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Reggae - Released June 15, 2018 | Trojan Records

Distinctions Songlines Five-star review
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Reggae - Released March 23, 2015 | Trojan Records

Desmond Dekker was the first Jamaican reggae artist to break through in the United States, when his powerful and anthemic tune "Israelites" rose to number nine on the Billboard Pop Singles Chart in 1969. While "Israelites" was the first time most Americans had ever heard of Desmond Dekker, he was already a major star at home, cutting well-mannered ska singles (such as "Honour Your Mother and Father") since 1963 before moving on to more full-bodied rocksteady and reggae sounds with pointed and thoughtful lyrics as the decade wore on, scoring hits like "007 (Shanty Town)" (featured prominently on the soundtrack of the film The Harder They Come), "Rude Boy Train," "It Gotta Be So," and "The Song We Used to Sing (Where Did It Go)." 007: The Best of Desmond Dekker is a two-disc collection that features 25 classic hits from Dekker's catalog, as well as another 25 rare and unreleased sides including alternate takes of some of the artist's fan favorites of the '60s and '70s. ~ Mark Deming
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Reggae - Released February 11, 2008 | Trojan Records

Desmond Dekker has been well served by the reissue labels, with the shelves buckling under all the compilations dedicated to his music. The bulk, however, invariably draw from the same limited pool of songs, with most ignoring the singer's early years entirely. The two-CD You Can Get It If You Really Want: The Definitive Collection is pretty much the only compilation that provides a proper career retrospective, with the rest drawing exclusively from his 1967-1971 recordings. Israelites: The Best of Desmond Dekker, while no substitute for You Can Get It If You Really Want, at least dips back into Dekker's early years. One of the best one-disc roundups around, the compilation top-loads the set with Dekker's international hits (the only one missing is 1975's "Sing a Little Song"), with the other 20 tracks drawn willy-nilly from the Kong years (1963-1971). There's no attempt at chronology -- and ska numbers rub shoulders with reggae tracks -- nor any sense of sequencing, so the tempos and moods shift dramatically at times. By and large, though, the set will sate most casual Dekker collectors, with the selector having worked hard to include most modern-day fans' favorite numbers. Those looking for more should purchase You Can Get It If You Really Want, but for those seeking just the hits and a decent overview, this set is the perfect solution. ~ Jo-Ann Greene
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Reggae - Released September 29, 2014 | Sanctuary Records

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Reggae - Released March 1, 2017 | Trojan Records

Most Americans over the age of 45 remember "Israelites," the international hit single that made Desmond Dekker a household name in the 1960s and gave the U.S. its first taste of Jamaican ska. Your average old school ska fan has worn out more than one copy of "Honour Your Mother and Your Father," "007 (Shanty Town)," and "Pickney Gal." But beyond those familiar tunes, most of Dekker's catalog is pretty obscure. This generous mid-priced two-fer won't satisfy completists (inexplicably, such gems as "Keep a Cool Head" and "Rude Boy Train" are missing), but its 50 tracks will probably be enough for most ska lovers. It includes obvious faves like "Israelites" and "007 (Shanty Town)," two versions of the chart-topping "It Mek," and, toward the end, a charming set of 1990s remakes that finds Dekker still in excellent voice -- his new renditions of "King of Ska," "This Woman," and "Young Generation" stand up remarkably well to the original versions, and there is also a very fun ska arrangement of the calypso chestnut "Jamaica Farewell." The occasional clunker notwithstanding, this set can be considered essential. ~ Rick Anderson
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Reggae - Released March 1, 2017 | Trojan Records

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Ska & Rocksteady - Released October 6, 2018 | Trojan

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Reggae - Released September 1, 2016 | Trojan Records

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Reggae - Released September 1, 2016 | Trojan Records

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Reggae - Released September 28, 2018 | Sanctuary Records

It took two years for Desmond Dekker & the Aces to follow up their first British hit, 1967's "007 (Shanty Town)," but once they did, there was no holding them back. The chart-topping "Israelites" was first off the mark, charting in March 1969, followed by "It Mek" in June. "Pickney Gal" opened the quintet's account in the new year, with their cover of Jimmy Cliff's "You Can Get It If You Really Want" completing their run of masterpieces. Released in 1969, This Is Desmond Dekker was obviously compiled before "Israelites" broke big, which explains its omission from a set that bundled together the group's earlier Jamaican hits. And oddly, producer Leslie Kong didn't include the number one smash on this set, either. Instead, You Can Get It If You Really Want, titled after the band's latest single, rounded up another slew of the group's recent Jamaican singles, including two other British hits. The infectious, bouncy "Perseverance," the rousing "Coomyah," the romantic "You Got Soul," the highly syncopated yet delicate "Polka Dot," and the Latin-flavored "Get Up Little Suzie" had all spun successfully on 45 back home in Jamaica. Fashions would shift dramatically in later years, with the lush orchestral string-laced arrangements of this era no longer finding favor with reggae fans, who grew to prefer the more "authentic" sounds of Jamaican music. Thus, beyond the U.K. hits, the rest of this set has been virtually ignored by the reissue labels. But back in the day, this album was adored by myriad reggae fans who appreciated Dekker's phenomenal songwriting, the numbers' lavish arrangements, the phenomenal backings, and the group's gorgeous harmonies. This was the set the cemented Dekker & the Aces' international reputation, with a brilliant mix of upbeat themes and luxurious sound. ~ Jo-Ann Greene
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Reggae - Released September 28, 2018 | Trojan Records

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Reggae - Released March 15, 2010 | Trojan Records

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Reggae - Released June 29, 2015 | Trojan Records

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Reggae - Released September 1, 2016 | Trojan Records

What Desmond Dekker fans really want is a comprehensive compilation of the legend's back catalog, but they've been disappointed time and time again. However, You Can Get It If You Really Want: The Definitive Collection finally delivers the goods with a two-CD, career-spanning overview. The set begins at the beginning, with Dekker's 1963 debut single, "Honour Your Mother and Father," then charts his progress across the ska years and into rocksteady. As usual, there's a bit of scrimping on the former era to make room for the rude boy icon who emerged in the latter. Reggae's arrival created a rough break with the past for many producers, but not Dekker's mentor, Leslie Kong, and the set flows seamlessly from rocksteady into reggae. By now Dekker had begun his climb to international stardom, with disc two opening with his 1970 hit "Pickney Gal." The singles just kept coming, with the title track another international smash. In 1971, Kong died of a heart attack; the second half of disc two is given over to the aftermath, as Dekker tried to regain his footing and his international standing. He never really did, but never faded away entirely either, with occasional new albums, a stream of compilations, and exultant live performances helping to maintain his reputation. While this is a definitive overview, it's not a complete collection of Dekker's work, not even of the Kong years. The omission of "Bongo Gal" is surprising, the lack of "Writing on the Wall" perhaps a matter of taste, but inevitably a few of your faves will be missing as well. So, not the perfect collection, but pretty close. ~ Jo-Ann Greene
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Alternative & Indie - Released June 26, 2018 | copper1000records

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Reggae - Released July 29, 2014 | Trojan Records