Various Artists

The Biggest Reggae One-Drop Anthems 2005

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When a deeply, even proudly hedonistic dancehall culture rediscovers roots consciousness (or at least the pleasures of roots-flavored rhythms), the results can be a bit surreal. Many of the beats that are billed on this album as "one-drop" really are modern updates of the classic one-drop rhythm, but there are also some rockers numbers and quite a few uneasy hybrids of old- and new-school reggae, most of which work well but don't sound entirely natural. Some of the artists featured here (notably Sizzla, Anthony B, and Richie Spice) are old hands at roots-dancehall fusion, and others are fresh young faces on the neo-roots and dancehall scenes. Some of the album's best tracks are provided by those with a long background in the genre: Sizzla, in particular, is at the top of his form on the brilliant "Where Are You Running To," which also boasts one of the most powerfully effective rhythms on the program; Anthony Cruz also hits hard with his excellent update of the vintage "Real Rock" rhythm. On the downside are the handful of tracks performed by Jah Cure, a desperately overrated singer who combines an unappealing, whiny delivery with a complete inability to sing in tune. Bushman quotes Black Uhuru on the fine "My Meditation," and Buju Banton joins Cruz for a brilliant combination track on "Place Too Bloody." You can't say that the Greensleeves label isn't giving value for money with this generously packed compilation, which retails for $18.98 and features two and a half hours of music -- but though it's a good two-disc set, it could easily have been pared down into an outstanding one-disc collection.

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