Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers / Ziggy Marley

Conscious Party

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The Melody Makers' breakout album, and why is clear from the opening notes of the title track which kicks off the set. Producers Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, of Talking Heads fame, gloss the record with a perfect electro-sheen, helping shine the pop edges to a sharp gleam, while still emphasizing the dance beats. The Melody Makers add the magic; veterans now after two previous albums, they've honed their sound to a fine edge. They still mix styles -- party music, cultural songs, and rootsy numbers -- but the production with its keyboard heavy emphasis and digitized beats makes the stylistic shifts less startling than in the past. A song like "New Love," a hybrid of emotional ballad, deep roots, and synthi-dance, shows how cleverly the band have become at combining seemingly opposing elements. "Have You Ever Been to Hell" is equally intriguing, with its bouncy upbeat melody, surrounded by ever more sinister effects, surely the aural illustration of how the road to hell is paved with good intentions. "Lee and Molly" is masterful dubby roots on the theme of love gone very wrong, while "Dreams of Home" is a sublime repatriation song, which blends African harmonies and rhythms to a wistful, emotive ballad. Every single track has something equally exciting to offer. And the Melody Makers are now proving that they really can be all things to all people.

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