Lessons Learned

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The Zvooks really have a lot going for them: An apparently effortless mastery of the ska, reggae, soul and rocksteady genres, very fine songwriting and arranging chops, and a frontman (Corey Dixon) who pens great lyrics and plays a mean guitar. Unfortunately, they have one major liability, and that's Dixon's voice -- despite his great talent as a writer and guitarist, the man has a very hard time singing in tune, and that fact does tend to get in the way. "Missed My Chance" opens the album with a wonderful slice of slightly Latin-flavored, soulful rocksteady that is consistently undermined by Dixon's vocal limitations; the next song, "Never Care Again," works better in part because other bandmembers' voices are featured more prominently. That pattern holds true throughout the album; instrumentally, it could hardly be more delightful, and the group's tightness and groovy rhythmic elasticity are a constant pleasure. The album's two dub versions (the second is a hidden track at the end of the album) are actually among its strongest. The lackluster Spinners' cover comes across as something of a missed opportunity. Recommended, with reservations.