Various Artists

Conscious Ragga, Vol. 2

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The second volume of this series also hails from the period when conscious ragga was still a swimming-against-the-dancehall-slackness-tide phenomenon. Featuring largely the same roster of performers as volume one -- many taking their first steps to reggae prominence -- the disc could be called "Conscious Ragga: The Nyabinghi Variations" because about half the songs work off that percussion-driven, slow-Rasta chant sound. "Fire Pon Rome" introduced Anthony B to the reggae audience in a nyabinghi fashion with him chanting over percussion and a bit of bass. He joins Louie Culture and Sizzla for a tag team variation on "Row Mr. Fisherman," and five unknown DJs do the same on "Whom Shall I Fear." Ex-Black Uhuru lead singer Mykal Rose works an electro-nyabinghi variant on the lightweight commentary "Pollution" and Anthony Malvo's "Jah Mek Me Stronger" is particularly strong. Among the bigger names, Capleton's "Can't Sleep" effectively mines his minimal dancehall vein and trademark rasp and Bounty Killer drops his inevitable "Lord Have Mercy" opening tag into some rasty electronic backing on the unmemorable "Babylon Drop a Ground." Among the lesser names, Red Rose's dancehall "No Heathen" captures the ear and Al Campbell's "Hard Times"' changeover to a fuller song with smooth harmonies is a nice shift, but the delightfully named Simpleton's "The Chronic" isn't much compared to his "Sick Under Rastaman Treatment" from volume one. Conscious Ragga, Vol. 2 is a solid, but not essential, compilation with some genuine peaks...but a lot depends on how much you like those nyabinghi chants.

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