U-Roy

Serious Matter

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In a way, U-Roy has come full circle. The DJ started off interjecting his own comments between the vocal lines of classic songs in virtual duets, but quickly the original vocals all but disappeared. Now, however, they're back with a vengeance; in fact, every song within is credited as a duet, even one that's actually an instrumental! And so Serious Matter finds U-Roy returning to the sound system days of yore, singing along with the original vocals, playing off the lyrics, and sharing his utter delight about the tracks with the listener. And it's easy to be swept up with him, as he swings along to 17 classic recordings from such stars as Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, Horace Andy, and Jimmy London. An equally impressive roster of musicians accompanies the DJ, the elite of Jamaica's session men. This large host creates an ever-shifting rootsy backdrop that shimmers from haunting to celebratory, reinvigorating all of the songs. Although U-Roy's work in the 1990s had its moments, nothing remotely equaled his previous work with Tony Robinson or his earliest efforts with Duke Reid. But to move forward, the DJ has had to take two steps backwards, retrieving the evocative rootsy sound from Robinson and rediscovering his initial love of connecting to the listener through the original songs. This reaches an apex on "Same Vibe," a deliriously joyous version of Israel Vibration's "Same Song." You can almost hear U-Roy grinning throughout. Equally notable is a powerful "Money" with Horace Andy, an exuberant "Miss Till I Kiss" with Jimmy London, and a rousing "Night Nurse" over a version featuring Isaacs and Dennis Brown. But, in truth, every single track is a sheer delight. It's been decades since U-Roy has sounded so relaxed and cheerful, and it's obvious that he enjoyed himself thoroughly during the recording session. That feeling is absolutely contagious.

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