In 1987, the Heartbeat label delighted reggae fans with three collections of classics from Clement “Coxsone” Dodd’s Studio One, the place where legends like Bob Marley and Burning Spear started out, as well as the source of many of reggae’s most enduring rhythms (for instance, Morgan Heritage used the Cables’ “What Kind Of World” for “Down By The River,” Musical Youth used Sound Dimension’s “Full Up” for “Pass The Dutchie,” and Sound Dimension’s “Real Rock” buoyed a remix of Alicia Keys’ “U Don’t Know My Name”).
Now these sets have been reissued with rare bonus tracks. One of those extras is John Holt’s sublime “A Love I Can Feel,” one of the most beloved reggae songs of all time (Tony Rebel used the rhythm for “Fresh Vegetable”). The Best Of also features the Heptones’ catchy smash “Party Time,” the Abyssinians’ powerful “Declaration Of Rights” and an extended version of the Wailing Souls’ “Row Fisherman Row.” Full Up, named after the Sound Dimension instrumental, has a sparser selection of essentials, but highlights include Carlton and the Shoes’ rock-steady hit “Love Me Forever,” the Royals’ doo-woppish “Pick Up The Pieces” and Culture’s rootsy “Behold The Land,” recorded five years before the two sevens clashed.
Those CDs contain everything from the ’87 releases, but on Downbeat The Ruler, Heartbeat removed the remix of the Brentford All Stars’ “Throw Me Corn” as well as Don Drummond’s distorted “Man In The Street” and replaced them with eight tracks, almost all of which are on CD for the first time. With the Soul Vendors’ haunting “Swing Easy,” plus a 10-minute dub of their jaunty “Death In The Arena,” it was a wise decision. Put it this way: Having a reggae collection without any Studio One would be like having an R&B collection without any Motown.