Various Artists Tighten Up Volume 2 Review

Compilation. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

A good entry-point for people who like the sound of reggae

Angus Taylor 2009

To celebrate its 40th anniversary Trojan have given their most renowned collection a deluxe makeover. Furnished with an extra disc of material, Tighten Up Volume 2 remains a good entry-point for people who like the sound of reggae and love to dance – just as it was four decades ago.

The UK was then the second biggest market for reggae (unlike today where it lags behind continental Europe). The most zealous converts were the early skinheads, before their ideology took a turn for the worse.

This reggae was not meditative, abstract or garrulous (like the roots, dub and dancehall that would follow). It was danceable and exuberant, an egalitarian tessellation of grimy organs, crunchy percussive guitars and sweet harmonies that slid in and out of earshot as the drum and bass rhythm decreed.

The selection on disc one (the original issue track list plus B sides) won't impress the collector or aficionado. But each tune has been chosen well enough to keep the momentum going and stand the test of time.

We hear skinhead era classics like horsey eulogy Longshot Kick De Bucket by the golden voiced Pioneers; the disfigured deejay King Stitt's famous intro to the frenetic Fire Corner; and three instrumentals from Lee Perry's Upsetters, a group who raised the flipside workout to a fine art.

With the weight of nostalgia to compete with, disc two leaves nothing to chance. There are a few graver moments (like Lloyd Robinson's haunting Cuss Cuss) but the mood stays joyous thanks to the likes of John Holt's psychedelic Ali Baba and the Gaylettes speedy Son Of A Preacher Man.

The sleeve notes are very critical of Trojan as a company, although it should be noted that the brand name has changed ownership many times over the years. The current incarnation is owned by Sanctuary, who consequently have no affiliation to the Trojan of the past.

In 1969, Trojan's Tighten Up series turned a generation of UK listeners onto the songs of Jamaica. Now both newcomers and those with fond memories of this upbeat and innocent sounding music can discover it again.

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