Various Artists

The main question here is not "Is it good?" but "Is it necessary?" Ever since pent-up indie kids learned to stop worrying and love the Rasta, British labels like Trojan and Soul Jazz have been offering prime, pure lumber to meet the growing demand. And while it's valuable to have these titles at the ready, it's also valid to ask if availability is starting to equal redundancy. If Studio One Classics is any indication, the answer for now is "No." Classics manages to avoid overlap with the other titles in the series, and is useful as a primer for those still tentative about engaging the genre. Songs like the swaying, doo-woppy "Pretty Looks Ain't All" reveal reggae for what it really was: a Jamaican analogue to American R&B, while other selections -- The Wailers' sizzling "Simmer Down" and Don Drummond's sinister "Confucious" -- find it as rough and ragged as rock 'n' roll.


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