Third World

Black, Gold, Green

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Roots fans who have trouble coming to terms with Third World's embracing of pop and slick are going to find Black Gold & Green the most positive step forward the band has taken in a decade or so, but nearly as uneven and frustrating as usual. The opening title track is an effervescent and ultimately empty ode to their island home, but it's the Third World problem in a nutshell: giving bland, safe material the same importance and enthusiasm as the truly deep material. The good news is the album has more vital material than expected, most of it hungry, inspired, and the polar opposite of the gimmicky filler. "Nah Sweat"'s brilliant couplet "While they gamble on the e trade/I and I and I and I bun on a high grade" gives listeners a beach-eye view of how some Jamaicans see the world, while an excellent version of Junior Byles' ominous "Fade Away" earns the fist-pumping on the album's cover. The bright and sunny take on Ashford & Simpson's "Solid" is more genuine than expected, while the acoustic version of "There's a Reward" sprinkles some sweetness on the generally righteous album. Add to this a driven version of Bruce Cockburn's "Lovers in a Dangerous Time" and it sounds like a winner, but the drab, overly synthetic numbers still take up too much space to call this classic.

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