After several productive years on the Shanachie label, which resulted most recently in 2002's very fine Soul Taker album, Lucky Dube jumped to Heartbeat in 2003 and promptly released The Other Side, demonstrating yet again how utterly resistant to change his sound is regardless of what label he records for. The elements of that sound are, once again: big, emotional melodies that usually open with a dramatic swoop into the falsetto stratosphere and then fall pentatonically downward; lots of Hammond B-3 organ; and an almost exclusive focus on slow, churning Afro-roots grooves and ridiculously ripe and fulsome chord progressions. And, of course, Dube's voice, which is one of the most attractive in all of reggae music. Because he's African instead of Jamaican, Dube's lyrical themes sometimes depart just a bit from the reggae norm: on "Number in the Book," for example, he encourages sexual responsibility in light of his continent's AIDS epidemic; "Soldier" deals with the psychological impact of war (rather than simply blaming war on Babylon and being done with it); and "Cool Down" is an unusually subtle portrait of a troubled marriage. Musically obvious he may be, but there are other kinds of depth to Lucky Dube's art. Recommended.
The Other Side Review
by Rick Anderson