Sly & Robbie, Sly & Robbie Hits 1978-1990

J. Edward Keyes

By J. Edward Keyes

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Sorting through the singles reggae giants Sly & Robbie produced for their legendary Taxi Label can be as quixotic as trying to paint clovers on houseflies — one oft-repeated estimate has the duo producing and playing on 200,000 different singles. Fortunately, this compilation has already done most of the heavy lifting. Featuring vocal contributions from reggae legends like Dennis Brown, Sugar Minott and Gregory Isaccs, Hits is the perfect gateway to Sly & Robbie's signature sound: rubbery bass bouncing across the classic reggae kick/snare rhythm. It's an album of showstoppers, from the ghost town desolation of The Tamlins '"Baltimore" to Sugar Minott's throbbing, atonal "Herbman Hustling." It even contains Ini Kamoze's dank "World a Music," whose menacing riddim Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley recently employed in his colossal debut single "Welcome to Jamrock." That song is an indictment of violent crime and white privilege while its forefather imagines a world slack and trippy on sweet reggae melodies. Taken together, they're like a call and response.