Luciano

United States of Africa

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AllMusic Review by

It seems like every time you turn around, there's another soulful roots reggae singer being touted as the Next Bob Marley. In the case of Luciano, the claim makes more sense than most; it's not that he imitates Marley in any significant way, but he fulfills a similar spiritual and political function in reggae music, safeguarding its conscience while looking and moving forward. It doesn't hurt that Luciano has a world-class singing voice, but what gives him depth is the fact that he doesn't seem to be in love with his voice; instead he's in love with Jah, and with mankind, and with reggae music. And he's been blessed with producers who get it, the latest of whom is Frenchie, who co-wrote most of these songs and organized top-notch studio accompaniment (Sly & Robbie, Mafia & Fluxie, Dalton Brownie, the Supersonics, etc.) to set off Luciano's golden voice and heartfelt lyrics to maximum effect. On United States of Africa, it's the album's richly anthemic title track that immediately establishes Luciano's claim to the international reggae throne, and he then consolidates that claim with the ska-inflected groove of "Moving On," the steppers anthem "Murder and Thief," and the simple but brilliantly hook-laden "King of Kings." His hold on the scepter weakens slightly with the pleasant but pedestrian "Nubian Queen" and the album's closing track, a political combination number with deejay Fantan Mojah that feels awkwardly out of place. But he never loses hold of it altogether, and the strength of this album's finest tracks is more than enough to make the whole thing a richly rewarding listen and another triumph for roots reggae's current royalty.

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