Toots and Maytals Live and Unplugged at Strawberry Fields

July 5, 2012

Recorded in the idyllic surroundings of Island Records boss Chris Blackwell’s Jamaican mansion, Live and Unplugged finds reggae veteran Toots Hibbert in smooth vocal form. On the first acoustic album of the Maytals 40 plus year career he revisits tracks from their existensive back catalogue, and only the belligerent and the stone deaf could deny the power of the source material- Pressure Drop, Bam Bam, Monkey Man, 54-46 Was My Number- the amount of exuberant, beautiful hits the Maytals knocked off at whim in their 60s heyday would shame all but the most prolific of songwriters. Whether these classics need revisiting is another matter. This is a pleasant enough compilation, the material is tackled with love and skill, and as a laid back companion to the originals will surely appeal to the older end of Toots’ enormous fanbase—but really, outside of a tearing version of Funky Kingston, there’s little here that challenges the vitality and joy of the originals- how could there be? For fans, worth checking out, for new listeners, go straight to the source and treat yourself.

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