The Bronx-based Wackies imprint allows us to take some American pride in this archive-plundering bonanza, although it took the cooperation of Germany's Basic Channel and Rhythm & Sound companies to coordinate this release. Jamaican-born Lloyd Barnes immigrated to New York in the early '70s (not before working with ska/rocksteady stars Prince Buster and Duke Reid) and launched Wackies House of Music in 1977. This became America's first major reggae studio and label; the artists who sauntered through there include such giants as Horace Andy, Sugar Minott, Jackie Mittoo and Augustus Pablo.
This eighteen-track collection serves as a strong introduction for novices and a money- and time-saver for dread-headed collectors. Although some tracks sink into sugary sentimentality, most of Wackies Sampler Vol. 1 skanks down rougher-hewn paths. Reggae's psychedelic cousin, dub, also surfaces on the disc, adding welcome doses of strangeness to the proceedings. At its best -- Minott's "Wicked Ago Feel It," Andy's "Musical Episode" and Jamaica Super Dub Session's "Dub Stew" -- this CD bridges the gap between reggae's more tuneful side and dub's innovative studio trickery.