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Toots And The Maytals - True Love Print E-mail
Monday, 12 April 2004

Toots And The Maytals

True Love
format: 16-bit Stereo CD
label: V2
release year: 2004
performance: 9
sound 9
reviewed by: Dan MacIntosh

Image In a perfect world, it wouldn’t take an all-star lineup -- such as the one found on this album -- to introduce any respected musical artist to the masses. Instead, the art should speak for itself. Reggae fans have long known that Toots Hibbert is one of the most soulful voices in all of music – let alone reggae – yet here he is singing some of his most popular songs with a large cast of musical heavyweights. This may not be a perfect world, but “True Love” is a nearly perfect album.

Many of the rock artists included here already have established associations with reggae. Eric Clapton, for instance, had a big hit with Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff,” while Keith Richards and the Rolling Stones worked closely with Peter Tosh many, many years ago. Terry Hall was a part of Ska’s second wave (The Specials), so it made sense to have him (along with The Skatalites and U-Roy) join with Toots for “Never Grow Old.” Ben Harper’s voice takes on a distinctly Jamaican patois on “Love Gonna Walk Out on Me.” But then again, he’s recorded a lot of his own original reggae already. Gwen Stefani, whose No Doubt band has dabbled in and out of ska over the years, is also a natural for the duet on “Monkey Man.”

The most aural fun of all comes with some of this project’s unexpected pairings. The best of these is the one with funkster Bootsy Collins and the Roots doing “Funky Kingston.” Just to hear Bootsy chanting “Toots, Roots and Boots” is alone worth the price of admission. “Still Is Still Moving To Me,” which features its writer Willie Nelson, is given a slow reggae treatment for this project. It also sports one of Nelson’s distinctive gut-string acoustic guitar solos. There are also a few other guitar heroes here, however. “54-46 Was My Number” pairs Toots with Jeff Beck. It begins with an oddly heavy metal Beck guitar intro before going into a relatively predictable take on this song. Beck is then heard throughout the track providing guitar fills, and he also takes a relatively laid-back solo later on.

Toots is also joined by a few of his reggae peers on this outing. “Take A Trip,” with Bunny Wailer, is probably the best pure reggae song here: it’s slow, soulful and dread, finding Wailer doing a few spoken word parts in a few places. “Reggae Got Soul” joins Toots with Ken Boothe and Marcia Griffiths on a song that begins with a big bang of a horn intro. “Bam Bam” (With Shaggy and Rahzel) is stripped-down, percussion-driven rap reggae.

Some of these included artists don’t fit into nice neat categories. “True Love Is Hard to Find,” for instance, has Bonnie Raitt providing plenty of slide guitar work and passionate vocals. “Time Tough” has the relatively young Ryan Adams on it and is powered by acoustic guitar and organ. Adams sings with a more authoritative and less desperate-sounding voice than usual here.

You get the feeling that all of these invited guests truly love the music of Toots Hibbert, which makes this CD the perfect complement for his work.

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