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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rasta Fiesta, 13 Aug 2014
This review is from: Virgin Front Line: Sounds Of Reality (Audio CD)
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.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 5CD summary of '76-'79 era (mostly) roots reggae, the majority of which was released by the Front Line Label...., 12 Aug 2014
By 
TCH (Cambs, UK.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Virgin Front Line: Sounds Of Reality (Audio CD)
It is rather wonderful that Universal/Virgin Records should produce a lovingly packaged 5-CD box-set with a hefty booklet with evocative pictures and label scans (and an introduction by John Lydon himself!) dedicated to a minority musical form [reggae] in an age of fast declining record sales. The tagline for this set is that it summarises the short-lived Front Line label started by Richard Branson's Virgin Records in 1978 and closed down two years later in 1980 (effectively bringing to a close the roots era of reggae). In fact the first music on this set comes from 1976 and includes tracks from The Mighty Diamonds seminal "Right Time" LP (produced by Joseph Hoo Kim at Channel One) and Johnny Clarke's similarly brilliant "Rockers Time Now" LP (produced by Bunny 'Striker' Lee). The 1st CD therefore chronologically covers 1976 and 1977, before the Front Line Label actually existed! No matter since it contains some brilliant music from the high summer of the roots era of reggae with an emphasis on vocalists and vocal groups rather than DJs. The only two duds on this CD emanate from the usually reliable Keith Hudson; from his legendarily awful "Too Expensive" LP (it really was!) and these two tracks should have been replaced with something else (more Johnny Clarke perhaps?).

CD2 is where Front Line proper starts largely covering 1978 and is reasonably strong but for the presence of [way] too many DJ tracks (how they thought this was a commercial proposition in the international market even in the late 70's I don't know and I'm speaking as someone who largely likes DJ stuff but this music isn't from the top drawer of roots based toasting and at an hour plus it really is too much with not enough vocal tracks to break things up).

CD3 which spans 1979 prior to the shut down of Front Line in 1980, and covers the autumn of the roots era, is much stronger than CD2 since Gregory Isaacs makes a welcome appearance with the excellent "Lonely Girl" as does Culture and remarkably The Abyssinians (though their tracks aren't so great), all this in addition to the hardy perennials throughout these CDs; The Gladiators and the underrated Twinkle Brothers. There are still a few toasting numbers but obviously the 1st wave of DJ music from 1978 (detailed on CD2) hadn't sold and so a lot of these artists had been dropped (to no avail since the label was closed entirely early the following year).

CD4 covers a bunch of rare 12" discomixes (typically a song immediately followed by its dub) and these tracks are largely excellent in a solid roots vein containing a third to two-thirds split of DJs to vocalists and only one real dud, the closing live version of "Chalice In The Palace/Wear Yu To The Ball" by the foundation DJ U-Roy. The standouts here are "Soon Forward" by the ever dependable Gregory Isaacs and the tough roots steppers of "Africa" & Jah Kingdom Come" by The Twinkle Brothers (unfortunately spelt 'Winkle Brothers' on the tracklisting of the latter track).

CD5 is titled 'From The Vaults' and contains a mix of rare 12" discomixes (mostly very strong with entries from Gregory Isaacs, the brilliant "Mr. Brown" & "Tune In", The Twinkle Brothers "I Don't Want To Be Lonely....", and even Linton Kwesi Johnson AKA Poet & The Roots; the powerful "All Wi Dooin' Is Defendin'"). Also Keith Hudson somewhat redeems himself with a solid flute driven unreleased instrumental, "Virgin Rock".

Overall there about 5-7 real duds in the set which out of 92 tracks ain't half bad. In addition a couple of tracks overlap with the recently released Front Line Roots & Dub 2CD sets (eg. Prince Far I's "Borno Dub"), a bit of an oversight but in no way a deal breaker. The set itself is contained within a sturdy cardboard box (sadly with some typos on the tracklisting) and inside is a car sticker (?), some large post-cards comprising contemporaneous label advertising (evocative) and best of all a thick booklet with a solid set of liner notes [inc. artist by artist descriptions], plenty of photos/label scans and full track details. The 5xCDs are contained within thin cardboard sleeves with original LP label art to differentiate them [a nice touch]. The packaging is a real boon and really contributes to the value of the set despite the occasionally 'up and down' nature of the music itself.

In conclusion an excellent set with some strong music from the peak to the end of the roots era ['76 - late '79] and only a few underpar tracks and excellent packaging ----- if you are a reggae fan, especially one of the roots era, this is definitely worth picking up.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly wonderful musical experience, 13 Aug 2014
By 
laughingdog "laughingdog" (Doha Qatar) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Virgin Front Line: Sounds Of Reality (Audio CD)
A truly wonderful musical experience - am so glad that I bought. Have never really listened to this type of music before apart from Bob Marley of course but was swayed by a couple of reviews in the Sunday papers and took a chance.

So glad I did and recommend to all to buy - it's just an amazing musical journey.

The box set is of the highest quality with an excellent book, 5 cd's and other items - can't stop playing it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Awesome stuff nevertheless, 19 Sep 2014
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This review is from: Virgin Front Line: Sounds Of Reality (Audio CD)
Shame most of it has surfaced in the Front Line box set from about 10 years ago,a fact I did not realise until I'd bought it.Awesome stuff nevertheless.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the music is great. I have yet to listen to it all, 13 Aug 2014
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I downloaded the Mp3 version , 92 songs a third of the price of the CD box set , I had read a review about this set in one of the review sections of a national newspaper and as I have the original vinyl front line album I thought I would give this a go.
the music is great . I have yet to listen to it all , but I have really enjoyed the tracks I have listened to so far.
Great value.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good selection of Reggae., 7 Sep 2014
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This review is from: Virgin Front Line: Sounds Of Reality (Audio CD)
Great sound.
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Virgin Front Line: Sounds Of Reality by Various Artists (Audio CD - 2014)
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