Sinéad O'Connor

Throw Down Your Arms

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There's no debating that Sinéad O'Connor is one of the great singers to come from the pop world in the late 20th century. Her recordings and live performances have underscored her reputation in spades. Throw Down Your Arms is her first official outing since her "retirement" three years previously. Despite the cover photo of O'Connor as a young communicant, the set here is strictly hard reggae -- all the cuts are covers of classic reggae tunes. Recorded at Tuff Gong and Anchor Studios in Kingston, Jamaica, and produced by Sly & Robbie -- who are also the key rhythm section on the disc -- it stars some of the cream of the scene's elder crop, from guitarist Mikey Chung to Sticky Thompson, Dean Fraser, and many others. Beginning with the a cappella "Jah Nuh Dead" by Winston Rodney (Burning Spear), O'Connor does reverential readings of these canonical reggae classics. She takes no liberties, the band is mixed right up front with her voice, and she gets deep into the dread groove from Burning Spear's "Door Peep" and the title cut to Peter Tosh's "Downpressor Man" and Lee Perry's "Curly Locks" and "Vampire." O'Connor is a great interpreter of these songs because she understands they need nothing to be complete. They stand the test of time simply because they are great songs. She wraps herself in the rhythm and the spiritual groove and lets them cover her, saturate her, and come through her into the air where she separates God from the religions of men. Dynamite singing, a killer band, and wonderful material do a fine album make. Welcome back, Sinéad.

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