Bob Marley made better albums, Dennis Brown wrote better songs, and Lee Perry was more visionary. But Toots and the Maytals
are reggae's greatest single-makers. For a three-minute discharge of groove, melody and soul, the Maytals' run from 1964 to 1980 (including "54-46 Was My Number," "Pressure Drop," "Monkey Man" and "Do the Reggay," which gave a name to the nascent genre) remains untouchable. The original lineup wove together the voices of Nathaniel McCarthy, Raleigh Gordon and Toots Hibbert; no Jamaican band before or after sang with such physical delight and religious ardor. Hibbert transformed patois into pure soul expression, an inarticulate speech that both signified and transcended the Jamaican street. McCarthy and Gordon may have quit, but Toots skanks on, as crazed and potent as ever.