Sly & Robbie

The Summit

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Exhibit one in the case decrying the digital age and the rise of ragga, Sly & Robbie got stuffed by roots critics when they unleashed this instrumental set in 1988. Those tiresome programmed beats, the oh so tedious rhythms, the soul-less feel of the tracks, the lack of imagination -- the whining went on and on. Well, if they hated The Summit you can imagine what they thought of the riddims that ruled the '90s. Well, actually you don't have to imagine, since those critics all made their distaste clear. In truth, there's some justification for their complaints, however. By the Riddim Twins' own standards, The Summit's rhythms are surprisingly lacking in the pair's usual inspiration, and indeed are pretty samey. Plus there is a robotic feel to the entire set, which in itself isn't a bad thing, but the duo usually cut it with some other interesting elements and atmospheres. They don't here. But to call this set soul-less is unfair, not with the ominous undercurrents running through "Spy vs. Spy" nor with the breezy aura that bubbles across "Super Cool." "First Light" boasts a distinctive joie de vivre twinned with a space-age feel, and "All Aboard" is a defiant stomp and a tinge of Euro-sound that suggests this train is bound for continental clubs. Still, this is not Taxi's best work, but it is a showcase for keyboardist Robbie Lynn, who adds the interest, moods, and musical excitement to what would otherwise be a pretty bland set. Check out his cleverly shifting styles on "My Turf," the bluesy ersatz brass colliding with a touch of the East, and a lasso of the West, all set to a one-drop rhythm. So, not Sly & Robbie's apex, but certainly a new height for Lynn.

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