Toots & the Maytals

Toots & the Maytals

The Very Best of Toots & the Maytals

Island

Among the upper echelons of ska and reggae masters, perhaps only the late Bob Marley’s name ranks higher than that of Frederick “Toots” Hibbert. For anyone new to the music of Toots & the Maytals, this compilation should be more than adequate demonstration as to why he’s so revered. With a powerful, soulful voice and his knack for writing truly classic songs, Hibbert has earned a place of respect and honor while remaining a vital artist (and live performer) well into his 50’s.

While I may quibble about the song selection (a “Very Best” set that doesn’t include songs like “She’s My Scorcher” and the classic cover of “Country Roads” doesn’t completely deserve the name – I’d have included them over latter day tunes like “Spiritual Healing” and “Peace, Perfect Peace,” which while historically important, don’t stand up as well as the older material), I’d definitely recommend this collection to anyone new to the master’s work. Anyone that has yet to fall under the sway of amazing songs such as “Pressure Drop,” “Funky Kingston,” “Broadway Jungle,” and “Monkey Man” should pick this up.

While completists would probably be better served by the classic two-disc anthology Time Tough, they will appreciate this collection for its extensive, well-researched liner notes and for the chance to compare two decidedly different versions of the all-time classic “54-46” (the record includes the “Was My Number” and “That’s My Number” variations, while the liner notes reference a third version, “Is My Number”). All in all, a fine collection. Toots is a must for any fan of reggae and ska, and I’d heartily recommend Very Best to even the most casual fans of the genre. And hey, the master is touring the Southeast this month, so get out there and show him your respect!

Island Records, 825 Eighth Ave., 24th Floor, New York, NY 10019

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