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Crucial Reggae

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Album Review

The rhythm section of drummer Sly Dunbar and bassist Robbie Shakespeare may have had a larger impact on the sound and direction of Jamaica's music than even the charismatic Bob Marley imparted. The so-called "Rhythm Twins" have had a hand in constructing over 200,000 sides and counting since they began playing together in 1975, an astounding number that is made even more amazing by the sheer high quality and steadiness of the duo's playing. Sly & Robbie lock in place like few rhythm sections before or since, but they also have shown a solid flair for studio production as well, and it's virtually impossible to imagine contemporary Jamaican music without them. This even dozen tracks drawn from sessions held between 1978 and 1985 with the likes of Gregory Isaacs and Linval Thompson (the final track, "Stepping out a Space," a Mad Professor production, is from 2003) is of course just an eyelash's length sample of the duo's output, but it illustrates perfectly their professional and frequently brilliant exactness and ends up being a pretty darn good dub album for good measure. In spite of being drawn from various sessions and sources, it sounds like a seamless and ever changing dub suite that includes highlights like the perky "Rock Me in Dub," the sparkling yet just slightly ominous "Revolution Dub," and the set closer, "Stepping out a Space," which sounds like a cosmic stone skipping out into the vastness of the universe as if it were lifting off from the calm surface of a lake. Bright, clear and wonderfully ever-changing and definitely late-night trippy, these dubs may not be crucial, as the title states, but they sure as hell feel and sound pretty cool, and the coolest thing is that there's a whole lot more from where these tracks came from since Sly & Robbie appear to have never taken so much as a nap or a coffee break in some thirty years.

Crucial Reggae, Sly & Robbie
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