There's a crisis in reggae music right now, and it has nothing to do with political turmoil in Jamaica or the woes of the record industry or a declining audience. It has to do with pitch. If the evidence of the last few years is anything to go on, then there's not a single man under the age of 25 in Jamaica who is capable of hitting his notes. This is a non-issue for dancehall DJs, but for the growing cohort of roots-and-culture revivalists it's a real problem. Witness the debut album from Fyah Blaze, an up-and-comer on the conscious dancehall scene who is gifted with a powerful voice, a great sense of melody, and a creative lyrical bent, but who sings about half of the songs on the program a good quarter-tone flat. If that sounds like academic quibbling, try this experiment: listen to his performance on "Firm Inna Dis" (a brilliant song built on Jackie Mittoo's classic "Darker Shade of Black" rhythm), and compare it to his singing on "Are You Ready," a less exciting song. The latter is actually more effective, because you're not constantly wincing at the fact that he's consistently out of tune. On "Empress Amazing" and "Keep It Burning," the problem is even worse. The problem here isn't talent or material; it's discipline, and a few sessions with a vocal coach would make a world of difference. In the meantime, chalk the debut up to unrealized potential.
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AllMusic Review by Rick Anderson
feat: Ryan Carline