When Morgan Heritage declares their music "reggae music with an edge," they're not talking aggressive dancehall. Instead, they're speaking of reggae music that's as slick and smooth as the times allow but with lyrics that are uncompromising and filled with the bitterness and despair they've experienced while living in Jamaica. On this, their tenth album, it's the land of "Nothing to Smile About." The song of the same name features a scenario where a tourist is pulled out of his all-inclusive world and shown the more desolate side of the island. Not the kind of thing the Jamaican tourist board might endorse, and few of the tracks are, but Morgan Heritage have long used the Marley technique and coated their bitter pills in a sweet sound. It's an approach perfectly executed on "Politician" which offers the much more global sentiment "Why should we vote in their elections?/When then there is no place for we/You and me/In their secret society?" Hope is given on "Love You Right" which drops the politics in favor of pillow talk romance, plus the sunshine bright "Raid Rootz Dance," a soulful rebel number that could have fallen off Stevie Wonder's Talking Book. This band, made up of the sons and daughters of reggae singer Denroy Morgan, are often accused of a shameless crossover mentality, but all of the album's R&B moments feel genuine. Plus the bits of hip-hop work better than expected, especially when rapper Mr. Mojo spits a little comic relief with "I'm a Major Payne like Damon Wayans." While there's little here for the staunch reggae traditionalist -- this is, after all, Rootz with "z" -- Mission in Progress has plenty to offer Damien or Stephen Marley fans or anyone who believes climbing the charts and uplifting the people are not mutually exclusive endeavors.
Mission in Progress Review
by David Jeffries
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