Judge Dread

King of Rudeness

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There's nothing sadder that seeing an old has-been dragging around the club circuit cavalierly pumping out ever more pathetic versions of his long-ago hits. It's pitiful really, seeing a once proud artist reduced to a cynical money-grubber whose love for his music dissipated years ago. Judge Dread certainly trotted around the clubs long after his heyday was over, but unlike so many fading-to-tarnish stars, his love for his music and reggae in general only seemed to grow stronger with time. The proof was in the pudding, and King of Rudeness is indeed a tasty treat. Many of the titles will be familiar to even the most casual fan -- "Big 7," "Big 8," "Big 10," and "Up with the Cock" were, after all, big U.K. hits, as was "Bring Back the Skins" which featured on Dread's charting 5th Anniversary EP. Others featured on Dread's albums. However, none of the numbers here are the originals, and the set, judging by the sound, seems to have been recorded on-stage. Normally this is a drawback, but not in the Judge's case, for he delivers the songs with all the enthusiasm, insouciance, and fun that he did the first time around. His backing band may be less polished and more tongue-in-cheek than the Trojan session men who played on the originals, but this bunch arguably has a lot more flair. Many of the arrangements are ska-based, often featuring superb brass solos and singalong choruses, as the group joins in the fun. The younger generation of musicians who accompanied Dread in later years were crucial to keeping the Judge's music fresh and his enthusiasm from waning, and they succeeded magnificently. Reggae is awash with do-overs, as Jamaican veterans recut their classics in the latest dancehall styles, oftentimes sullying their reputations along the way. Dread, however, remained loyal to the past, and thus these rousing versions do nothing but enhance the late star's standing.

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