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Natty Universal Dread (Hotter Fire - 1975-1979)

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Album Review

It should come as no surprise that the first collection to do full justice to the career of reggae DJ Big Youth was released by the Blood & Fire label, which has already distinguished itself with an exquisite catalog of reissues and collections designed to bring the music of reggae's classical period (the early to mid-'70s) back into the marketplace. This three-disc box set includes 51 tracks from Big Youth's most productive period, beginning with the early singles recorded for Joe Gibbs and on his own Negusa Nagast label (which included the charming "Hot Cross Bun" and "Hot Stock," a collaboration with Gregory Isaacs and Leroy Smart), and ending with the topical "Can't Take Wah Happen on a West" (written in the wake of the disastrous Westmoreland Flood of 1979) and the blistering "Political Confusion," which name-checks Margaret Thatcher and Jimmy Carter. This is also the period that found him releasing his bizarre and wonderful cover versions — "Hit the Road Jack," "Proud Mary" (titled "River Boat" here), and, best of all, "Sugar Sugar." As always, the digitally restored sound is exquisite, but this set does mark the first time that Blood & Fire has messed up on packaging. It's beautiful and the booklet is jam-packed with rare photos and extensive liner notes, but the individual disc sleeves are equipped with annoying and self-destructing styrofoam spindles. Don't let that fact dissuade you from buying this marvelous collection, but be forewarned.


Born: April 19, 1949 in Kingston, Jamaica

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

A man with a message, Big Youth arrived on the music scene in the wake of U-Roy, Dennis Alcapone, and I-Roy, but quickly established his own style, threatening to eclipse them all. The consummate cultural toaster, the DJ ruled the dancehalls across the '70s, and although his career flagged in the next decade, he returned with a vengeance in the '90s, and continues to have an impact on both his own nation and beyond. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, on April 19, 1949, Manley Augustus Buchanan had his moniker...
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Natty Universal Dread (Hotter Fire - 1975-1979), Big Youth
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