Wednesday, January 11, 2023

VA - Front Line, Sounds of Reality [2014] (5 x CDs)


VA - Front Line, Sounds of Reality [2014] (5 x CDs)

Between 1978 and 1979, this reggae-focused offshoot of Virgin Records released a dizzying 46 albums, as well as 26 singles, from many of the greatest Jamaican artists ever, then unceremoniously closed its doors. However, the Front Line story really began in 1976, two years before the inauguration of the label, with a budget compilation from Virgin called The Front Line (named after the local slang for Railton Road, Brixton) released as a promotional tool for the burgeoning number of reggae artists signed to Branson's imprint. The track list of Sounds of Reality reflects this, um, reality with a hefty proportion of the selection coming from Virgin rather than actual Front Line releases.

The Front Line was a roaring success, becoming the biggest selling reggae album of the year in the UK, probably due in no small part to the 69p price tag. Presented on disc one of this set, it's easy to see why the release caught the imagination of a public only recently turned on to Jamaican music, mainly through Bob Marley and the Wailers. Indeed, one of the standouts is U-Roy's “Natty Rebel”, where the pioneering deejay toasts over The Gladiators’ version of “Soul Rebel”.

Front Line’s marketing approach tended to focus on the righteous, militant side of reggae, as indicated by the iconic logo (originally from the sleeve of The Front Line) of a black fist gripping barbed wire while blood trickles down the wrist. Musically too, alongside the roots-centric lyrical content, politics often rears his head, from Tapper Zukie’s rhythmically upbeat “Tribute to Steve Biko”, for the anti-apartheid activist to Poet & The Roots’ “It Dread Inna England (for George Lindo)”, where Linton Kwesi Johnson champions the less well-known case of a black man wrongly imprisoned for robbery of a Bradford betting shop. Both these songs emphasise the increasing cross-cultural push for equal rights that reggae at the time captured so well.

A reproduced vintage Front Line advert points out that ‘seven Bob Marley albums don’t make a reggae collection’ and Sounds of Reality is a great introduction to the breadth of music that made up the late 70s roots reggae scene. Learned heads may take issue with the hit-and-miss nature of some of the choices on this compilation, but nevertheless it’s packed full of evidence of both the excellent and the interesting sides of the Front Line era. Put all that music together with a nice little book telling the label’s back story in detail, with a foreword from John Lydon (who was heavily involved with signing a number of Front Line artists), and you’ve got a strong contender for best box set of 2014. (


Pt.1      Pt.2      Pt.3 


Track list


01 Mighty Diamonds Right Time 3:18

02 U Roy Natty Rebel 3:32

03 Johnny Clarke Declaration Of Rights 3:26

04 I Roy Don't Touch I Man Locks 2:30

05 Gladiators Locks Is Deceiving 2:31

06 Delroy Washington Freedom Fighthers 3:43

07 U Roy The Great Psalms 2:49

08 Keith Hudson Civilisation 5:11

09 Gladiators Know Yourself Mankind 2:51

10 Mighty Diamonds Africa 3:11

11 U Roy Runaway Girl 3:46

12 Revolutionaries Killer Dub 3:13

13 Mighty Diamonds Have Mercy 3:18

14 I Roy Musical Shark Attack 3:12

15 Keith Hudson Thank You Baby 2:50

16 Johnny Clarke I Wish It Would Go On Forever 3:02

17 Mighty Diamonds Shame And Pride 3:21

18 Gladiators Chatty Chatty Mouth 3:17

19 Johnny Clarke Roots Natty Roots, Natty Congo 3:13

20 Delroy Washington Give All The Praise To Jah 3:26

21 Linton Kwesi Johnson It Dread Inna Inglan' 4:07

22 Mighty Diamonds Planet Called Earth 4:21


01 Gladiators Jah Works 3:30

02 U Brown Natty Dread On Montain Top 4:16

03 Twinkle Brothers I Love You So 3:30

04 Prince Far I Foggy Road 4:11

05 Sly Dunbar Mr. Bassie 3:26

06 Prince Hammer Sister Bella 2:49

07 Althea & Donna Make A Truce 4:00

08 Linton Kwesi Johnson Dread Beat An' Blood 2:59

09 Ranking Trevor Rub A Dub Style 3:22

10 Culture Holy Mount Zion 3:39

11 Tapper Zukie Tribute To Steve Biko 4:21

12 Big Youth Love We A Deal With 4:15

13 I Roy Jordan River 3:53

14 Jah Lloyd The Black Lion Cocaine 2:04

15 Gladiators Dreadlocks The Time Is Now 3:02

16 Twinkle Brothers Free Africa 4:47

17 Prince Far I No More War 4:39

18 Joyella Blade Cairo 3:42

19 Prince Hammer Bible 2:47

20 I Roy Fire Stick 3:06

21 Jah Lloyd The Black Lion Dis Ya Sounds 2:19

22 Tapper Zukie She Wants A Phensic (Dangerous Woman) 4:25


01 Gregory Isaacs Lonely Girl 4:01

02 Sly Dunbar Mr. Music 4:29

03 Mighty Diamonds Four Thousand Years 3:30

04 I Roy Fire In A Wire 3:31

05 Twinkle Brothers Jahoviah 3:58

06 Gladiators Get Ready 3:54

07 U Roy I Got To Tell You Goodbye 4:27

08 Culture I Tried 3:27

09 Prince Far I & The Arabs Borno Dub 3:06

10 Abyssinians South African Enlistment 2:28

11 Tapper Zukie Oh Lord 3:45

12 Sly Dunbar Rasta Fiesta 4:12

13 Twinkle Brothers Distant Drums 3:03

14 U Brown Weather Balloon 3:48

15 Gladiators Holiday Ride 3:04

16 Culture Natty Never Get Weary 3:57

17 Abyssinians Hey You 4:26

18 Gregory Isaacs Let's Dance 2:56

19 Big Youth The Upful One 3:57

20 Twinkle Brothers Keep On Trying 4:18

21 Jah Lloyd The Black Lion Green Bay Incident 3:27


01 U Roy Small Axe 5:25

02 Twinkle Brothers Africa 7:07

03 Doctor Alimantado Slavery Let It Go 7:08

04 Gladiators Pocket Money 7:35

05 U Brown Black Star Liner 5:55

06 Althea & Donna Going To Negril 7:08

07 I Roy Hill And Gully 8:24

08 Mighty Diamond Bodyguard 6:46

09 Gregory Isaacs Soon Forward 6:35

10 Sly Dunbar A Who Say 4:59

11 Twinkle Brothers Jah Kingdom Come 6:27

12 U Roy Chalice In The Palace/Wear You To The Ball (Live) 7:14


01 Mighty Diamonds In This Time 3:34

02 Gregory Isaacs Tune In (12'' Mix) 6:36

03 Culture Can't Study The Rastaman 4:06

04 Prince Far I Throw Away Your Gun (12'' Mix) 8:12

05 Jah Lloyd The Black Lion Bone Dub 3:24

06 Twinkle Brothers I Don't Want To Be Lonely Anymore (12'' Mix) 7:31

07 Abyssinians Jah Loves (Alt. Take) 4:12

08 Delroy Washington Selassie I 3:19

09 Vivian Weathers Hip Hug (12'' Mix) 7:14

10 Althea & Donna It Mek 3:52

11 Poet & The Roots All Wi Doin' Is Defendin' (12'' Mix) 5:34

12 Mighty Diamonds I Need A Roof (12'' Mix) 5:34

13 Gregory Isaacs Mr. Brown (12'' Mix) 5:52

14 Culture Black Rose 3:53

15 Keith Hudson Virgin Rock 3:30




  1. I usually prefer early reggae, but I'll give it a listen. You never know what might happen!

    1. Hi lemonflag,
      I hope you will enjoy it. It's a fine box set.

  2. Thanks Butterboy!!! Seems quite interesting!!!
    Hope you're well. Cheers!

    1. Hi Il Commendatore,
      All well here. Enjoy these. Probably some new sounds to many.