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Album Review

No Contest? Of course it wasn't. Everybody's a winner here on Dennis Brown and Gregory Isaacs' follow-up to Judge Not. Five years had passed in the interim; digitized rhythms now ruled the dancehalls, and few offered up such sizzling ones as Gussie Clarke, who oversaw both sets. And what made this new album particularly enticing is that appended the superb dub to each vocal track. The duo's "Big All Around" proved to be just that, as the pair pay tribute to the reign of the raggamuffins, and were rewarded with a dancehall smash, while the fiery dub incinerated all before it. Incidentally, Isaacs recorded a fine solo version of this number for Clarke this same year for his I.O.U. album, and then revived it in later years under the title "Raggamuffin."

The driving "Easy Life" is nearly as good, as the men test their girls' fidelity and the backing band steamroll across the rhythm. "Jealousy," another song that Isaacs would take solo, is equally intense, with an almost malevolent atmosphere licking around the grooves, while the duo strut their most impassioned vocals. "Why Cry" is more sophisticated but less infectious, yet still showcases the pair's emotive styles. Isaacs drew the short straw, and thus only receives two solo tracks, but the buoyant "Open Up" more than makes up for that, with a strong performance from the singer, backed by gorgeous rocksteady-esque harmonies. Brown, meanwhile, is at his most soulful on "I'll Make It Up to You," gives a timely warning of the dangers of club life on the disco-fied "Neon Lights Flashing," but is at his most powerful on the passionate "No Camouflage," where Clarke makes an old roots rhythm new, and vividly proves that ragga can be very dread indeed. It's a superb set, and between Clarke's inspired rhythms — laid down by the likes of the Browne brothers, Robbie Lyn and Dwight Pinkney, and the duo's superb performances, No Contest is a knock-out.

Top Albums and Songs by Gregory Isaacs & Dennis Brown

No Contest, Gregory Isaacs & Dennis Brown
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