Including Maxi Priest, Marcia Griffiths, and Michael Rose on what is billed as a dancehall compilation is like including En Vogue, Mary J. Blige, R. Kelly, or Erykah Badu on a rap compilation. While those artists have been greatly influenced by hip-hop, they are essentially R&B singers instead of rappers -- and, similarly, Priest, Griffiths, and Rose are essentially reggae singers (as opposed to toasters) even though they have incorporated dancehall elements on some of their recordings. Boasting material by those artists, the fifth Massive compilation isn't a CD that caters to dancehall purists 100 percent of the time. Instead, Massive 5 is a diverse survey of the early-1990s reggae scene. Some of the tunes are, in fact, examples of pure, hardcore dancehall -- aggressive favorites like Buju Banton's "Batty Rider" and General Levy's "Heat" are about as ragamuffin as it gets. These tunes are about rhythm instead of melody, and they make no concessions to mainstream pop tastes. But Griffith's "Closer to You," Half Pint's "Substitute Lover," and Maxi Priest's inspired remake of Earth, Wind & Fire's "Reasons" are another matter. These tracks are state-of-the-art examples of lovers rock -- melodic reggae singing that favors romantic themes over social or political topics; the reggae equivalent of romantic R&B. Those who are seriously into early 1990s reggae will know most of the tunes on this CD, many of which were major hits in Jamaica and/or England (the two biggest markets for reggae). Nonetheless, this CD isn't for everyone. It isn't recommended to those who fancy lovers rock but don't care for dancehall, or vice versa. In order to fully appreciate Massive 5, you need to be someone who appreciates a wide variety of early-1990s reggae.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson