The story of the legendary Trojan Records has its ups and downs. In the 60’s Trojan was the label for reggae music. As the Specials’ Lynval Golding has stated – “If you saw a Trojan 45 you knew you could buy it without hearing it first.”
But in the early 70’s reggae music changed. Roots reggae was suddenly the new black and Trojan didn’t manage to follow the trend.
Labels like Island and Virgin signed a whole bunch of dread and eerie artists and dropped a number of records that took the public by storm.
Then came dancehall and another label popped up – Greensleeves. Trojan didn’t manage to follow that trend either.
Instead of signing new artists Trojan has for a long, long time focused on its back catalogue and has flooded the market with reissues of varied quality.
The latest reissue is the generic titled The Story of Trojan Records that holds five CD’s with a total of 123 tracks. Included are also a sticker, four post cards, a 50 page booklet written by Trojan long-timer Laurence Cane-Honeysett and if you decide to register your box over at Trojan Appreciation Society website you can download an exclusive 12 track bonus digital album.
There hasn’t been a release like this on Trojan before, even though two compilations come close, at least with regards to the title. The double LP The Trojan Story put out in 1974 and The Trojan Story vol. 1&2 released in the late 80’s.
This latest is indeed special and highly recommended. It covers the hits, artists, producers and labels as well as unreleased rarities, alternate takes and the occasional live version.
The first disc covers the big UK hits and is a good start for non-seasoned collectors. You’ll find sublime music that has been played over and over again – The Maytals’ Monkey Man, Wonderful World Beautiful People from Jimmy Cliff and Symarip’s classic Skinhead Moonstomp.
Disc two, three and four cover Reggae Greats, The Big Shots – The Producers and A to Z of Trojan – The Labels. Included is veritable who’s who in early reggae and roots reggae. The discs also feature a number of styles, instrumentals and dubs.
Most of the tracks were recorded between 1968 and 1975. There is however some tough early dancehall represented – The Viceroys’ Come Closer My Love recorded in 1981, produced by Linval Thompson and issued on the We Must Unite album.
The fifth disc is the most interesting piece in this box set since it includes gems, rarities and oddities. And there are no less than nine previously unreleased tracks included here. Several of them actually very worthwhile which make me wonder why they have been left laying around unloved, unissued and forgotten until now.
For example, The Dynamites’ funky version of Jr. Walker and The All Stars’ chart-topper What Does it Take to Win Your Love, Nora Dean’s take on Harry J’s immortal Liquidator riddim and Bob Andy’s pop-flavored I Can Win. Dave Barker also does a nice version of The Gaylads’ Can’t Hide the Feeling.
This box set represents a time of innocence. Before slack lyrics – not really, but almost anyway – and before singjays, hip-hop beats and auto-tune. It’s about being festive, joyous and happy.
Since Trojan was acquired by Universal a few years ago things has really started to happen and it seems that the management has great hope in the reissue business.
Let’s hope this is the beginning of a new great era for Trojan Records and that the story doesn’t end here.