Various Artists

Jah Love: A ReggaeTribute to Bob Marley

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For some reason, tribute albums have become all the rage, and few artists are more deserving of homage than Bob Marley, so this album was inevitable. Jah Love features 15 classic Marley songs covered by 11 different artists, the vast majority veteran Jamaican vocalists. Now that is seldom a selling point, as anyone familiar with Jamaica's love of the quickly knocked-out spoiler knows. And regardless of the title, many of these songs originally appeared well before Marley's death, but surprisingly, every one of these numbers is extremely high-caliber. What's particularly interesting is how these songs coax the best out of the artists. Inner Circle, not renown for their militancy, take on two of Marley's most politicized songs -- "Curfew" and "Three O'Clock Road Block" -- and deliver up their toughest performances to date. Dennis Brown discovers previously unknown soulful depths, while John Holt, at the time still turning out perfect pop songs, finds his own rough spirit. Johnny Clarke had a massive hit with his version of "No Woman No Cry," but his rendition of "Time Will Tell" is even better -- both can be found here. Besides the uniformly excellent vocal performances, these songs all feature equally strong productions and arrangements. One of the most intriguing is Pluto Shervington's version of "I Shot the Sheriff," which adds a horn section that plays up the song's true threatening nature. Ronnie Davis' "Kaya" boasts a tough beat and a stunningly evocative keyboard that just layers on the atmosphere. To reinvent a song, one normally needs to remove it from its original genre, but these are all so strong that even though they remain in the reggae realm, it's like hearing them all for the first time.

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