The Drastics

Chicago Massive

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Two albums in, and it's becoming fairly obvious that the Drastics are less a band than an ever-widening collective. Their debut album, Premonition, boasted a boat-load of musicians and vocalists, their follow-up, Chicago Massive, features a cruise-ship full, a whopping 24 in all. Not taking up the mics themselves, the Drastics create an entire disc just for their guesting toasters and vocalists, drawn mainly from the Chicago underground, although King Django and Dr. Ring-Ding also fly in for the fun. Only four singers are featured within -- the sweet Corey Dixon, who's beautifully backed by Tom Riley, Deal's Gone Bad's soulful Todd Hembrook, and the sole female on the set, the scatting Dayna Lynn. It would be remiss not to note that Lynn's fabulous "Nyahbinghi Blues" is an uncredited version of Marvin Gaye's "Inner City Blues," while Hembrook's excellent offering is actually an unacknowledged take on the Casinos' "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye." Admittedly, that latter number was covered so frequently by Jamaicans, that Hembrook and the Drastics probably mistakenly presumed it was up for grabs. The bulk of this disc then is given over to the DJs, most overtly inspired by a clutch of modern dancehall heroes. Not King Django, though, his "Musical Sharp Attack" pays

tribute to the legendary Lee "Scratch" Perry. Ghanaboy rips a page from Scratch's book as well, bringing his kids in to accompany him on "Me a Rasta," but so warp-speed is his toast, he leaves them at the starting block. More importantly, do dancehall-styled DJs work over the Drastics' dubby, Afro-roots riddims? Not necessarily, which is why the strongest numbers come from the U-Roy-styled Jah Scroob and the hip-hop flavored Zulu, whose heavy hitting "Ransom the Senator" is the stand-out toast on this disc. The Drastics may have had doubts as well, which is why the vocals are consigned to the second disc, while the first is strictly instrumentals and dubs. So creative are the riddims, so intriguing the dubs, that the second disc is an inevitable let-down, the DJs, in particular, a distraction from the far-more interesting music going on beneath them. Regardless, the Drastics deserve much credit for moving deep into unchartered territories, and even if they do sometimes hit dead-ends, the journey itself is so intriguing few fans will mind.

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