Mad Professor

Method to the Madness

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Longtime Mad Professor fans only need to take a look at the jaw-droppingly great track list to declare Method to the Madness a major success, one that serves both as an excellent introduction to the man's work and a wonderful roundup of tracks that saves veterans the trouble of carrying a large stack of CDs and CD singles. Sanctuary has been working the Trojan catalog hard with a generally great series of reissues, but the label has outdone itself this time by reaching outside the Trojan catalog for a change and offering the first ambitious Mad Professor compilation to the world. The U.K.-based reggae producer is often characterized as a crazed dubman, but Method to the Madness is also filled with lovers rock that mixes in some new wave attitude, urgent ragga that's synthetic musically but roots lyrically, along with the trippy, free-spirited experimental dub the man is famous for. Disc two of the set is the outward stunner. Filled with the Professor's spacy dub mixes of Massive Attack, the Orb, Jamiroquai, and the legendary Lee "Scatch" Perry, disc two shows why left-field popsters approach the Professor whenever they need a "mind-blowing" B-side and why maverick bassist Barry Adamson once declared, "every album should have a Mad Professor remix." Going from druggy dub noir with the Ruts to cosmopolitan chillout-room bliss with Perry Farrell, disc two is a surreal journey with an infectious beat, but it's equaled, if not topped, by the groundbreaking reggae cuts on disc one. More Professor-sourced and less drenched in dub, disc one serves up the feminist dancehall classic "Feminine Gender" by Ranking Ann, the snide "Echoes of Deaf Journalists," which finds the Robotiks as punky-funky as the Slits, and a exciting synthetic-soca instrumental from Pan Africanist. Aisha's dreamy "The Creator" will sound familiar to Orb fans while cuts from Horace Andy, Pato Banton, Earl 16, and Max Romeo cast the Professor as a groove-drivin' producer of urgent roots. Newcomers might be surprised how fun, slick, and bright this dub legend can be, and it's another tip of the hat to Sanctuary for sorting the light sounds and deep sounds and sequencing them into a seamless journey. The only quibbles you can make are that the cover artwork goes for the pop names -- misrepresenting how far-reaching the collection is -- and with such a deft selection of tracks, one wishes the disc count was three or four. If that were the case, maybe Method to the Madness wouldn't have the punch it has, and after all, compilations are often jumping-off points. There's plenty more sides to the man to explore, but Method to the Madness is far and away the door to enter.

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