Junior Reid

Visa

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Initially released in the U.K. in 1993 on the Greensleeves label, Visa was picked up for the U.S. by the RAS label the following, a welcome arrival for Junior Reid fans. Bundled within its 14 numbers (with the U.S. CD adding three more bonus tracks) was a handful of Jamaica-only singles, including the massive 1992 hit "All Fruits Ripe." While none of the other 45s would have quite the impact of that lethal number, all were popular in the dancehalls and deservedly so. The bullets fly on "Gun Court," a terrifying look inside the Jamaican justice system, "Friend Enemy" shoots down back stabbers, while "Hospital, Cemetery or Jail" is a powerful assault on the island's political realm. It's a corrosive environment, and particularly destructive to the young, a theme that Reid returns to on a number of occasions. "Youth Man" confronts it head on, vividly retracing the steps that leads one Jamaican teen to murder; "No Loafting" is an equally potent defense of the young poor, too often dismissed as mere loafers, while on the remix of "Cry Now," DJs Gringo Ranks and Johnny Thermos offer up vignettes of youngsters consigned to lives of misery and impoverishment in the shadows of luxury, Reid's original was more expansive, an overview of the horrors of the modern world. Now if "Dreadlocks in the White House" stayed put, rather than just visiting, the world might have a chance.

Elsewhere, the dancehall is given equally scathing treatment on "Dance Nah Keep," where the toaster is joined by Dennis Brown. The singer reappears with Gregory Isaacs on the stellar "It's Not a One Man Thing," a song which also appears on both men's own solo albums. That number's positive vibe is matched by "International Year of the Chalice,"; those are the only two upbeat numbers on the set. Self-produced and accompanied by cutting-edge rhythms, Visa was a spectacular set, one of Reid's best, a true cultural dancehall classic.

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