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Don Man

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Album Review

By the early '90s, Frankie Paul may no longer have been the top-ranked singer in the dancehalls, but this was no reflection of the quality of the music he was recording during these years. The 1993 release Don Man is a case in point, a strong set that's dancehall-fired but soul-inspired. With Niney Holness in the producer's chair, inevitably the beats rule, and Sly Dunbar serves them up forcefully, while partner in crime Robbie Shakespeare sends out basslines with the pulsing throb of a heartbeat. Keyboardists Herbie Miller and Robbie Lyn conjure up strong melodies, heady atmospheres, and myriad moods out of the highly digitized proceedings, abetted by Lloyd "Gitsy" Willis' surprisingly delicate guitar work. More than half the set is given over to covers, running the gamut from Boyz II Men to Mary J. Bilge, but of the originals, the one-drop rhythms supporting the dread-fired "Ram Dance Hall," the culturally themed "Row the Boat," and the sufferer's "Recession" will fire up the roots fans, while the lusher R&B arrangement backing the slice-of-life "It Feels So Real" will thrill urban audiences. The covers are just as inspired, with Holness and company mixing up styles to dramatic effect, from the hint of steel drums that bop about "How I Care for You" to the bluesy guitar riff that licks around "End of the Road" and "Sexy Thing (You Got the Body)." Paul's performance on that latter song is so sultry that the disc virtually ignites under his incendiary tones. Agilely shifting from dancehall delivery to stirring, soulful performances, the singer stamps his imprimatur as heavily on the covers as the originals. Mixed down by Collin "Bulbie" York and Lynford "Fatta" Marshall, the entire album has a crispness of sound that defies the organic, rootsy feel conjured up even through the most digitized riddims. A superb set that proudly declares Paul's standing in the dancehalls hasn't been eclipsed just yet.


Born: 1965 in Jamaica

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Frankie Paul is often referred to as Jamaica's Stevie Wonder, and not just because of his visual impairment; like Wonder, he was a talented multi-instrumentalist with a tremendous vocal range. He was also extraordinarily prolific; part of the first wave of dancehall artists, he started his recording career in earnest during the early '80s, and has since flooded the market with product, releasing countless singles and well over 30 albums. That's made his career difficult to track for all but the most...
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Don Man, Frankie Paul
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