Other than a few compilations of note (most notably Rhino's Roots of Reggae series), and a few Japanese only releases, Prince Buster is incredibly hard to get these days on CD. Luckily, this album has started to pop up in stores again. This album in question is "Fabulous Greatest Hits". Originally released in 1967, this is essentially a collection of the hit singles the Prince put out on the UK FAB label. And like most other Prince colelctions, this one is great stuff.
The disc starts off with "Earthquake", a mostly isntrumental song where Buster speaks up every so often to talk about Orange Street and how its the street that sells the beat. The song is an absolute rocker with a real funky rock steady rhythm and soulful style horns coming in every now and again.
"Texas Hold Up" is another instrumental song but this time with a western theme. The song erupts in blistering gunfire before Buster announces "This is a hold up! Don't anybody move!" and the song starts up. The song is done in a ska style with some pretty good horns. Highlight is the amazing trumpet solo. As usual with most Buster songs, he shouts "Dallas Texas!" and then makes sound effects with his voice. Good song all in all.
An unusual honking sax opens "Freezing Up Orange Street". The rhythm is standard rock steady and the main attraction to this song is the real nice organ and sax and how they seem to dance together to the steady beat. This is probobly my favorite of the instrumental tracks.
"Free Love" is the first of Busters actual singing. The song is alright, Buster isn't known to have the greatest singing voice as much as he is just witty. But since this song seems to lack his wit, it becomes a standard. The only thing that makes this song awesome is the unusual bass line and the lazy backing vocalist as well as the harmonica solo.
"Julie" opens with a slow R&B style intro before transforming into a rocksteady rhythm. This is Buster trying to sing romantically again. It's however not really working out with him. The lead guitarist seems to have picked up on the voice as he plays the same exact line as the vocals, kind of making the listeners attention drift from vocals to guitar (which hides Busters voice sometimes).
This next one is probobly my favorite off the album. "Take it Easy" has one of the most memorable rhythms and it has been versioned quite a few times. Even newer bands like Ocean 11 have covered the song straight up while Skinnerbox used the rhythm for a brand new song. Anyways, great rhythm and fun lyrics make this a great song.
One of Prince Busters most popular songs, "Judge Dread" appears next. Everyone knows the story of the Judge sentencing the rudies to 400 years each in prison for their crimes. One of the many anti-rude boy records of the mid 60's. This was also the first of a series of "Judge Dread" Prince Buster tunes. This tune will also cause singers like Lee Perry and Derrick Morgan to reply to Judge Dread in the rudies defense. A classic record this is, and it also features the trombone stylings of Rico Rodriguez.
"Too Hot" continues the rudie theme where the Prince says "This town is too hot...now theyre callin in for the guns...but rude boy never giuve up their guns, its too hot". This song seems to sum up the mid 60s climate in Jamaica with all the rude boy violence. The rhythm itself seems to bee pretty violent with its hectic bass line.
Another highlight on this record is "Ghost Dance" with a slow melodic rock steady beat and Prince reminising on his old days in the sound system days. Mentioning old friends, giving greetings and thanks. Anyway, its a interesting song and gives you some idea about sound system dances.
"Ten Commandments" is a playfully sexist song by the Prince where he seesm to lay down the law to his girlfriend (ex. "Commandment 9thou shalt not commit adultury for the world will hold me guilty if i commit murder"). The song has a nice R&B style ska feel, especially the sax and piano which lead the song along.
"Al Capone" is one of Prince Busters most famous records in the UK it seems. The rhythm is a bouncy ska rhythm with some good horns. The song is also filled with Busters lyrical sound effects while occasionally shouting "Dont call me Scarface, my name is Capone". Its a good song and one that English 2toners the Specials would redo as their own debut hit "Gangsters".
The closing track, "Barrister Pardon is a return to the Judge Dread theme. It has the same rhythm track as the orginal, but this time the jusge is allowing the rudies to go free (I guess he heard the plea to set them from made by Lee Perry). The shining moment on this song though is Ricos amazing trombone solo. Its really no wonder people consider him the equal of Don Drummond
So that closes the disc. A nice selection of Prince Buster tunes. It would be nice to get some rude tracks like "Big 5" and maybe some more ska like "Madness" but hopefully Prince will reissue some of his stuff and make it more readily available. Also, one more thing that makes this disc insteresting is that the original liner notes from the original 1967 issue of this album are reprinted on the back cover. Its interesting to read about Prince Busters tours around the UK and his apearances on "Ready Steady Go!" It even talks about a early 1967 tour or America. But anyways, this one is recommended.
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