Ghetto Priest

Vulture Culture

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Ghetto Priest is not yet a household name in the United States, but on the U.K. reggae and underground scenes he is something of a hot commodity, guesting on albums by Asian Dub Foundation, Groove Armada, Little Axe, and Sinéad O'Connor, serving as MC for Adrian Maxwell Sherwood's On-U Sound label, and performing as a permanent member of African Head Charge's live lineup. On his solo debut, Vulture Culture, many of these artists return the favor, contributing instrumental and vocal parts to a wildly varied but deeply rootsy modern reggae program. The album opens with a muscular remake of the Singers & Players' classic "Dungeon," on which the original one-drop rhythm is replaced by a powerful funk beat even as the late Prince Far I's chanted vocal is resurrected to accompany Ghetto Priest's mellifluous singing. Things bog down a bit on the pedestrian "Masters of Deception," which sounds like Strange Parcels on an off day, but they quickly pick up again with the dark and rootsy "Dry Bone" (which incorporates some fine rockstone toasting from Simon Bogle). Several of the album's finest tracks feature Irish chatter. Ri Ra, whose speed-rap performance on "Show Them" is especially inspired, also brings traditional Celtic influences to "Visionary" and "Rise Up." All in all, Vulture Culture is a welcome return to form for the On-U Sound label, and an equally welcome debut from a major young talent. Highly recommended.

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