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Various Artists

When Rhythm Was King

(Heartbeat Records; US: 11 Sep 2007; UK: 22 Oct 2007)

When you listen to typical hardcore Rastafarian reggae music, the point is made clear—over and over again—that Haile Selassie I is king. In fact, true Rastas believe this former Emperor of Ethiopia is God incarnate. But this 18-song collection of Studio One recordings praises another king—the sound of drum and bass. Although Ernest Wilson’s “Why Oh Why” mourns senseless killings along Jamaica’s mean streets, the majority of these tracks focus on love and romance. There’s even a nod to Bruce Lee’s influence on the ‘70s scene with Dillinger’s “Natty Kung Fu”. Many of these artist’s names will be new to casual reggae fans, although The Heptones, The Wailing Souls, and Sugar Minott all make appearances. Nevertheless, there’s a lot of fine playing and singing throughout this collection that will have you skanking around the living room for hours. And the singing on tracks like Basil Daley’s “Hold on Baby” is also superb. Long live the rhythm king!

Rating:

Dan MacIntosh is a freelance writer from Bellflower, California,


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