Various Artists

Reggae Around the World [Putumayo]

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This isn't the first compilation to feature reggae musicians from around the world, but it's probably the best so far. You've got the usual suspects, including the South African superstar Lucky Dube and Majek Fashek from Nigeria, but there are little-known Sudanese, Australian and Brazilian artists as well, not to mention Peter Rowan, an American bluegrass singer whose version of "No Woman, No Cry" is nowhere near as bad as you'd have every right to expect. Lucky Dube's "We Love It" is utterly typical -- a gently rolling one-drop beat and a big, emotional melody that cuts right to the catharsis. No other reggae singer has so successfully written one song over and over; good thing it's such a great song. Blekbala Mujik is an aboriginal reggae band from Australia who play in a fairly aggressive but highly refined style and sing winningly in broken English. Jamaica is represented twice, once by the unsung guitar hero Ernest Ranglin and once by Burning Spear, whose "Jordan River" seems like an awfully obvious choice. Zeca Baleiro delivers brilliant Brazilian reggae, and there are similar delights to be found all over this fine collection. No track is less than acceptable, and a few are perfect.

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