Mikey Dread

Beyond World War III

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Mikey Dread has long stood among reggae's most multi-faceted artists, and this album shows him in all his guises: DJ, mixer, producer, and toaster. Like many fellow producers from his home country of Jamaica, Dread is equally comfortable behind the board or in front of it, which further blurs the line between artist and producer. That's not a problem for someone boasting such nimble talents. The assertive opener "Break Down the Walls" gets the proceedings off to an authoritative start. Although Dread's famed sing-scat is an acquired taste, it suits the mood ("We need some action now, down in a Babylon/and the sooner is the better").Dread's vocals are poised and self-assured; he sings when he feels like it, and lets his ping-ponging freestyle raps carry the track when he doesn't. The latter quality is most pronounced on hardcore dub exercises like "The Jumping Master," on which Dread playfully talks up the abilities of his backing musicians and mixing knob-twiddling peers like Scientist (who's compared to another "jumping master," the comic book hero Spiderman). "Israel (12 Tribe) Stylee" and "Mental Slavery" go still further up the heart of dub darkness, boosted by enough vocal echo and tape effects to light up a video arcade, which is part of the genre's cut-and-paste charm. But Dread's hardly some po-faced roots purist, or he wouldn't try his hand at more straightforward pop-reggae grooves like "Jah Jah Love (In the Morning)," and "Rockers Delight." As usual, there's no lack of top-flight musicians to boost the cause, including drummer Style Scott, bassist Flabba Holt, and Roots Radics rhythm ace Bingy Bunny. Dread marshals his musical artillery to unsettling effect on the title cut, which matter-of-factly ticks off man's march to a global reckoning. A cutoff in mid-sentence provides a powerful closing note for an album that sounds as fresh and innovative as it did 20 years ago.

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