Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Tougher Than Tough: The Story of Jamaican Music [Mango, 1993]
Only residents and aficionados have heard half the 95 songs on this four-CD set, and I'm not going to tell you every one is an instant masterpiece. But I will tell you it doesn't much matter, because what's captured besides epiphanies, which are plentiful, are the homespun texture and limitless spirit of a musical culture that now stretches back 35 years. Lovingly or generously or just hegemonically, Island resists the temptation to overplay its own catalogue. Artists who were names on a page are brought to life by their moments in the sun, their place in the world of "Guns of Navarone" and "The Harder They Come" and "Police and Thieves" natural and secure, which in the end lends the classics a historical grandeur the label's earlier compilations don't suggest. What a miracle that one fucked-over little island should prove such a treasure house. And what a lesson. A