April 29, 2004

Test Spin: Toots and the Maytals

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Take one of reggae’s most influential vocalists, and take his greatest hits. Now take rock legends like Eric Clapton and Keith Richards. Add younger rockers like Ryan Adams, No Doubt and Ben Harper. Put all that together. Got it? Now add Shaggy. True, you get a motley mix of artists. What you also get, though, is Toots and the Maytals’s latest stroke of genius, True Love. The new release is a compilation of Toots’s greats: “Monkey Man,” “Bam Bam,” and “54-46 was My Number” among them. These hits, some of which helped define and cultivate the genre, are entirely revamped, as each has become a super-star duet. Willie Nelson sings with Toots on the album’s opening track, “Still is Still Moving to Me,” and Bonnie Raitt joins him on “True Love is Hard to Find.” On “Funky Kingston,” Toots is joined by Funkadelic’s Bootsy Collins and the Roots (the song opens with the invocation, “Let me hear you say Toots, Roots, and Boots!”). It should be no surprise that Toots has managed to bring together such an all star cast. Toots Hibbert has been bringing his same throaty, soulful voice and distinct, ground-breaking style to fans for nearly forty years.

Recorded in the Guiness Book of World Records for having coined the word “reggae” with his 1968 hit “Do the Reggay,” Toots and the Maytals are truly entrepreneurs. The new album showcases what the group does best: invent. All of the tracks remake original Toots tunes, revising them fundamentally with the additional voices heard on the album. Regardless of the additions, Toots’s irrefutable talent and soul shines through. His voice is as compelling as ever, and his energy is just as much. True Love reminds us of Toots’s musical talents, his longstanding vision, and his dedication to being an inventor. Perhaps someone else could have put Willie Nelson and Rahzel on the same album. But, from the sound of things, only Toots could make them sound this good.

Archived article by Lynne Feeley
Red Letter Daze Staff Writer