With a group as prolific as the Maytals, led by a singer whose career is as long-running as Toots Hibbert's, few compilations will come away unscathed by fans and critics alike, least of all those that purport to be something more than a simple best-of collection. Time Tough: The Anthology is no exception, for even with two discs and 41 tracks the set can only scratch the surface of Toots & the Maytals' canon.
The biggest complaint comes straight off the bat, with a mere five songs dedicated to the ska years. During this era, the Maytals unleashed a flood of fabulous singles, with their last, 1966's "Bam Bam," winning Jamaica's annual Festival Song Competition. Five tracks gives awfully short shrift to this instrumental early period in the band's career. Much to fans' regret, Toots Hibbert's incarceration for drug possession saw the group sidelined during the rocksteady era, but they returned with a ferocity as the reggae era began. Under the aegis of producer Leslie Kong, the trio were unstoppable, sending a deluge of stellar singles into the chart, of which ten of the best are gathered up here. Kong's death in 1971 barely slowed the group's output, while a deal with Island Records saw international release for their crucial Funky Kingston, In the Dark, and Reggae Got Soul albums, whose tracks fill much of the rest of disc one. The first half of disc two follows the group until its demise (they took their final bow together at Reggae Sunsplash in 1982), with the rest of the tracks selectively following Hibbert's solo career down to 1988. Thus, the compilation does provide an adequate overview, but weighted as it is toward the Kong and then the Island years, not necessarily a fair one. Still, most fans will be happy with the results, especially as the compilation includes a clutch of previously unissued songs. It still remains by far the most thorough collection available.