One of the central figures of the transitional period between ska and rocksteady, Leonard Dillon
is currently recognized as one of early reggae's most important artists. His band, the Ethiopians
, made records that remain essential documents of the period ("Train to Skaville," which is included here, chief among them) and his solo work has been every bit as good. But at the time these songs were recorded, Dillon
and the Ethiopians
were struggling financially and had to keep day jobs in order to make ends meet. That didn't seem to get in the way of either Dillon
's songwriting -- every one of these 25 tracks is an original composition -- or the trio's ability to sing together in close, sweet harmony. This compilation, which includes tracks recorded over a ten-year period between 1966-1976, includes some of the band's most enduring music. Inevitably, it leads with "Train to Skaville," but some of the best songs on the program are less well-known: "Free Man" harks back to the glory days of ska with its chugging, horn-driven beat and simple but irresistible melodic hook; "Selah" is a slower, smokier groove that anticipates the classic roots reggae sound and draws deeply on the nyabinghi vocal style; and "Solid As a Rock" beautifully bemoans the state of the world while inviting all to come unto the Rastafarian faith. There is no shortage of fine Ethiopians
collections on the market, but this one offers a better introduction than most.