Various Artists

To the King

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Those familiar with America's foremost Christian reggae label will know just what to expect from this compilation: hard-as-nails dancehall beats leavened with the occasional rootswise one-drop groove or laid-back lovers anthem, all of it accompanied by joyful praise lyrics or solemn calls to repentance. Some reggae fans will know immediately that this is not for them, but those who don't mind a Christian twist on reggae's traditional preachiness will find themselves skanking happily along to the exuberant ska groove of "Everything" by Youth Exodus, or the ragamuffin riddims of Tika & Gitta (who are wisely given space for two tracks, "Hail! Hail!" and "Forever You Shall Be"), or Sherwin Gardner's rootsy "I Worship You." There's even an instrumental number, a melodica showcase titled "A Way in the Wilderness," played in an explicit homage to Augustus Pablo's "Far East" sound by Solomon Jabby. On the downside is the boring and bland "Things Happen for a Reason" by Todah & Melchizedek Order, which isn't even reggae. That's one bum track and 15 good-to-great ones -- not a bad batting average.