Dennis Brown

RAS Portraits

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Culling tracks from three of the Dennis Brown albums released by the RAS label -- Brown Sugar, Victory Is Mine, and Milk and Honey, as well as Blood Brothers, the singer's split-set with Gregory Isaacs, RAS Portraits is a showcase of Brown's work in the post-roots age. Besides offering up a steady stream of new songs, over the years the singer has consistently returned to his earlier hits, sympathetically re-recording them for new generations to admire. These include "Milk and Honey" itself and "Should I," both of which Brown originally cut for the Mighty Two during the roots era, but which he revived in the '90s. The Brown Sugar album, in contrast, dates from the mid- 80s, and was itself a compilation, rounding up a clutch of Brown's hits for the Taxi label. As dated as these tracks are now, their strength and beauty still shine forth, a reminder of just how innovative the dancehall style really was in its early days. Styles shifted quickly, as is evident by the dramatic drum programming that underlies the Leggo Beast-produced Victory Is Mine album, its ragga sound in counterpoint to its dense live instrumentation. Flabba Holt programmed some of those drum patterns, as well as providing bass for that set, but for the Milk and Honey album, he joined Brown in the production seat, while his band, the Roots Radics, laid down the sizzling backings, as they did for the Holt-produced Blood Brothers album. The extraordinarily prolific Brown released a number of weak sets during this same time period, but these excellent sets certainly weren't among them, and this compilation provides the perfect introduction to some of the best of the singer's later work.

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