Chris Murray


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Chris Murray's albums are turning into an exercise in frustration. Not because the material isn't great -- in fact, it's amazingly consistent in its very high quality. Murray has an incredible ability to write ska, reggae, and rocksteady songs that sound like they bubbled up from the steaming streets of 1960s Jamaica, and he sings them in a wonderfully rich and confident voice. The problem is that his solo albums have all followed in the lo-fi footsteps of Four-Track Adventures of Venice Shoreline Chris, his solo debut (which consisted entirely of homemade demos recorded on a crappy four-track cassette recorder). This means that Murray's brilliant songs and great voice are all but buried under background noise, tape hiss, and microphone distortion. Raw takes that practice to its logical conclusion, and actually consists of tracks recorded on a handheld Walkman. Yet the album is so filled with irresistible musical pleasures that there's simply no way to give it anything less than a rating of "excellent." From the melancholy bounce of "Home" ("I want to go home, but home has gone away") to the live rendition of "Rock Steady" (previously recorded on Four-Track Adventures) that closes the album, Murray's melodic gift will have the most snobbish audiophile nodding and foot-tapping along. And hoping that someday he'll see his way clear to giving these songs the full-band arrangements and production quality they deserve.

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