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Dennis Brown:

Whether or not Dennis Brown is actually the crown prince of reggae or not, the fact that the singer issued enough material through a spate of singles to fill up two disc’s worth of time is pretty staggering. What’s even more surprising is that from the earliest cuts collected on The Crown Prince of Reggae are just as enticing as the latter efforts dating to the mid eighties. And frankly, there weren’t too many reggae acts during that period worth revisiting with the same sort of vigor this guy deserves.

Beginning as some kid kicking around record stores, singing when he found the opportunity, it’s surprising to know Brown’s father was an educated guy, working white collar jobs. The family still lived in a difficult situation. But from a pretty early age, Brown’s talent was recognized. So, when you’re first recording gig involves Derrick Harriot during the rock steady period, there’s probably a future in the music business. Brown’s success, though, had as much to do with the people he surrounded himself with as the volume of his work. There’s more than two hours worth of music on The Crown Prince of Reggae. And it’s pretty much all requisite listening.

Early tracks like “Song My Mother Used to Sing” find Brown working with a slinky rock steady band, seemingly capable of turning anything into a soul song or just as easily, a reggae tune. His singing, especially at such an early point in his career’s, just short of sublime. And while folks aren’t likely to be familiar with a wealth of these sides, they should be. “Satisfaction Feeling,” like half of his collected works, is a pretty positive tune. It’s just another song about loving everyone despite their flaws – and the resultant feeling from that. Trite at times, sure, but still stunning music.

By the time listeners make it through to the six minute, extended version of “Promised Land” and its synthesized bass, it’d be easy to guess what portion of Brown’s career we’ve listened to. Even with the obvious eighties’ influence, the guy’s music doesn’t suffer at all. And in fact, all that analog trickery makes Brown’s composition that much more sinister. Of course, the lyrical focus of the singer’s work didn’t change much over the course of a decade. Persistence of vision is occasionally a problem. When songs are delivered with such tenacity and belief, though, it’s hard to skip over anything.