Ras Michael

Love Thy Neighbour

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You'll find Ras Michael albums in the reggae section, but what they really tend to be is Nyahbingi music -- the kind that involves several different kinds of drums, call-and-response singing, and not necessarily any guitars or anything much resembling song structure. At its worst it sounds like spiritual self-indulgence, but at its best (such as the Rastafari Elders album on RAS) it can be deeply moving and uplifting. Love Thy Neighbour is an interesting cross between pure Nyahbingi music and reggae; listen carefully and you'll hear those telltale guitar chops and bassline, and the production style is explicitly dubwise (guest producer Lee "Scratch" Perry's fingerprints are all over several tracks), but the most prominent instruments are the bass, funde, and repeater drums that characterize the Nyahbingi ensemble. What's most interesting about the songs in this program are the frequency with which they refer to American country and gospel music -- "Don't Sell Daddy No Whiskey" paraphrases an obscure country tearjerker from the 1940s, while bluegrass fans will recognize "Hear River Jordan" as an alternative version of the gospel classic "Walkin in Jerusalem Just Like John." The sound could be a bit better, but if you're looking for good trance music, you couldn't do much better than this.

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