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Album Review

With "One Love Jam Down" and its live follow-up "We Need One Love," Michigan & Smiley proved that two DJs were just as adept at toasting over totally reinvented rhythms as they were tackling over-dubbed Studio One classics. It also hinted that they were keen to turn toward more cultural matters, and Downpression gave them the perfect opportunity to do so across a full-length album. In fact, this entire set is culturally themed as the two call forth the faithful to "Arise" and enlist in "Jah Army." "Living in Babylon" is hard and the "Ghetto Man" suffers the most, but the DJs sympathetically urge that "Natty Heng on in There," for even in times of "Downpression," reggae music will be there to offer up inspiration. Resolute in their faith, self-assured in their own abilities to overcome all obstacles, the two deliver up comfort, words of wisdom, well-reasoned thinking, and hope for the future through unity. But it was the spread of "Diseases" that gave the entire reggae world a fever, the DJs their biggest hit to date, and producer Henry "Junjo" Lawes his best-selling record as the two set about whipping trouser-wearing women with the likes of elephantiasis and other dread illnesses. Cut over a phenomenal version of Alton Ellis' "Mad Mad," the rhythm (which Lawes recycled on a myriad of occasions) went down in history as one of the most popular of the decade, and it continues to flare up today. That may have been the hit, but every rhythm on this set is equally memorable, boasting the Roots Radics at their best. Lawes and mixer Scientist, who with Solijie Hamilton shared the engineering duties, created a sound that the word awesome only begins to describe. On some numbers, the men hone in on the band's fine sense of melody, notably on "Come When Jah Call You," "Jah Know," and the title track, which feeds the DJs' own inherent tunefulness. Elsewhere, they strip the arrangement back to throbbing, deeply dubbed drums'n'bass that echo and pulse out of the speakers like a mortar-firing army, giving further force to the duo's powerful toasts. The album is an acknowledged masterpiece without a mediocre track within, a dramatic meeting of radical sound and vision that showcases every contributors' excellence.

Downpression, Papa Michigan & General Smiley
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