Frankie Paul

Pass the Ku-Sheng-Peng

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Wisdom has it that the DJs were a plague upon the reggae scene, laying waste to singers by the score. However, that wasn't the whole story. Henry "Junjo" Lawes, the producer as responsible as anyone for the inexorable rise of the toasters, was also instrumental in reinventing old talent (e.g. Johnny Osbourne) or bringing out new to stardom, like Frankie Paul. Paul linked up with the producer in 1984 for a clutch of stunning hits, culminating in that year's Pass the Ku-Sheng- Peng album, titled after one of his biggest. Although still in his teens, Paul exhibited an amazing vocal maturity, reminiscent, as was his style in places, of Dennis Brown. Lawes handed over a basket of his best riddims for the set, all laid down to perfection by the Roots Radics, many, of course, based on classic Studio One numbers. That includes the fabulous ganja pumping title track, a version of "Darker Shade of Black." That single's flipside, the equally classic "War Is in the Dance," was an original riddim, although it sounds like it came straight out of the rocksteady age. That song is themed around the violence and police raids proliferating through Kingston's sound systems, as is the "Jump No Fence" (aka "Curfew the Dance"). No wonder then that Paul was begging for unity on the heartfelt "Hooligan," for where else but at the sound systems was the youthman to meet a "Hot Number," the kind "Them a Talk About," two more crucial numbers within. But then virtually every track on this set is of almost equal high caliber, from the comforting "Yourself" to the soulfully romantic "If You," and on to the cultural "The Prophet." Obviously Paul would go on to record more masterpieces over the years, but so powerful was this set, that although he'd often equal it, he seldom surpassed it.

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