"Well this is the Maestro, I have the doctorate for all things," Beenie Man boasts on the opening to Maestro's title track, and then proceeds to show off his skill across this superb album. A lack of coherent sequencing is the set's only real flaw, for as the DJ is determined to prove himself a master of all things, so the Shocking Vibes Crew, who oversee most of the numbers, are equally keen to showboat their own range of riddims. And so, on this surprisingly diverse set, the music sweeps from suave, sophisticated jazz through funk, '50s rock, and hip-hop into a myriad of Jamaican dancehall stylings that resurrect rocksteady, visit New Orleans, and even call in on the "Africans," which versions "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" of all things. It's a heady brew, careening across the extremes of genres, which on album can be a bit disconcerting. But with the backings laid down by the Firehouse Crew, the Taxi Gang, Robbie Lyn, and Dean Fraser, the rhythms are lethal. There's a clutch of recent 45s included within, among them such hits as the slamming "Girls Way," the sizzling "Romie," and the suave "Nuff Gal." The latter's title is misleading; Beenie is insatiable but more than happy to share his winning techniques, as he does on the funky "Blackboard" before laying the ladies low with the sensuous "Girls Dem Sugar," whose later remix would take the world by storm. The DJ's already having his way with Lady Saw on the slack-as-you-like "Long Longi Lala," but is a bit more proper on "Be My Lady." Just don't fence him in, for as he and Little Kirk make clear on "Nuh Lock," if you do, he'll be gone. But it's not all wining and dining -- there's tough talk on "Any Mr. Man" and equally rough rebukes to tough women on "Man Royal." And with 19 songs stuffed into the set, there's plenty of room for a shout-out to the Shocking Vibes family on "His-Story," which is indeed autobiographical, and respects to "Oh Jah Jah," on which Beenie is paired with Silver Cat. "In the Ghetto" boasts Da Bush Babees, whose reflections on suffering in the city virtually overwhelm the DJ's own contribution. On the aforementioned "Africans," Beenie gives sharp and tart comments on O.J. Simpson, Rodney King, the Million Man March, and more, saving his own philosophy on life for the album's party piece, "One Big Road." Dancehall still had something to prove back in 1996, and the Maestro gave payback to critics who claimed that the style was limited musically and that the DJ was a one-trick pony.
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AllMusic Review by Jo-Ann Greene
feat: Lady Saw
feat: Da Bush Babees