Various Artists

Cool Fusion

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Since, by its nature, a "rhythm album" consists of nothing but vocal variations on a single instrumental backing track, its inherent weakness as a listening experience is obvious. And to be fair, rhythm albums really aren't intended for front-to-back listening; they're meant to be picked over for particularly hot performances by deejays or (less frequently) singers that can set your party hopping or spice up your radio program. (And, if you're an aspiring chatter yourself, it will usually include a plain version of the rhythm itself so you can exercise your rhyming muscles.) Cool Fusion is a collaboration between the young producer Kirk Ford and the relatively seasoned veteran Donovan "Vendetta" Bennett, whose previous hits include the popular "Mad Ants" and "Trifecta" rhythms. Cool Fusion continues the general trend of Jamaican dancehall towards beats that are as heavily influenced by staggered soca patterns as they are by classic reggae, and it brings out the best in such established talents as Bounty Killer, Sizzla (whose incongruously cheerful Bobo Dread persona is showcased nicely on "All Is Well"), and Capleton. Elephant Man is starting to get a bit tiresome (could someone please get him to stop yelling "scoobay!" at the top of every chorus?) and Lady Saw is pretty much phoning it in on "Man Short," but "Hold Yuh Tonight" is a charming combo track from Tornado and Action K, and "Smoking" is a pretty impressive slice of hortatory horticulture from the deejay tag-team of Tony Curtis (heh) and Vybz Kartel. Recommended.

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