Various Artists

Strictly Vocals [2002]

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Unlike the simultaneously released Nude Rhythm, Strictly Vocals is not, thankfully, a one-rhythm album. Instead, it features a variety of dancehall and digital-roots rhythms generated by Jah Mikes Coburn, a Bronx-based producer, with vocal performances by an interesting grab bag of reggae artists both famous (Gregory Isaacs, Wayne Wonder, Toots Hibbert) and obscure (Nitty Kutchie, Jennifer Lara, Prince Theo). As you might imagine, the resulting program is hit and miss, but there are more hits than misses and most of the misses don't miss by too far. Apart from Khani Jones' tiresome screed against modernity and a singer-DJ combo track by Mahlon and Tony Curtis that manages to be both stylistically weird and musically lame, everything here rates at least a solid B+. Ky-Mani Marley could have gotten an A for "Who We Are" if he weren't trying so hard to be someone else (i.e., his father); Gregory Isaacs is phoning it in on "Wah Dee," but Gregory phoning it in is still pretty impressive. Best of all are Jennifer Lara's exquisite Jah anthem "We All Shall See Jah" and a nice combo track titled "Trod On" by Prince Theo and a female DJ named Addiegundi. Most mystifying is "Mighty Father," a decent performance by the great Dennis Brown, who died three years before this album was apparently recorded. Recommended.

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