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The Best of the Wailing Souls

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Album Review

A sublime collection, made more than a bit disconcerting by the sleeve referring to the group as Wailing "Soul" both on the cover and across the credits, and bedecked with a photograph featuring the wrong lineup of the group. The mistake was obviously on the northern end of the enterprise, as Channel One, who compiled this set in Jamaica, certainly knew better than that. For across the mid-'70s, the group pumped out a stream of hits for the label, and nine of their greatest are featured here. JoJo Hookim and his brother Ernest moved into the Jamaican music industry in 1971, but it was only in the middle of the decade that they really make an impact. Hookim was aided by the formation of his studio band, the Revolutionaries, permanently bringing together Sly & Robbie, whose heaving rhythms fired the Channel One sound. And much of that sound was built around old Studio One classics. This perfectly suited the Souls, who reached into their own Studio One back catalog and recut a clutch of their old numbers to phenomenal effect. Both "Back Out" and "Fire Coal Man" went on massive success, while the former was rejigged a second time, and with new lyrics, became the smash "Things and Time." If those were classics, their new numbers were equal masterpieces. The smash hit "Very Well," the devotional "Jah Jah Give Us Life to Live," the airy "Joy Within Your Heart," the heavy-hitting "War," the philosophical "Fire a Mus Mus Tell," every one of the songs on this set was not just a hit, but a roots revelation. So while the spelling and cover art might be incorrect, there's no mistake about the quality of the material here. More superb recordings were yet to come, but The Best Of remains the best entry to their phenomenal work from this time.

Biography

Genre: Reggae

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

The consummate roots band, the Wailing Souls may never have gained the international reputation of their compatriots, at least not at the height of the genre's popularity, but they did outlive most of them. Their very survival has been their greatest strength, that and their ability to diversify over time. Today they are one of the most popular live acts around and they continue to release provocative and popular albums. A roots band they may well be, but their history actually stretches back long...
Full bio
The Best of the Wailing Souls, Wailing Souls
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