Second Coming

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The second album from this Chilean reggae band is a surprisingly strong example of modern roots reggae -- not surprising so much because the band is Chilean, but because when a modern band sets out to recreate this faithfully the sound of 1970s-era reggae, the result is often stilted and unnatural. And, yes, it is a bit surprising that a band so far removed from the culture in which reggae grew and developed is able to recreate that sound as well as this one does; no more than a small handful of American, British, or African bands have succeeded completely in that effort. But there's far more to appreciate here than the faithful reproduction of a vintage sound. Gondwana is a band triply blessed in its singer, its horn section, and its songwriting ability. On a 12-song program, only the overlong Nyahbingi anthem "Libertad" is less than hummable; not only do these songs move the body, they stick in the head. "Keep the Faith" features a monstrously hooky horn line and a sweet melody with lyrics that alternate between Spanish and English; "Antonia" is a hugely winning ode to the drummer's infant daughter; "Libros Sagrados," one of the few songs on the album that betrays a regional influence, is a very dread minor-key exposition on the importance of scripture. Fans of roots reggae might find the Dr. Dread/Jim Fox production just a bit too slick and clean, but it's hard to imagine such listeners ultimately being able to resist this album's many charms.

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