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Various Artists: Summer Records Anthology 1974-1988

Various Artists: Summer Records Anthology 1974-1988

Release Date:2007

By Michaelangelo Matos | Posted 12/19/2007

Last year, the Seattle reissue indie label Light in the Attic put out Jamaica to Toronto: Soul, Funk and Reggae 1967-1974, an enlightening collection of tracks from the Ontario city's expat community. Summer Records Anthology picks up from where that compilation left off, and as you'd expect given the time frame-almost all of it from the latter '70s with the final two cuts, by Willi Williams and Unique Madoo, representing the digital dancehall period-it's rootsier, trickier rhythmically, and heavier on dub tricks.

Nowhere is this more in evidence than on the opening cut, Johnny Osbourne featuring Bunny Brown's "Love Makes the World Go Round," a track so arrestingly bare-Osbourne and Brown's falsetto harmonies, a tick-tocking drum, the merest hint of timekeeping bass, and zip else-that it deserves a display in the Pop Minimalism Hall of Fame. There's plenty of more traditionally echo-laden dub as well: Two cuts featuring Earth, Roots, and Water, "Awakening," with John Forbes and Teach, and "Mankind," with Adrian "Homer" Miller, all but bury their vocalists under layers of ebbing echo and percussive clatter.

Summer Records Anthology is a little more uneven as a vocal showcase: When Osbourne returns to his normal range on his other three cuts, he's earthier but less immediately compelling, and it doesn't hurt that the songs are either melodically thin ("Warrior") or lyrically lacking ("Right, Right Time"). And while Noel Ellis' "Reach My Destiny" and Willi Williams' "Run Them a Run" are enjoyable, both singers have done better work elsewhere. Still, it's the grooves, unadorned or splashy, that are the draw here.

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