Jah Is My Navigator

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Like many successful reggae singers, Luciano has something of an overexposure problem -- hardly a year has gone by since the mid-'90s without at least three Luciano albums (some of them, granted, probably unauthorized). But unlike many overexposed reggae singers, Luciano can actually stand up to that kind of exposure. His voice is so sweet and his songs so generally well written that it's hard to really imagine getting tired of him, and his huge popularity ensures that top-notch producers regularly offer him their finest rhythms. Jah Is My Navigator finds him in top form, singing his usual roots-and-culture songs over a host of old-school rhythms provided by legendary saxophonist and producer Dean Fraser. The first part of this album is the strongest: "For I" evokes the cathartic style of the late Lucky Dube, "I'm the Tuffest" updates the Johnny Clarke classic to nice effect, and "Trod Out" updates the vintage "Unchained" rhythm to even nicer effect. The album's high point is its middle section, which features the brilliant "Sweet Jamaica," an anguished song with a dark and dubby rhythm, and a very good cover of Bob Marley's "Jah Live." The program ends badly, though, with a non-reggae tearjerker called "Paradise Last," and a tedious two-chord exercise titled "Wise Up Youth." Jah Is My Navigator may not be his greatest album ever, but it's a worthy addition to this brilliant artist's catalog.

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