Jamaican roots reggae band Third World dropped their self-titled landmark debut album in 1976. This astonishing set hasn’t been reissued for 23 years, but it’s now readily available again.
But this new version is more than just the original album since it adds another eight tracks, including four unreleased dub versions, two alternate cuts and two vocals, of which one is their debut single Don’t Cry On the Railroad Track, previously only available on the original 7” from 1975.
Third World’s debut fuses roots reggae with funk, soul, gospel and rock. They have often been labelled as sell-outs and too commercial. Sure, they came to be something of a crossover act because of their monster version of the O’Jays’ Now That We’ve Found Love, which had a catchy disco groove.
But their debut is far from polished and slick. Even more so with the gritty and dread bonus cuts. And on this album they successfully cover rootsy staples like The Abyssinians’ beautiful Satta A Masagana and Burning Spear’s dry Slavery Days. Pretty far from disco decadence.
The album is infectious, but it’s not necessarily a crowd-pleaser. Third World is jam-oriented and several songs are five or six minutes long with many solos and long intros. The songs have a nice depth and the arrangements are rich and clever.
The gems on this set – apart from the original cuts – are the uplifting and soulful Rainbow Love, also recorded by BB Seaton in the 70s, and the dub versions, especially the eerie versions of Satta A Masagana, Sun Don’t Shine and Freedom Song. They are absolutely crucial and showcases the ground-shaking bass lines when deconstructing the intriguing rhythms.
After this album Third World went on to become a successful reggae band touring the globe with singer Bunny Rugs, who replaced original vocalist Milton Hamilton. Their two follow-up albums are slightly more commercial, especially Journey to Addis, but also well-worth investigating.