When Tom Tom Club sang "reggae's expanding with Sly & Robbie" on "Genius of Love," perhaps they were referring to their influence on Black Uhuru's landmark crossover, Anthem (1983). Their musicianship and ability to tailor the arrangements and presentation was seminal to the success of the long-player. The original incarnation of the band -- whose name translates as "to be free" in Swahili -- evolved from the fertile environs of Kingston, Jamaica. By the early '80s the lineup centered around the trio of Michael Rose (vocals), sole founding member Derrick "Duckie" Simpson (vocals), and in 1981 Sandra "Puma" Jones (vocals), an American who had previously been part of the all-girl combo Mama Africa. With Anthem, the threesome took a bold and ultimately fruitful step, trying to appeal to a much larger audience. While the platter would earn Black Uhuru the very first Grammy award given to a reggae artist, many purists were less than impressed by the undeniably overt pop
ock elements, including the copious use of synthesizers. The end result was a less-than-authentic interpretation of the material. As the title of this four-disc box set intimates, Hip-O Select's Complete Anthem Sessions (2004) is the final word on the album. Housed within are all the unedited full-length mixes, dub mixes, U.K. and U.S. versions, and widely sought 12" renderings of "Party Next Door," "Party in Session," "What Is Life," and the Steve Van Zandt-penned "Solidarity." Plus, a pair of never-before-available interpretations of "Somebody's Watching You." Providing every possible option in one anthology is nothing short of inspired. It likewise allows a juxtaposition of production styles that aid in understanding both the impact of the music, as well as the various alterations -- some subtle and others significant -- made in an attempt to cater to specific listeners. The Hip-O Select Internet audio boutique issued The Complete Anthem Sessions in a strictly limited edition of 5,000 copies. The four CDs are accompanied by 40 pages of text and photos, with the contents housed in a lavish high quality 7-3/4" by 6-1/4" cloth hardbound book. More information can be found on the label's website at www.hip-oselect.com.