I-Roy

Black Man Time

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An intriguing compilation, Black Man Time reissues the whole of 1977's The Best of I-Roy, then appends four songs cut with producer Roderick "Blackbeard" Sinclair in late 1984, which makes this sound a bit like a hits collection. It's not. Contrary to the Best Of's title, that album wasn't a roundup of recent singles, but actually all new material recorded with producer Alvin Ranglin at Channel One studio. The Revolutionaries, the house band that included Sly & Robbie, Sticky Thompson, Tommy McCook, Ansel Collins, and a host of other notables, laid down the rootsy accompaniment to the Studio One classics that were the basis for Best Of, with Heptones and Alton Ellis hits particularly heavily represented. There's a laid-back quality to Best Of that perfectly complements I-Roy's own, as the DJ was revered for his eloquence, not his exuberance. The Revolutionaries' pulsing beats and moody, atmospheric sound provided a marvelous backdrop over which the artist could ruminate, rhyme, and chatter to his heart's content. Little of the original vocals were left on most of the tracks, leaving I-Roy to toast as he saw fit, the exception being "Black Cinderella," which is a straight DJ version of the Errol Dunkley hit. Roaming from cultural and religious themes to love and pretty girls, the DJ was never at a loss for the right words. "Natty Dread the Lion" is worth the price of the record alone, "National Cry-Sis Inna de Yard" is equally impressive, while close to an entire sermon is packed into the intro of "Natty Dread Get Around." In contrast, "Sun Top Blouse" pivots between a fashion chant and a sensuous come-on, while love forces the DJ to break into song on "Love Is Universal." The seven-year jump into the last four tracks is not anywhere as noticeable as one would expect. By then, the DJ was running out of steam, but these four tracks give little hint of that, and were I-Roy's last truly worthwhile releases. Black Man Time includes a further boon for fans: an excellent six-page biography packed with information about the DJ. And while this may not include any of I-Roy's greatest hits, it still contains great music.

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