Buju Banton

Rasta Got Soul

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An instant classic released out of order, Rasta Got Soul could have been Buju Banton's 2004 album if an arrest for ganja possession hadn't sent the singer into exile. While the great "Magic City" single previewed the album during this time, two years later the more contemporary effort, Too Bad, arrived and what was rumored to be an awesome album seemed lost forever. One listen to 2009's final product and it's obvious the rumors were true, but it also suggests that Banton was hedging his bets after some time off and launched Too Bad instead to make sure the fast-living Jamaican youths came back to the Gargamel fold. Rasta Got Soul is mature, almost a throwback effort with plenty of horns, plenty of references to the Rastafarian lifestyle, and songwriting on the level of 'Til Shiloh, his 1995 masterpiece. "Bedtime Story" is a heart-wrenching story of abandoned children that delivers its message perfectly, while "A Little Bit of Sorry" reclaims ska for the Island of Jamaica as the lyrics deceptively persuade the big-headed masses to tone down their egos. Anyone spiritually lost at sea will be done right by the comforting "Optimistic Soul," one of the many numbers here that finds an especially positive Buju being sweet but not sugary. That blunder is saved for the cheeseball instrumentation on "Mary," which starts off with a doo wop intro and then goes downhill with a fake, synthetic string section. If it's Buju being whimsical, he should really give a wink, but it's a small complaint on an album that makes one wonder what other treasures are locked in the Gargamel vault. Beyond recommended, this one is vital.

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