Version City Rockers

Darker Roots

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At first glance, this album is a traditional reggae fan's dream come true: backed by an all-star cast of New York City roots reggae musicians (keyboardists King Django and Alfredo de Matteis, drummer Eddie Ocampo, guitarist Dave Segal, and the incomparable bassist Victor Rice, among others), an equally impressive cast of old-school singers and DJs get together for a strictly roots-wise program of 1970s-style reggae. The result isn't consistently mindblowing -- Glen Brown's opening salvo is good but not up to the standard of his finest work, and DJ Sister Nancy's "Jah Have the Handle" is about the same -- but nothing here is less than good and some of it is spectacular. Top honors go to Ranking Joe's "Africa," on which he delivers as fine a singjay performance as you could hope for while the Version City crew churns up the kind of hard-swinging roots rhythm that is its forté, and to Congo Ashante Roy, whose "Why Dem a Galong So" is a slow and smoky masterpiece. It's also a pure pleasure to hear from Yabby You again; his "Rough in Babylon" is another album highlight. Highly recommended overall.