Various Artists

Blue Steel

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Frenchie's "Blue Steel Rhythm" is the basis of this album, on which 19 different singers and deejays take turns chatting and singing over the same instrumental backing. These albums live and die on the quality and flexibility of their rhythms and on the ability of the vocalists to bring enough novelty to distract the listener from the sameyness of the music. Unfortunately, Blue Steel's generic soca-reggae fusion groove is too monotonous to support this kind of treatment, and only a handful of the guest vocalists are able to do anything interesting with it. Elephant Man is uncharacteristically off his game on "Whining Machine"; his chat lags behind the rhythm and never builds up any momentum or settles into a decent groove. Bounty Killer is in good form on "Badman Order," and Ce'Cile works up a good, boastful head of steam on "Which Gal a di Hotter." But by the time you get to Junior Kelly's dancehall-Bobo workout, or Angel Doolas' clunky gunman ode, the rhythm will be driving you crazy -- and not in the way it's supposed to.

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