Survival Is the Game
Winston Jarrett always exhibited more control over his work than most Jamaican recording artists in the peak roots reggae era of the mid- to late '70s, renting studios and hiring musicians on his own for his Righteous Flames releases (many of which came out on his own Attra, Human Rights, and Humble label imprints), and he eventually gained control over his entire body of work, which led to this two-disc set, the first real comprehensive anthology of this often woefully ignored songwriter and singer. The first disc covers the late '60s and early '70s, a particularly productive period for Jarrett, which saw him release over a hundred sides under the name the Righteous Flames and assorted other monikers (Righteous Holmes, Soul Olfrous, the Crashers, the Intruders, the Hurricanes, T-Man and the T-Bones, and Adam and Eve), including his classic "Easy Come, Easy Go," the haunting "Should Have Been Me," and the dread "Babylon Burning." The second disc draws from his 1990s output, including six tracks from the classic Wiseman album he recorded for producer Roy Cousins and key tracks from Kingston Vibrations, Solid Foundation, and Too Many Boundaries. Jarrett wasn't really an innovator, often choosing to lightly rewrite classic roots material ("Judgment" on the second disc, for instance, is essentially Peter Tosh's "Downpressor Man" with a different title and a slightly altered arrangement), but his hard-eyed commitment to human rights themes and a flair for lightly skewed rhythms and horn charts (it didn't hurt that he worked with Jackie Mittoo, "Bingy Bunny" Lamont, the Wailers' rhythm section, and the best Jamaican session musicians available) makes his work continually interesting. Survival Is the Game is the perfect introduction to one of reggae's best-kept secrets.