provide minor supporting roles next to Michael Rose's distinctive leads, the music's gripping melodies, vocal harmonies, and cracking backbeat gave Black Uhuru a unique identity. They never duplicated the formula after winning the first Grammy for Best Reggae Album in 1985 and subsequently left Island. The remastered audio on this collection is stunning. It reveals subtle sounds that had been previously hidden and adds a confident presence. The song's shorter versions are used, resulting in a more dynamic listening experience as opposed to the double-disc Liberation, which featured extended mixes. The absence of "Shine Eye Gal" from the Tear It Up live album makes this only slightly less comprehensive than it could have been as a compilation of Black Uhuru's most important years. ~ Hal Horowitz

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