Toots & The Maytals – Unplugged on Strawberry Hill
As one of the most influential and renowned reggae outfits of all time, Toots and The Maytals’ work will be familiar to anyone with a passing interest in the genre, and Unplugged on Strawberry Hill – an acoustic greatest hits set, recorded live in Kingston – throws up few surprises. Present and correct here are classics including Funky Kingston, 54-46, Pressure Drop and Monkey Man, all of which are delivered with plenty of vocal gusto from Toots Hibbert.
The acoustic setup emphasizes the rich timbres of Toots’ vocals, which have acquired a deep, bluesy gruffness with age; but over twelve tracks, the uniform, understated instrumentation does get monotonous. These are songs which owe their character as much to the atmosphere of the original recordings as to their compositional strength. Unplugged will undoubtedly please hardcore Maytals fans, but it might have benefited from a bit more variety and imagination in its arrangement. [Sam Wiseman]