Tarrus Riley

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Contagious Review

by David Jeffries

It's a minor problem, but if there's a complaint to be made about Tarrus Riley's 2009 effort Contagious, it's that his previous effort, Parables, has a much better layout. The crowding together of redundant numbers and uneven flow experienced here makes Contagious feel more like a collection of songs than a fully thought-out album, but they are great songs for the most part, performed in that dignified, warm, Rasta manner that has made Riley a favorite of the new roots set. "Living the Life of a Gun" is a wonderfully smooth alternative to Anthony B. or Sizzla's social commentary, and when a children's choir enhances the moving prayer "Let Peace Reign," Riley skillfully moves into Wyclef's territory with elaborate arrangements hung on grand statements. The lovers' numbers are just as good, if not better this time out with the sensual take on Michael Jackson's hit "Human Nature" and the yearning "Love's Contagious" -- based on Marley's "Coming In From the Cold" riddim -- competing for the top spot. The latter features a quick fade that comes way too early for the slow-grooving song, and when you add a track list 18 songs long which doesn't seem properly sorted, the quality control is a step lower than last time out. Parables remains a better introduction, but taken on a track-by-track level, Riley delivers his high-grade material with such grace and passion that Contagious is well worth the bit of patience it requires.

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