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Hail Up Taxi, Vol. 3

Sly & Robbie

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Album Review

Drummer Sly Dunbar and bassist Robbie Shakespeare deserve their status as legends of modern reggae; as session players and producers they are either fully or partially responsible for some of the most powerful and enduring pop music of the last 30 years. That said, the compilation albums they've produced under their own names have been wildly erratic in quality, ranging from essential to unlistenable. So any rational reggae fan will approach this album with some trepidation. No need to fear, however; this is one of the very good ones. Featuring a tough, hip-hop-inflected dancehall sound that avoids the extremes of that genre and a winning array of A-list vocalists, Hail Up the Taxi, Vol. 2 is an almost unmitigated triumph. Two tracks fail to impress: on a desperately ill-advised version of "Night Nurse," Simply Red vocalist Mick Hucknall shows that it takes much more than a good voice to make a good Gregory Isaacs song; on the generic and enervated "Rub a Dub," Dennis Brown demonstrates how depressingly far the Crown Prince of Reggae's crown had slipped by the late '90s. But the covers of disco and soul classics like "We Are Family" and Hall & Oates' "One on One" are much more fun to listen to, while Yami Bolo brings the consciousness on an expert update of "Is It Because I'm Black" and Beenie Man does the same with the insanely swinging "Fed Up." There's even a dancehall version of "Copacabana." Recommended.

Hail Up Taxi, Vol. 3, Sly & Robbie
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