Virgin - 2002 - 73 minutes

The original Front Line compilation is regarded as one of the seminal 1970s reggae albums. All spiffy from a brand new re-mastering comes the sequel – 'This Is… The Front Line', which sees Virgin finally climbing onboard that lucrative reggae re-issue bandwagon as pioneered by Soul Jazz.

The explosion of releases from Jamaica, which began in the 1960s, gave us some of the most treasurable moments in music, and at least one superstar, in the form of Bob Marley. 'This Is… The Front Line' is an exquisite collection of songs from some of the prime movers of reggae music.

Reggae was never a strictly pure expression of indigenous culture. Instead, the producers and toasters absorb foreign influences into the blend, notably here on Keith Hudson's funk-tinged 'Civilisation', or Latin vibes on Sly Dunbar's 'Latin Fiesta'. Reggae returned the favour to the global music scene. Sly Dunbar's partnership with Robbie Shakespeare became one of the world's most coveted and versatile rhythm sections, working with Dylan, the Stones, Herbie Hancock and Serge Gainsbourg in the process.

'This Is... The Front Line' is a window into Virgin's vast back catalogue of reggae gems, and given the quality of the tracks, Volume Two looks increasingly likely. Seventy-two minutes of sun-drenched pleasure. Essential.

Luke McManus

Tracklisting: Know Yourself Mankind, The Gladiators - Prophesy A Fulfilled, Johnny Clarke - Natty Never Get Weary, Culture - Right Time, Mighty Diamonds – Zion, Delroy Washington - Uptown Top Ranking, Althea And Donna - Native Woman, Gregory Isaacs - This Land Is For Everyone, Abyssinians – Civilization, Keith Hudson - Jordan River, I Roy - Commandment Of Drugs, Prince Far I - Five Nights Of Bleeding, Poet And The Roots (LKJ) - Natty Rebel, U Roy - Oh Lord, Tapper Zukie - Isaiah First Prophet Of Old, Big Youth - Rub A Dub Style, Ranking Trevor - Rasta Fiesta, Sly Dunbar - Distant Drum Dub, Twinkie Brothers - Roof Top Dub, Well Charged