The all-star guests on True love
range from legends such as Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, and Bonnie Raitt to younger stars including No Doubt, the Roots, and Trey Anastasio. The calibre of these collaborators reveals the impact that Toots has had on several generations of rockers and rappers, while appearances from reggae icons Bunny Wailer and Marcia Griffiths show the respect granted to the man who might be the music's greatest living vocalist. At the heart of it all is that voice--drenched in soul, rooted in gospel, and still breathtakingly powerful after almost four decades in the spotlight.
Some regard Toots and the Maytal's 1968 single "Do The Reggay" as Reggae's year zero, a track which coined the phrase that went on to define a whole new genre. Rumour has it that Chris Blackwell only signed The Wailers because he couldn't get The Maytals. Whatever, the band are reggae royalty and are justifiably celebrated on this new 'Best Of' compilation. But it's a compilation with a twist, Toots Hibbert and the boys are joined by a diverse host of talent intent on celebrating the band's rich musicalheritage.
The album gets off to an appalling start with Willie Nelson murdering "Still Is Still Moving To Me". Over ambitious or plain inept, it's a track that should have been buried. Bonnie Raitt is at least competent on the subsequent version of "True Love Is Hard To Find", but her duet with Toots still sounds irrelevant when compared to the original.
"Pressure Drop",the Maytal's contribution to the definitive reggae movie "The Harder They Come", is the first real thing of interest - featuring an energetic performance by Eric Clapton. Better still, Shaggy and Rahzel bring toasting and human beatbox to "Bam Bam". Their enthusiasm obviously inspiring Toots who, although approaching sixty, still trumps the upstarts with his vitality.
Guitarist Jeff Beck makes an enjoyable appearance on "54-46 That's My Number",the title refers to Toots'prison ID during a two year term for possession of marijuana. Bootsy Collins and the Roots have considerable fun with "Funky Kingston". But the biggest surprise is the final track "Blame On Me", in which up-and-coming songstress Rachael Yamagata conjures genuine passion and intensity. On this performance her forthcoming debut album could well be worth a listen.
Like many similar retrospectives, True Love is most likely to remind you just how brilliant the tracks were first time around; but that, in itself, is surely not a bad thing. --Jack Smith
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