In spite of its ugly packaging and shit-eating booklet (Toots Hibbert shaking hands with Linda Ronstadt? It oughta be Joe Strummer and Mick Jones groveling at his feet), this two-disc summary of reggae’s greatest singer and songwriter’s career makes a compelling case for Toots’ stature as one of the two most important figures in reggae history through excellent programming; focusing on Toots’ (and reggae’s) most fertile period, Time Tough is comprehensive, but it’s not exhausting. Compilation producer Jerry Rappaport has dug deep into the Leslie Kong–produced singles Toots made between 1968 and 1971 (two standouts not already familiar from the The Harder They Come soundtrack and 1975’s Funky Kingston LP are the beautiful and weird “Desmond Dekker Came First,” in which Toots gripes about finishing second in a song competition, and the merely beautiful “She’s My Scorcher”); along with the subsequent tracks co-produced by Warrick Lynn with various others (“Time Tough,” “In the Dark,” Toots’ improbably moving cover of “Take Me Home, Country Roads”), these songs helped invent reggae, but they’re too churchy to be inhibited by genre constraints. Self-consciousness came only after reggae went international and Toots inexplicably decided he needed to demonstrate that “Reggae Got Soul.” Disc 2 is a sampling of the stylistic fusions Toots has dabbled in since 1976, and while some of the work is pretty (check out Toots’ eerie Otis Redding imitation on Redding’s “(I’ve Got) Dreams to Remember”), none of it approaches the intensity of the early reggae.—James Lochart

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