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Conscious Voice

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A gambler would probably put money on these songs coming from earlier in Junior Kelly's career than the polished, profile-elevating Love So Nice. Conscious Voice may well be a collection of earlier singles geared to Kelly's roots reggae, Jamaican dancehall audience, since the sound is rougher, and the number of producers involved literally hits the double digits. The lack of musician credits and track info is irritating, particularly when the opening testament of faith, "Push A Fire," is built around the interplay between singers, with Kelly (one assumes) doing rough-edged rapping. Some of the tracks sound almost retro with the prominent organ. The buoyant "Burn Down Rome" continues in the same barebones rhythm-track-vein, and "What A Worries" boasts much of the bassline and general flavor of Bob Marley & the Wailers' "Hearthen" (the remix is even sparer with prominent percussion).

"God Bless" gets an unusual, almost loping feel with its guitar melody, nice soaring organ (again), and turntable scratches, while horn blats and jabbing piano push "Come One Day." "Word Power" is really strong with guitar fills, a strong lurching hook, and drum machine, and Kelly heads towards the electronica tip on "Can't OK," and a radically revised, threatening version of "Love So Nice." "Jah Live On" is a buoyant mid-tempo testament in the "Jah No Dead" vein, with the female backing vocals that also mark the smoother reggae/R&B ballad sound of "Please Remember."

Kelly is in singjay mode quite frequently. At times, his voice seems unnecessarily overwrought and breathless, and many tracks kinda fade out in weird spots. But he mixes up his varied vocal approaches well, and the squad of producers ensures that horns and old-school organ rub up against drum machines here, and that dub production touches show up there, and this keeps the musical side pretty stimulating. Love So Nice probably remains the best introduction to Kelly, but Conscious Voice has much to recommend it, especially for those who like their reggae Jamaican flavored.

Conscious Voice, Junior Kelly
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