The Wailing Souls

Equality

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The Wailing Souls have been reggae mainstays almost since the beginning, recording some of their biggest hits for Clement "Coxsone" Dodd at Channel One and at Bob Marley's Tuff Gong studio in the 1970s, then -- in a move highly unusual for a vocal trio -- successfully riding the dancehall wave and even managing to chart in the 1990s with their unique style of modern yet roots-conscious reggae. Equality finds them returning to the roots sound of their past, without entirely abandoning the slick production that typifies modern reggae. (The album was produced with Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, an instrumental and production duo that has weathered equally well the changing reggae fashions of the last few decades.) On most tracks, the sound harks back specifically to the golden age of roots reggae, with analog string instruments and real horns, one-drop and Nyahbingi rhythms, and the Souls' trademark tight vocal harmonies: "Foundation" rides a swaying Nyah beat, while "Down on Your Knees" calls the faithful to grateful prayer in strictly roots wise style. But there are more modern flavors as well, evident in the electronic percussion on "Hard Living" and the lurching dancehall beat that underlies "Don't Say." The vocals are a bit weak in a couple of places, but for the most part this is a typically excellent album from one of reggae's most consistent groups.

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