Pato Banton

Pato Banton and Friends

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Overflowing with guests, Pato Banton and Friends gets right down to business with a catchy reggae-pop opening track, "Bubbling Hot," to start things off. Ranking Roger is the first colleague to blend his talents with Banton and they are a perfect match, the lyrics flow in quick succession but are easily understood, and the zany sound effects add much to the musical concoction. The "Ska Remix" of "Spirits in a Material World," featuring Sting, is a good and abrupt change of pace, and a sign of things to come: that the reinvention of American pop hits will be the highlights on this disc -- not as much because the melodies are familiar but that Banton and crew seem to put more effort into these classics. It certainly shows. They do a fine job on this nugget from the Police, with offbeat sounds swimming inside the vibe the two singers set. Stephen Morrison showing up on a cover of the Rascals' "Groovin' " is perhaps the most effective production here, and evokes an immediate smooth and easy feeling in the listener. The "positive summertime vi-bray-tion" is a super blend of Eddie Brigati and Felix Cavaliere's melody with dancehall. Pulling "Baby Come Back" out of the mothballs, the 1968 classic by Eddy Grant's Equals is also terrific, UB40 adding their talents to another one of the highlights on this CD. Though "Wize Up," with David Hinds of Steel Pulse, has much to offer, the incessant hollow beat on a number of titles gets just a tad bit monotonous. The drum pattern would be fine for one separate piece, but hearing the cardboard sound so many times in succession becomes a little bit much. It's a problem with other Banton recordings and it could be solved easily -- just check out the cool and simple "One People" (with Yasmin Alexander), which is most effective and entertaining. Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman" opens with piano and a welcome Motown drumbeat, Musical Youth adding to the moment, which is a fun look at the perennial and contributes much to the mood at play. Tippa Irie and Peter Spence on "Good Old Days" also evoke a summertime sensation -- and if anything is a theme here, perhaps that's it. The final cut, "Mad Professor Captures Pato Banton," like the first selection, has better sounds and beats and would have helped had it been sequenced earlier. The album itself is more a collection of expressions than a musical statement as a whole and there's something for everyone, so pick a favorite track and groove on it.

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