Max Romeo

Pray for Me: The Best of Max Romeo 1967-1973

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Max Romeo's transformation from crooning rocksteady loverman (whose early hits included songs like "Put Me in the Mood," "Great Lover," and the notorious "Wet Dream") to conscious reggae role model (a phase of his career that culminated in the epochal Black Ark production "War in a Babylon") is now the stuff of reggae legend. On this generous compilation you get to see him in both modes, and the results are revealing. It turns out that in his more secular period he was a good, but not particularly outstanding, purveyor of standard-issue rocksteady; "Wet Dream," which Romeo often defended (wholly unconvincingly) as a song about sleeping under a leaky roof, is a fun but not really distinguished example of early reggae slackness, while several collaborations with the Emotions are a bit more interesting. But when he gets religion, the music takes a decided turn for the better. His sweet voice (reminiscent at times of Johnnie Clarke) is a perfect fit with yearning Rasta anthems like "Let the Power Fall on I" and "Don't You Weep," while it lends a bittersweet aspect to such dread pronouncements as "Babylon Burning" and "No Joshua No." At his best, Romeo was among the finest of reggae singers, and several of the tracks on this album show him at the peak of his form.

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