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Darker than Blue: Soul from Jamdown 1973-1980
Various Artists
Label: Blood and Fire



Jamaica: land of sun, tourism, and . . . soul music? I'm listening to a new CD from the British label Blood and Fire that highlights the soulful side of Jamaican music. Starting with a pure soul version of Boris Gardiner's "Ghetto Funk" with some sweet Hammond B-3 work by Leslie Butler, the CD then bends into more reggae-tinged soul such as Ken Booth's poignant cover of War's 1968 "Is It Because I'm Black?" Also included are covers of the Temptations' "Get Ready." Timmy Thomas's "Why Can't We Live Together," and Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine."

The track that made me laugh out loud, though, was the last song, listed as "Hotter Reggae Music" by Welton Irie. It's a slow, delightful dancehall adaptation of one of the most important and influential musical compositions of modern times. I'm speaking, of course, of the Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight." Darker Than Blue is one of those surprising releases that you may hear on KAOS's world, reggae, soul, and eclectic shows, and it's worth a listen both for the retooling of soul classics, and for a look into a lesser-known aspect of Jamaica's musical history.

©Scott Stevens--9/1//01

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