In 2001, Virgin released the immensely satisfying four-cd boxset, simply called The Front Line with a fantastic attached booklet with features on all the acts. I guess Virgin have picked that most people won't have that, and they are probably right. But it is still a little disappointing that 20 of those tracks are replicated here on this otherwise outstanding compilation (I have included the 12" versions which tend to offer little extra, but not the dub versions which are often regarded as separate tracks). That's a little surprising as acts such as The Mighty Diamonds, Tapper Zukie and Gregory Isaacs have an extensive back catalogue, from their Front Line days alone.
Nevertheless, this is an excellent collection that will introduce many people to the likes of U Brown, Ranking Trevor, The Twinkle Brothers (not as twinkle toes as you might expect), Vivian Weathers, Delroy Washington and Jah Lloyd. It will also reveal that Althea and Donna recorded more great records beyond Uptown Top Ranking, and allows Sly Dunbar to play around on his own.
But ultimately it is the stars who make this effort more than worthwhile: Gregory Isaacs is untouchable, Culture are outstanding, Big Youth revolutionary and Tapper Zukie a demented rock.
it could have done with more Johnny Clarke and less Keith Hudson, and listening would have been more cohesive if the act's contributions were collated three at a time, as they were on The Front Line set, but with a big booklet including a preface by John Lydon, this is a magnificent addition to anyone just finding out what reggae has to offer or those with sizeable collections.