When Trojan announced they were producing a “The Story Of Trojan Records” box set I’d have to say I was just a little underwhelmed, after all Trojan have been producing Trojan Story compilations since 1971, what would be different this time?
First things first. This set totals 123 tracks over five CD’s. It’s packaged in a smart box and comes complete with a 50 page book, four reproduction print/cards and a window sticker. Now the music always come first obviously, but this whole set is an enormous improvement on the cheap and cheerful box sets that Trojan produced in the early 2000’s under the ownership of Sanctuary. It feels that the music is finally being given the respect it deserves, and quite right too.
The other advantage is that there are plenty of tunes here that many reggae fans will want, an admirable job has been done of compiling a collection that has the necessary usual suspects that are known and loved and collecting some really quite rare selections and some great rarities that haven’t see re-release a dozen or so times before.
- Disc 1 – 25 Big Ones – UK Hits
This is the obligatory selection of the usual suspects; Return Of Django, Liquidator, Monkey Man, Everything I Own etc etc.
- Disc 2 – Reggae Greats – The Artists
On first inspection this has a fair few well known tunes but dig a little deeper and you’ll find a nice sprinkling of unreleased tunes and alternate takes, expect the likes of the Maytals, the Wailers, Delroy Wilson, Max Romeo, Gregory Isaacs etc.
Black Heart – U Roy
- Disc 3 – The Big Shots – The Producers
This showcases the works of different producers. Whilst running chronologically the selections don’t always flow particularly well; for example Joe Mansano just wasn’t on the same page as Lesley Kong in 1970. There are some great tunes though and you begin to get a feel on this disc that the compiler has an expert eye for the different audiences (skinheads, the revival people etc) who this collection might appeal to.
Apollo 11 – The Hippy Boys
- Disc 4 – A-Z of Trojan – The Labels
Again there are a real mix of styles here and some lovely tunes that are not always the usual compilation fodder though it does lose it’s way a few times, Norris Wear’s Doctor Honey for example is at best pedestrian and including the heavily phased dub isn’t enough to make it interesting. It’s nice to see a few Derrick Harriot productions here, these were pretty much off limits for Trojan compilers for a number of years due to shady licensing in by gone days. Indeed his production of Keith And Tex with Tighten Up Your Gird is undoubtedly the stand out track on this CD.
Tighten Up Your Gird – Keith & Tex
- Disc 5 – Unreleased Gems, Rarities And Oddities
Even the hardcore anoraks are likely to sit up and take notice to the fifth and final disc in this collection. Boasting at least ten previously unreleased tunes and a number more that are seriously obscure this is definitely train spotters corner. Fortunately unreleased and/or obscure doesn’t automatically mean bad and there are some lovely pieces here, check for example the very first tune Where Did The Russians Go by Val Bennett, supposedly a Caltone production though this is a new one on me, or Natty In Hong Kong by the Soul Syndicate, a lovely roots horns instrumental.
Natty Dread In Hong Kong – Soul Syndicate
I’m not entirely sure that the selections here really are “The Story Of Trojan Records” but who cares? This is a well compiled selection of some great tunes and that’s what really matters. The packaging is a nice bonus and shows that those involved in the project actually give a damn and have a respect for the audience and for the music. All in all not bad for around £30.00, can we have more like this please Trojan?