Dr. Israel

Inna City Pressure

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In a rational world, this irresistible fusion of reggae, dub, hip-hop, and jungle would be on every radio station's playlist and booming out of every car stereo. Dr. Israel has one of the best voices around, a rich, warm baritone that can chant and declaim with religious fervor ("Inna City") or ring out tunefully with anthemic vigor ("The Doctor vs. the Wizard"). On top of that, he's a fine songwriter, one capable of taking tired subject matter (the dangers of ghetto life, the blandishments of Babylon, racial unity) and investing them with fresh life and energy. He spends much of his time here in jungle territory, riding hyperkinetic rhythms and bottomless basslines with the gentle assurance of the best reggae singers, but there are wonderful stylistic digressions, including a Black Sabbath cover and a collaboration with ska/punk superstars Rancid. The Willie Williams classic "Armagideon Time" gets a long-overdue drum'n'bass treatment, and there are several fine dub versions. "Life in the Ghetto" is lyrically obvious and musically tedious, but it's the only misstep on this remarkable album. This is one of the best CDs of 1998.

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