Includes liner notes by Mark Humphrey.
The patois was incomprehensible, the rhythm irresistible. Desmond Dekker scored big with "Israelites" back in 1969; for many it was their first exposure to Jamaican reggae and the start of a simmering love affair with an extraordinary genre. SHANTY TOWN ORIGINAL, a chirpy overview of all the hits necessary for a basic knowledge of this engaging artist's most successful period, also includes a few slightly more obscure gems such as "Problems," the original B-side of "Ah It Mek."
Predating Bob Marley in international stardom by nearly a decade, Dekker presented a pure, raffish falsetto, usually set against a rootsy, compelling rhythm, to triumphant effect. Any suspicion that he may have been concerned with imparting a social message with "Israelites" was swept away by the follow-up, "Ah It Mek," which made an earthy, visceral impression especially when played at proper spine-realigning volume. In the '70s, Dekker's Rude Boy persona couldn't make the leap to hard-core Bob Marley-style Rastafarianism, and more sophisticated warblers like Jimmy Cliff undercut him on the pop front; but for a blissful few moments in the late '60s he could rightly claim to be the best-known reggae singer in the world.