Island - 2002 - 79 minutes

Some things are very hard to live up to. Having wowed the world with his 1995 debut 'Maxinquaye', many felt that trip-hop trailblazer Tricky had fallen foul of the law of diminishing returns on follow-up albums like 'Pre-Millennium Tension', 'Angels with Dirty Faces' and 'Juxtapose'. But the obituaries proved all too premature when he returned last year with 'Blowback', a defiant record which found Tricky on a new label, with a new focus and some great tunes thrown in.

It's arguable whether we'd be getting a compilation of Tricky's earlier works if 'Blowback' hadn't been so strong, but 'Ruff Guide' is a great starting point for anyone familiar with the man but not the music or those who gave the post 'Maxinquaye' output a wide berth. Capturing Tricky's Island - and often wilderness - years, 'Ruff Guide' is one of the better route maps into his head. Sure, the majority of tracks are taken from 'Maxinquaye', but there are other nuggets from its successors that can make you pull the curtains and sit for hours too.

As befits collaborators as diverse as Alison Goldfrapp, Terry Hall, PJ Harvey and Cypress Hill's DJ Muggs, Tricky moves from style to style, throwing sounds and shapes that make you wish he'd give you a guided tour of his record collection. It's never pacy or upbeat, but there are enough shades of grey here for any mood and on the likes of 'Broken Homes', 'Hell is Around the Corner' and 'Makes Me Wanna Die' he nails atmosphere and attitude with a verve that would leave those who followed him in tears.

And while you can argue that the remixes, single mixes and edits, only prove that this should've been a double CD, it still avoids that dreaded filler feeling which afflicts most compilation albums. Maybe the best way to look at 'Ruff Guide' is through its title, a dog-eared brochure with some great pictures which should prepare for you that arduous journey into those difficult albums that inspired it.

Harry Guerin

Tracklisting:Aftermath (Version One) - Poems (Edit) - For Real - Black Steel (Radio Steel) - Pumpkin (Edit) - Broken Homes - Wash My Soul - I Be The Prophet (with drums) - Makes Me Wanna Die - Tricky Kid - Scrappy Love - Ponderosa (Original 7" mix) - Christiansands - Hell is Around the Corner - Singing the Blues - Bubbles - Overcome - Aftermath (I Could Be Looking For People Remix) - Black Steel (In the Draw Mix)