Roots with Quality [Brilliant Box]
Giving the Sanctuary label's 2005 set Blood & Fire some serious competition, Roots with Quality is VP's stab at collecting the work of reggae producer Winston Holness aka Niney the Observer. Niney has forever lived in the shadow of his mentor Lee Perry -- and you only need to look at their respective nicknames of "The Observer" and "The Upsetter" for clues as to why -- but in the background he created a stunning amount of vital material during the '70s. Besides his own call to arms "Blood & Fire" which opens the set, there's Michael Rose's original version of Black Uhuru's international hit "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," plus the Junior Byles standard "Weeping," which is a prime example of why the singer was dubbed "the man of many voices." Having Dennis Brown's great protest number "Wolf & Leopards" in its disco mix means Bongo Herman's dank dub is attached, and with Gregory Isaacs' "Slave Master" segueing into Ranking Buckers' "Captives" thanks to the set's love of 12"s, the reggae faithful will jump immediately to disc two. Closing the set is a series of lesser-known but still high-quality tracks from the '80s that fell into obscurity thanks to the public's shift in taste to dancehall music. Sticking with the title's promise of "Roots," Niney's digital/dancehall output -- as worthy as it may be -- is ignored. Still, Roots with Quality goes well past the Sanctuary set's stop date of 1978, and with great track-by-track commentary, Roots has the ever-so-slight advantage over Blood.