Mutabaruka

Gathering of the Spirits

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The concept behind this album is, as its title indicates, that of a gathering: old-school dub poet Mutabaruka brought together some of the top reggae session players from the music's golden age (drum'n'bass duo Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, bassist Leroy Sibbles, guitarist Earl "Chinna" Smith, and others) and teamed them up with some of that same era's finest singers (Justin Hinds, Marcia Griffiths, Judy Mowatt, and others) with the express purpose of recapturing the energy that animated reggae before the onslaught of computerized dancehall beats in the early '80s. The experiment is a great success overall. Culture's "Blackman King" is delivered with more gusto than they've been able to muster in a while, and Big Youth's deejay performance on the same rhythm is equally fine. On "Someday We'll All Be Free" Judy Mowatt shows that she's still the sexiest singer in reggae, all the more so because she never sings about sex (take that, Lady Saw), and Marcia Griffiths' performance of "Woman of the Ghetto" is a tour de force -- her voice is amazingly well preserved. The same can't quite be said of either Justin Hinds or the Mighty Diamonds, but they still acquit themselves well.

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