Monday, 12 September 2011

"The Story Of Trojan Records" by VARIOUS ARTISTS. A Review Of The 2011 5CD Box Set.

"…The Child Is Black…The Child Is White…A Beautiful Sight…"

Released 29 August 2011, "The Story Of Trojan Records" is a UK Book-Sized Box Set on Universal UMC/Sanctuary 2775354.
Containing 123 tracks across 5 discs (87 are new to CD), you can also use CD1 in your PC or MAC to register the set after purchase which will entitle you to a further 12 tracks exclusive to download.
It breaks down as follows…

Disc 1: "25 Big Ones – UK Hits"
Red & White Trojan Records CD Label, 25 Tracks from 1969 to 1974, 74:56 minutes

Disc 2: "Reggae Greats – The Artists"
Pale Blue Trojan Records CD Label, 25 Tracks from 1967 to 1980, 79:44 minutes
Tracks 2-4, 7, 9-11, 15 and 23 are Previously Unreleased

Disc 3: "The Big Shots – The Producers"
Orange & Yellow Big Shot Records CD Label, 25 Tracks from 1969 to 1981, 79:50 minutes
Tracks 3 and 18 are Previously Unreleased in the UK, 12 is Previously Unreleased, 15 is a Previously Unreleased Version

Disc 4: "A To Z Of Trojan – The Labels"
Red & Yellow Attack Records CD Label, 25 Tracks from 1968 to 1977, 78:25 minutes

Disc 5: "Unreleased Gems, Rarities & Oddities"
Blue & Yellow Blue Cat Records CD Label, 23 Tracks from 1969 to 1975, 73:57 minutes
Tracks 1, 3-7, 10, 16 and 18-22 are Previously Unreleased in the UK; tracks 8-9, 11-15, 17 and 23 are Previously Unreleased

On the inside - each fully loaded CD is housed in a card sleeve with a different Trojan Records logo on the front to reflect the period - while the discs themselves also go into Trojan associated labels (as described above). The 50-page booklet contains extensive liner notes by set compiler and Reggae expert LAURENCE CANE-HONEYSETT (Author of "Young Gifted & Black – The Story Of Trojan Records" – see separate review) with the text peppered by period photos, album covers, trade reviews etc. There are also 4 full-length double-sided colour reproduction postcards featuring adverts for Trojan LPs and 45’s, best-seller 7” single charts from the period, gig flyers etc. Visually the cards are probably the best things in here – they’re really pretty and hugely evocative of the late Sixties and early Seventies. There’s also a small Trojan Window Sticker and even the shaped-well that houses the card sleeves in the base of the box is a repro of a May 1970 Magnetic Tape Box. It’s very nicely done indeed. JARED HAWKES did the tape transfers and the remastering was carried out at Tim Debney and Nick Watson’s FLUID MASTERING in London.

First up is the look of the set – if you look closely at the photos provided above, you will notice a slight smudging on the white and yellow Trojan logo on the front box – with the same effect carried over to the front page of the booklet. It looks like it’s dirtied - smudged with fingerprints and toner ink. I don’t know what bright spark thought this was a good idea because it isn’t. One of our customers who bought the box on the day of release brought it back to the store where he bought it from complaining bitterly that it was 'stained'. When it was pointed out to him that this 'old tape box' look was deliberate – he still didn’t want it! Hardly the effect the makers of this set would want. It may seem like a small pedantic point, but when you actually see the box – it just looks like it needs a good wash (every page in the booklet is back-grounded with the same). It’s a shame, because I wouldn’t want any person put off the real deal here – the actual content and the huge improvement in sound achieved…

A word on that first - the 'sound'. Everybody knows that Reggae and Ska from the late Sixties and early Seventies was recorded in a bucket with a hole at the bottom – it's always lo-fi and that’s part of its charm actually. But to my ears there’s a big improvement on here to what went before. I’ve reviewed 4 of Sanctuary’s DELUXE EDITIONS for Trojan Records - Tighten Up Vol.1 & 2, John Holt and Symarip – and somehow the sound achieved here trumps them all – as if someone made a concerted effort to get as many real tapes as possible. And even on the unreleased stuff like "You Didn’t Answer" by Desmond Dekker on Disc 2 or the superb "Double Barrel Man" by Dandy (a version of "Double Barrel") on Disc 5 – it’s still excellent.

Content - while people will love the improved sound of the hits on Disc 1 (Greyhound's "Black And White" still has a message that resonates to this day - lyrics above), I personally like everything on Disc 4 where the set stretches out to Trojan associated labels and their rare 45's. Stuff like "Chicken Lickin'" by Lloyd Charmers on High Note or the lovely Ska of "Freedom Train" by Brent Dowe on Summit. "Rolling Stone" by Tommy Shakespeare on Disc 5 has been a hard-to-find 45 too (a Jamaican import I believe) – and it sounds great here. The Producers set (Disc 3) has gems on it like "Put It Down, Children" by The Melodians produced by the legendary Leslie Kong in 1970 and unreleased until now. In fact most of it is an embarrassment of riches…

To sum up – with its huge haul of unreleased and first-time-on-CD goodies, this superb box set (despite reservations about how it looks) is clearly aimed at diehard collectors and is not for the faint hearted who would probably find a ten spot spent on the Deluxe Edition of "Tighten Up" will suffice. But if you're prepared to dig a bit deeper and fork out the bit extra – then "The Story Of Trojan Records" will pay dividends for years to come. As Bob Marley said "…Stir it up little darling…"

Easily 'the' Reggae Reissue Of The Year 2011.

No comments:

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

INDEX - Artists, Albums, Record Labels, CD Remaster Engineers, Liner Notes Authors, Links etc