The smiley-face tone of this album title is not misleading. Although a couple of cuts tastefully skirt the edge of slackness and one (the very fine "Mr. Nine") is an angry denunciation of Kingston's gun culture, Friends for Life is more accurately represented by song titles like "All Will Be Fine," "Spectacular," "Good Times," and the twin throwaway tracks "Tra La La" and "La Da De Da." Banton remains a better DJ than singer. He acquits himself well in the latter category on the heavily Bob Marley-influenced "Maybe We Are" and on an amazingly powerful anthem of racial uplift entitled "Up Ye Mighty Race," but he shines brightest when delivering his trademark gruff-voiced toasting over hard-edged dancehall rhythms. He spars brilliantly with DJ Bounty Killer on the dark and funky "Teaser," but his combination track with singer Nadine Sutherland is something of a letdown. "Damn" is disposable dancehall loverman bluster, but the ska-inflected "Feeling Groovy" is a pleasant stylistic surprise. This is not his best album by a long shot, but it does demonstrate his clear superiority to most of the dancehall pack. Recommended.
AllMusic Review by Rick Anderson
feat: Sons and Daughters