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Reggae Pioneers

Toots & The Maytals

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Album Review

If one had to boil Toots & the Maytals' career to a mere dozen songs, most casual fans would come up with something fairly close to the track listing of this compilation. Released by Island in 1984, Reggae Greats succinctly summed up the band's success during the reggae age and beyond. Picking up the Maytals' story with the release of Toots Hibbert from jail and the trio's comeback smash, "54-46 That's My Number," this collection duly proceeds to bounce around through the years. There's a further clutch of classics from the early reggae age, including their Independence Festival song winner "Sweet & Dandy." The trio's longtime producer Leslie Kong died much too soon in 1971, but the Maytals' successes continued with the likes of "Funky Kingston" and "Reggae Got Soul," under the aegis of Dynamic Studios (run by Byron Lee). However, the trio called it a day in 1982, taking their final bow at that summer's Reggae Sunplash festival. The year before, they released their final single, appropriately enough a recut of "Bam Bam," the song that had taken them to victory at the first Independence Festival back in 1966. The new "Bam Bam" featured Wally Badarou on synthesizer, and he would join Sly & Robbie for the recording of two new numbers, "Spiritual Healing" and "Peace, Perfect Peace," by the now solo Hibbert in 1984. Both were cut specifically for this set. Although far from a definitive collection by any means, for its day Reggae Greats was a decent entry into the Maytals reggae world.

Biography

Formed: 1966

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

While they never achieved the commercial success or cultural impact of the Wailers, Toots & the Maytals were nearly as important in the history of Jamaican music; like the Wailers, the Maytals thrived as ska gave way to rocksteady and then evolved into reggae, they boasted one of the island's finest singers and most charismatic frontmen in the great Toots Hibbert, and they worked with many of the most important producers and sidemen on the island. The Maytals were also the band that most clearly...
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