Anthony B

Black Star

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Anthony B. isn't an especially distinguished singer, but on what appears to be his 14th album he makes up for a mediocre singing voice with a chesty, powerfully confident toasting style and exceptionally solid rhythms provided by Maximum Sound label honcho Frenchie. He and his producer make a few strange and questionable decisions on Black Star -- what should have been an exciting ska workout on "Black History" turns out to be strangely static and boring, and neither of the singers he picks for the combination tracks (Jah Cure and Ras Shiloh) is very much better than he is, with the result that those two songs fall rather flat. (Weirdest of all are the lyrics to "Come Free My Mind," which seem to indicate that he's unclear on the meaning of the phrase "where the sun don't shine.") But the album's high points are impressive; they include a bitter romantic kiss-off song titled "I Understand," the triumphant "Rastafari Crown," and the dark, hard-nosed "Start It Now." Not essential, but recommended.

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