Funky Kingston – Reggae Dancefloor Grooves 1968-74

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American soul music was one of the formative influences on the development of ska in 1960s Jamaica, and since ska eventually slowed down and turned into rocksteady, which then slowed and thickened even further into reggae, it can be argued that soul music is one of the stylistic pillars of reggae for that reason. But, in fact, American soul continued to inform Jamaican reggae even as both styles were developing throughout the 1960s and 1970s, as this fascinating compilation makes clear. Bands like Toots & the Maytals were deeply influenced by James Brown (check out “Funky Kingston” and “Funky Funky,” which open and close this album, respectively), and reggae versions of American funk and soul hits were very common. The Chosen Few covered both “Funky Stuff” (as “Reggae Stuff”) and “Do Your Thing”; Lloyd Charmers even did a reggae version of “Shaft.” Not all of these versions were entirely successful, of course — that cover of “Shaft” is hilarious, but probably not intentionally so — but even the most ill-advised covers are lots of fun, and the best ones, such as the Pioneers’ darkly brilliant version of “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” bring new insight to songs that were classics to begin with.

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