Ryo the Skywalker

Love-A-Dub Showcase

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"Throaty" doesn't begin to describe Ryo the Skywalker's approach to Japanese dancehall reggae. On Love-A-Dub Showcase, he makes a surprising run through varieties of reggae in his signature style. The album opens in a basic introductory fashion, with Ryo toasting, showcasing his vocal style, and bursting through chunks of lyrics à la Macka B. He quickly ramps up the energy for a couple of massive numbers in the anthemic "Wow" and the machine gun-style "The Bommer" (sic) over a soukous-style guitar. There's a bouncy love song in "More Than Friend," leading into a short section of extraordinarily lighter fare -- G-funk synth grooves, ballad guitar bits, backup R&B vocals. After a brief skit, the album closes on a trio of ballads, complete with tinkling piano accompaniment and Bob Marley organ and guitar grooves à la "No Woman No Cry." This is where Ryo's style gets tangled into an unfitting format. It's possible to use gruff, growling vocals in lighter formats, but it takes a particularly delicate touch to do so. Ryo doesn't have that delicacy in his delivery, which saps him of the ability to emote in his lyrics and makes balladry somewhat painful. When Ryo is in his proper form, he's exciting and thumping. When he's trying to fit himself into another paradigm, the result suffers mightily.