Michael Rose came off the road and went straight into the studio with Mafia & Fluxy, reappearing later in 1997 with Dance Wicked. Some of the dust from the tour had yet to settle, and is heard on the set's opening track, "Happiness," resurrecting an old Black Uhuru number. But then the singer kicks into the title track, celebrating the dance; the producers unleash a sublimely threatening rhythm; and the album truly begins. It's a massive set, a dozen songs long, not including the two bonus mixes of the breezy "Mind Made Up" with its almost poppy dancehall rhythm and its troubled relationship theme. But the artist seems beset by girl problems, as the lovelorn "I Don't Want to Say Goodbye" further proves. And then there are those troubling business partnerships gone sour, but as Rose makes clear, no matter what, "You can never get me down." That latter number boasts a particularly enticing accompaniment, updating a sizzling old reggae rhythm for the contemporary dancehalls, a brash exercise in jazzy brass, punchy keyboard riffs, and big booming beats. Conversely, "Life in the Ghetto" boasts a thoroughly modern sound with its fractured beats and sparse arrangement, an intense backing for Rose's insightful look at the sweetness and sorrow of ghetto living. "Run Dem a Run" is an equal standout for exactly the opposite reason, its infectious, driving rhythm perfectly complementing the song's life-is-a-treadmill theme. "Reality" finds Rose further expostulating on this subject, but now backed by a seething rootsy accompaniment. However, Mafia & Fluxy are equally adept at warmer, lusher stylings, as on the smooth "Landlord" and the brooding "Dreadlocks." Best of all is the sublime "Lion in the Jungle," where Rose is joined by Maxi Priest to deliver up a righteous lesson in living, and the producers unleash one of their richest rhythms. All told, Dance Wicked is a stellar set, a sumptuous aural banquet that may start in the past, but moves the party quickly into the present and well into the wee hours, as Rose's words and the diverse music really begin to hit home.
AllMusic Review by Jo-Ann Greene
feat: Maxi Priest