I have a friend who once moved into an apartment and found a big stack of records abandoned by the previous tenant. Mostly they were the standard stuff, y'know, a couple of Zeppelin albums, the Woodstock Movie soundtrack, a bunch of those lame Doors compilations, a ton of 80's metal along the lines of ZZTop and Def Leopard, and, of course, Peter Frampton Comes Alive! But in there amongst the general trash was this little Gem: From The Roots by The Maytals. When my friend threw a party at his new place we dug through his newfound batch of records and gently poked fun at the previous tenant's poor musical taste (very gently though because we both have a bunch of those records in our collections too). When I picked up From The Roots and made a snide comment about the first song, "Pee Pee Cluck Cluck", my friend stopped me. "Hold on, that record's awesome. That one's the best in the stack and that's probably the best song on the album," he said. "What?! You gotta be kidding me? Pee Pee Cluck Cluck? C'mon," I snorted. He put up his hand and said, "I laughed until I listened to it too, Dude."
Until that moment my experience with reggae was limited pretty much to Bob Marley whom I associated, with a certain degree of hatred, with the hackey-sack-playing dope-smokin'-morons at the end of the hall in my college dorm. As far as The Maytals go I was familliar with The Harder They Come Soundtrack but that was the only record I had that could remotely be considered reggae. From The Roots opened my eyes and "Pee Pee Cluck Cluck" launched the entire party right into space. I Immediately taped it from my friend's scratchy copy, put it in my car stereo and NEVER took it out. In fact that car went to the scrap yard with that tape still stuck in the broken deck. By that time, of course, I'd found my own vinyl copy and to this day it just doesn't feel right to sit on the porch in the sun without that record playing.
I spent a couple of years searching used bins and flea markets for that LP though. At the time Trojan Records was reissuing pretty much their whole catalogue except, for some reason, this album. Now, lucky for you, it's available on Amazon with, basically, another entire albums worth of bonus tracks tacked on the end.
I can't speak to the bonus tracks but the original album contains not one bummer. Not a single one! (Although sometimes I have been known to skip "Give Peace A Chance".) If ever there was a reggae (Not Dub, folks, not Dub) dance record this is it. In fact, if you can keep your feet from moving and a smile from your face during any of these tracks, especially "Revival Reggae", then I surmise that you're at the low end of your manic depressive cycle. Take your meds.
If you're new to the genre or you're just bored of your Bob Marley records then this is the place to start. There are several "Best Of' compilations out there and they're good starts too but for whatever reason there are virtually no songs from this record on any of them. This record was released when they were still calling themselves simply "The Maytals" before they became "Toots &..." Maybe that's why the very few versions of songs from this record that do appear on the Best-Ofs are different versions and all inferior. Who knows.
This record does lean a little to the religious end of the reggae spectrum but the infectious beats (oh God, I can't believe I just said "infectious beats") still make songs like "Thy Kingdom Come" absolutely unskippable. That said though if you're looking for reggae like "No Woman, No Cry" then this ain't it. Some would call The Maytals ska but I disagree on a technicality. Reggae sounded more like ska before there was ska but then reggae slowed down and got more stoned and stole the reggae label, so then, what was originally reggae became ska. Undesrtand? (This is why I hate labels; it's all rock-n-roll to me.) In fact, just to demonstrate the broad appeal here, the Specials [ska] covered Monkey Man on their 1980 LP and The Clash [rock] covered "Pressure Drop" on their classic London Calling in '79. Neither of those songs are on the LP I'm currently talking about but... You get point.
Anyway, to simplify things it's more ska-ish than reggae if you're used to that Bob Marley sort of thing. But you should be bored with that stuff by now. Broaden your horizons and pick up this record. You'll be happier for it.