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Various Artists

18 Karat Reggae Gold 2020 (Topic)

By • Jul 12th, 2020 • Category: Album review

We may be moving into grumpy old man territory here, but surely there can be no musical genre that is missing its heyday more than reggae? Gone are the days where Steel Pulse and Misty In Roots ruled, when the Mad Professor mixed up future tech with classic beats, and Eek-A-Mouse and Yellowman battled for dancehall supremacy.

And while the likes of Lee Perry are still making innovative music, ’Scratch’ is surely the tip of a fast-diminishing iceberg, as watered-down music with the hint of an off-beat is the norm, though ironically having similar levels of chart success to UB40 in the early-mid 1980s.

So this compilation may provide a snapshot of where reggae is today. And while its attempts to recapture the poppy side of Jamaican music mainly follow the dancehall side with no real deviations towards dub, there’s plenty to like.

Fitzroy Face is a bit too pop for these ears, but you can sense that Rasta Progrez is truer to his roots with the dancehall-infused ‘Bloody Street’, which namechecks Bob Marley and Marcus Garvey.

Like all acts on the album, Mr. Bertus contributes a couple of tracks – ‘Ganja For Life’ is a daft take on Desmond Dekker’s ‘Israelites’, but he can do serious too with ‘Jah Make The Mountains’, which recalls Burning Spear, albeit with an impressive falsetto.

Melanie – not that one – offers a nice slice of lovers rock and soulful voice while deftly avoiding cheesy pop territory, while Cane Juice similarly seems pretty true to the genre with ‘Jah Is Watching’. And Stormy is again poppy, but that’s fine – in the Althea and Donna ballpark which can be no bad thing.

In all, reggae may not be the force it once was, but this is a collection that shows that there’s plenty left to investigate.

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