If one is measured by the company one keeps, Toots Hibbert is a great man indeed. Toots & the Maytals latest CD, True Love, is a remarkable assembly of music icons who aptly pay tribute to his music. The eclectic collaboration includes Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson, Bootsy Collins, Trey Anastasio, Bonnie Raitt and No Doubt and many others that certainly do justice to fifteen tracks representing a good portion of Toots' greatest hits.
The common thread throughout these recordings is, of course, Toots' powerful voice which itself is a part of reggae history. Legend is that Toots coined the term "reggae" in his 1968 song, "Do the Reggay" which appears on the Harder They Come film soundtrack. So it's fair to say that he's one of the founding fathers of the Jamaican music revolution that took root in the late sixties. During the span of over thirty years, rock and roll absorbed the reggae sound so heavily that its now quite rare to come across a band that hasn't used reggae to some effect. This CD is a culmination of that embrace.
Most all of these renditions work well. Willie Nelson's duet on "Still Is Still Moving To Me" works even though his voice draws a sharp contrast to Toots, it belies a similar weight of wisdom. The Toots, Roots and Boots(y Collins) take on "Funky Kingston" showcases the outrageous Funkadelic bass player's spirit perfectly. Somewhat surprisingly, the No Doubt collaboration on "Monkey Man" ends up sounding the most traditional of the bunch, and its just as catchy as the original. On "Love Gonna Walk Out on Me," Ben Harper's slightly tortured lament in an acoustic duet affirms the emotional power that reggae can deliver. One might be slightly disappointed that Trey Anastasio's guitar is somewhat muted on his tracks but so is Clapton's. Vocals take center stage over instrumentation in this release and they deliver.
True Love is a rare breed of collaboration album that succeeds because of the collective integrity and talents of its players. Toots can be proud that his voice and sound has touched so many of his peers and new generations who now celebrate his role in history.
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