Mikey Spice

Harder Than Before

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As time goes on and U.K.-style ragga fades in popularity, the line between modern reggae and smooth R&B is starting to blur. Case in point: the fine singer Mikey Spice, whose latest album includes a few nods to reggae's old school (including a nice version of "Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes" and a straight reading of Bob Marley's "Yes Mi Friend"), but spends just as much time on slick, modernist post-dancehall grooves and occasionally slides completely out of the reggae genre. The rather touching original composition "Thank God I Am Free" and a mediocre version of the '70s schlock classic "We've Only Just Begun" are examples of the latter. But nothing on this album is less than pleasing -- most of the backing instrumentation comes courtesy of Mafia & Fluxy, one of late dancehall's most respected bass/drums/production teams, and they support Spice's sweetly gruff voice very nicely. Harder Than Before may not point the way to a new era of creativity in reggae music, but it's certainly pleasant enough listening.

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