Aswad Showcase

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Those who know Aswad as the slick pop-reggae group responsible for such crossover hits as "Don't Turn Around" and "The Best of My Love" may not recognize them in this collection of early singles, which begins with "Back to Africa" (1976) and ends with "Babylon" (1980), the latter of which was recorded shortly before the band's big major-label break and their slow evolution from hardcore roots-reggae practitioners to pop-dancehall fave raves. Despite the militant lyrics of songs like "Back to Africa" and "Warrior Charge," the music here is very smooth and mellow, perhaps too much so. Brinsley Forde's jazzy vocals are clearly influenced by Steel Pulse frontman David Hinds, and the languid tempos and relatively complex chord progressions sometimes seem at odds with the songs' confrontational messages. An exception to that tendency is the bracing "Rainbow Culture," which proceeds at a brisk tempo and features an eerie background vocal chant. As the album title indicates, the songs are presented in "showcase" style, with a dub version following each vocal version without pause.

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