Wayne Smith

Under Me Sleng Teng

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One-hit wonders are no more unusual in reggae than in any other genre of popular music, but rarely has a reggae artist made such a huge splash with a single and then failed so utterly to follow it up with anything notable as Wayne Smith did with his classic "Under Me Sleng Teng." Built on a pre-set drum track and bassline that he and a friend had discovered on a cheap Casio keyboard in 1985, the "Sleng Teng" rhythm ushered in the "digital" age of dancehall reggae, made producer Prince Jammy's fortune, and changed the face of reggae music forever; the rhythm was popular enough to spawn literally hundreds of versions and imitations, and it continues to be used as a standard backing track for reggae deejays more than twenty years after its original release. Unfortunately, and perhaps inevitably, the rest of the album fails to maintain the momentum of the single; "Icky All Over" continues the horticultural theme to the accompaniment of a much less compelling digital rhythm, and "E20" develops a mild sufferer's theme over a bland approximation of the "Sleng Teng" rhythm. "Walk Like Granny" and "Hard to Believe" bring the energy level up significantly, thanks largely to a fine Cleveland "Clevie" Browne and Wycliffe "Steely" Johnson rhythm in the latter case, but overall the rest of the album is pleasant but unremarkable. Recommended overall as an essential document in reggae history. [A remastered reissue of the album adds a moderately interesting dub version and appends a superfluous remix at the end.]

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