Chuck Fenda

The Living Fire

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Chuck Fenda is one of the more gifted vocalists on the conscious-dancehall scene these days, and if he shares with his Bobo Dread brethren a certain degree of sometimes abrasive self-righteousness, it can be forgiven on the basis of his fine songs and powerful delivery. That said, there's no excuse for the self-indulgent fake "interview" that opens this album or his dreadfully off-pitch delivery on "World Need Love" and "Put It on Me" -- nor is his voice quite up to the extra exposure it gets on the acoustic number "Child of the Universe" (and if guest singer Tanya Stephens is going to compare herself to Jesus Christ, she should probably learn how to pronounce "Gethsemane"). But those four missteps are surrounded by some unusually compelling fare, including the powerfully churning "Gash Dem," the dark and heavyweight "Freedom of Speech," and "Judgement," a richly dubwise rhythm over which he toasts incisively. His combination track with Richie Spice features some very nice nyahbinghi drumming, and the environmental anthem "Mother Earth" features some great horn writing. Highly recommended overall.

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