Toots and the Maytals
First Appeared at The Music Box, May 2004, Volume 11, #5
Written by John Metzger
Itís likely that True Love will become the biggest selling album of Frederick "Toots" Hibbertís career, yet the music contained therein leaves one feeling somewhat less than satisfied. Formed in the early í60s, Toots and the Maytals helped to make Jamaican music an international phenomenon, but although Hibbert penned the 1968 song Do the Reggay, which gave the movement its name, he forever has been overshadowed by Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, and Peter Tosh. His new outing undoubtedly is meant to correct this lingering injustice, and ó save for a cover of Willie Nelsonís Still Is Still Moving to Me ó all of its fifteen tracks are reinterpretations of songs that stretch across a 40-year span of the Maytalsí glorious career.
Even more intriguing is that throughout True Love, Hibbert is surrounded by a myriad of guest performers, all of whom have been touched by his music; itís an impressive list that includes everyone from Jeff Beck to Shaggy, from Bootsy Collins and The Roots to Rachael Yamagata, and from Bonnie Raitt to Trey Anastasio. Yet, with all this star-power present, the collection takes on the aura of a tribute album ó albeit one which was crafted within the presence of its subject ó rather than a magnificent, new introduction to a legend.
For the record, none of the tracks on True Love are truly calamitous, but then again, none break any new ground either. While the guests emphatically make their presence known, their approach to doing so remains far too reverent, as if they are all content simply to flit about the music with tasteful discretion. Even more troubling is the notion that many of the pairings frequently fail to achieve the type of chemistry necessary to make a series of collaborations such as this succeed. While Eric Clapton adds some wah-wah guitar muscle to Pressure Drop, for example, his contributions sound as if they were recorded separately from the rest of the ensemble. Likewise, on Time Tough, Ryan Adamsí call-and-response mimicry of Hibbertís vocals is inessential and intrusive. Perhaps the biggest deficiency of all, however, is that the new renditions largely fail to match the soulful transcendence of the Maytalsí originals. The end result is that although True Love will expose the groupís music to a much wider audience, itís not the type of compelling collection necessary to convert incontestably a new generation of fans.
47th Annual Grammy Award Winner:
Best Reggae Album
Of Further Interest...
True Love is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2004 The Music Box