Dennis Brown

Ready We Ready

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One of Jamaica's most prolific artists, Dennis Brown's untimely death barely slowed his release schedule, with a slew of albums purporting to be his "last recording" hitting the shops in quick succession, alongside a continuing flow of compilations that just added to those that had flooded the shelves in the years before the singer's death. While many of the latter jostled for attention with Brown's classic roots era recordings, Ready We Ready set itself apart by bundling up numbers from the dancehall age, most of which were cut in the '90s. Bouncing around the years and producers, this is, inevitably, an eclectic set, for fashions changed quickly during this period, and popular riddims and styles came and went at breath-taking speed. But this didn't faze Brown a bit, and he and longtime friend Gregory Isaacs announced "Ready We Ready" to take on anything the dancehalls had to throw at them. If that wasn't a strong enough statement of intent, the tough "Buss Off Head" took on all comers, with Yami Bolo throwing his support behind the veteran singer. But it wasn't all boasting in the arena, there was plenty of time for some romantic action as well, with the emotive Brown joined by the soulful Junior Delgado and the always cool Isaacs, to show these three old-timers could still ignite a romantic fire. But Brown didn't really need any help wooing the ladies, not with such powerful numbers as "Keep It Up" and "I'm Your Man" in his repertoire, the latter a strong cover of a 1969 John Holt hit. Still, not all love stories end happily, as the lovelorn "I Don't Know" illustrates, and this exquisite number titled one of Brown's 1995 albums. "Sad News" featured on Victory Is Mine four years earlier, is another emotive cover of a Holt classic.

It was Bob Marley's "Rainbow Country," however, that Brown felt a particular affinity for, cutting a number of covers on the song over the years. Marley's heavy hitting "Heathen" is also versioned and twinned with the singer's own "River Jordan," all set to a hefty roots riddim. It's just one of a clutch of excellent cultural cuts found within this set, other standouts include "Be Still" and "The Spirit." Backed only by the best riddims and highest caliber productions, Ready We Ready is a potent reminder of just how crucial a performer Brown was. For even if some of his later albums were decidedly patchy affairs, the singer continued to unleash unforgettable music right up to his untimely death.

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