A reggae singer can only ride an endorsement from Bob Marley for so long. And though Ras Michael's new CD has his endorsement -- "He's a roots master and a Nyabinghi specialist. He tells you as it is." -- plastered on the front of his new disc, Michael has needed little more than his own particular brand of excellence for the past four decades. Highly underregarded outside of traditional reggae circles -- the Nyabinghi style is a luscious, organic combination of Old World (read: Africa) percussion, reggae rhythms and a heavy dependence on chanted harmonies -- Ras Michael (and his "Sons of Negus" group) are little less than legendary among fans of the genre. His holistic influence on a genre that occasionally flirted with the corruption of "Babylon" has been pure and consistent, and this new album is a strong addition to the canon. The influence of gospel and blues seeps into several cuts (and occasional synth lines and electronic drums are somewhat distracting), but it's still a pure sound that emerges. Assistance from Sly & Robbie and a similarly underappreciated legend, Earl "Chinna" Smith, only accentuates the positivity.
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