Various Artists

Greensleeves Rhythm Album #40: Egyptian

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Jamaican riddim albums line up the talent side by side and let them compete on a level playing field. The rhythm is essentially the same throughout the album with only a few minor additions and adjustments. Each dancehall singer has to bring his own style to the rhythm and see what he can do. Sean Paul, Wayne Marshall, Bounty Killer, Vybz Kartel, and Elephant Man use the Egyptian riddim to separate themselves from the rest. When the rhythm is the same through 20 tracks, only the songs that have real style are memorable. Wayne Marshall's "I Will Love the Girls" takes the biggest risk with the rhythm and is by far the one that sticks out from the rest. He has a more soulful approach that begins to outshine the rhythm's hypnotic pulse. Simple bass is matched with a snake-charmer rhythm to give a kind of Middle Eastern sound. After the success of the Diwali riddim, the Egyptian one just takes it a step further. Assassin's "It's a Girl Thing" almost sounds like a vexed breed of Turkish dance music. The tabla and speed of his rhymes make the Egyptian riddim really seem like it had its origins outside of Jamaica. The weakest tracks are easily recognized because the singers use the snake-charmer melody as their chorus. Perhaps on 45 they wouldn't sound nearly as weak, but matched up side by side with the very best, they become easy to ignore. The last track is the instrumental version of the Egyptian riddim, which on its own is interesting because it gives you an idea of what these guys had to work with. Young Jamaica producer Donovan "Vendetta" Bennett has created a solid instrumental that has spawned at least eight heavy hitters. Having these tracks all collected in one album saves time digging through 45s and really shows which singers can really destroy a rhythm.

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