Various Artists

Dancehall Sessions, Vol. 2

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This two-CD, 31-song dancehall compilation isn't one of the most top-notch such things that could have been assembled, in part because it's primarily a chronologically uneven mix of material from dancehall's '80s prime with circa 2005 cuts. The non-chronological sequencing is none too clever either, and some of the criticisms non-dancehall lovers have of the genre -- a repetitiousness (particularly of the rap-influenced singing/chanting), some over-reliance on synthetic instrumentation, and generally weaker songs than the pre-1980 reggae from which it descended -- will also hold true to some extent. Still, it does have tracks by quite a few big reggae/dancehall names, including Shabba Ranks, Frankie Paul, Gregory Isaacs, Chaka Demus, Junior Reid, Horace Andy, and Buju Banton, along with artists who won't be familiar to non-reggae specialists. Some of it's formulaic, but there are occasionally nice surprises like Apache Indian's "Boom Shak-A-lak," which combines manic growling vocals with a fairly dynamite son-of-"Wooly Bully" groove, the Afro-pop-like rumble of Elephant Man's "Free Your Soul (Lose Control)," and Demus' off-kilter take on "Twist & Shout." There's enough quality stuff on here to make it worth a chance for some casual consumers, though it might be more useful as something to selectively extract your personal favorites from for your own compilation.

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