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Dave & Ansel Collins

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An enjoyable trivia question of reggae history, Dave & Ansel Collins had one of the first international reggae hits in 1971 with "Double Barrel." One of the most unlikely fluke successes of the era, it went to number one in the British pop surveys, and then number 22 in the United States pop charts, although most American listeners were probably unaware that the duo hailed from Jamaica. Kicking off with unforgettable, heavily reverbed, basically incomprehensible boasting ("I am the magnificent!" being the only readily discernible phrase), the track then locked into a tight rocksteady groove highlighting rinky-tink piano lines and swelling organ. More echoing, infectiously silly boasts and exhortations to "work!" pushed the cut along, with a brief digression into a chord sequence nicked from Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay." That's a tough act to follow, and Dave & Ansel Collins were destined to be a one-shot in the U.S., although they did make the British Top Ten one more time with the less remarkable "Monkey Spanner." Winston Riley played a strong hand in the duo's recordings, producing and writing all of their material. Dave Collins is better known as Dave Barker, who was a session vocalist at Lee "Scratch" Perry's Black Ark Recording Studio in the late 60s and early 70s, and spawned several hits of his own. Keyboardist Ansel Collins played in the Upsetters and Jimmy Cliff's band at various points, and has also been an active session musician, contributing to recordings by Black Uhuru, the Mighty Diamonds, Barrington Levy, and many others. ~ Richie Unterberger

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