Pato Banton

Visions of the World

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It started so well, and then it went so wrong. Pato Banton's debut album, Never Give In, was masterful; a scorching set of cultural cuts mixed with humorous songs, wrapped in simmering roots. Same DJ, same backing band (but now augmented by a club full of guest stars, including Mafia & Fluxy), so what happened? Much of the problem lies in the production, which is glossy to the point of slickness, and seriously detracts from the band's tough rhythms. However, even the best production couldn't hide the fact that Banton's gone off the boil. The sharp wit has been reduced to weak smiles, and the searing cultural commentaries to bland protestations. There is the occasional spark; "Roots, Rock, Reggae" is an anthemic gem, and is the only song from this set that truly survived the test of time. "Ready Me Ready," boasting a solid Mafia & Fluxy rhythm is entertaining, if a bit overwrought. However, tracks like the sugary "Wishing on a Star" and syrupy "Visions of the World" may be heartfelt, but suggest the DJ should leave off the sinsemilla for the rest of the session. Saddest of all is a re-recorded "Never Give In." It's expanded to over seven minutes, and while the rhythms remain rough and tumble and the lyrics are unchanged, the DJ strips them of their bite. The cynical would suggest that Banton has realized there was more money to be made in the world music market than dancehall.

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