Ranking Joe

Zion High

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

Blood and Fire is a first-class operation through and through. From packaging to sound quality to artist and track selections, you know if you are buying a Blood and Fire reissue you are going to end up with a solid chunk of top-rank reggae. This disc is no exception to the rule. Zion High is built around underrated DJ Ranking Joe's 1980 album Round the World, which originally came out on Ital. That album was recorded at King Tubby's studio and produced by reggae legend Dennis Brown and his work was very strong, with pounding dub rhythms and jagged stabs of horns and loads of echo providing a perfect platform for Ranking Joe's toasts. Joe has a tongue-twisting style that leaps out of the speakers like Muhammad Ali at his prime, dodging and darting like a butterfly. Joe says in the liner notes that it took only two hours for him to record the vocals on the record; he stripped off his shirt and went at the toasts like he was playing a sound system show. He certainly sounds full of vim and vigor, and his cuts are some of the more energetic DJ work one is liable to hear. The ten songs that made up Round the World are augmented here by the original vocal tracks from which the album versions were taken: two by a very young Black Uhuru and three by Dennis Brown himself, including a very powerful version of the Wailers' "Slave Driver." The album flows very well and the addition of the vocal tracks works like a charm. Zion High is a treat for fans of DJs and is currently the only way (on CD) to hear Ranking Joe in his prime.

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