Chill Out

by: Black Uhuru

Arguably the best of Black Uhuru's electrofied albums, even if its predecessor Red was the bigger sell, Chill Out is a seminal blend of styles and cultures. Produced by Sly & Robbie at Channel One Studio in Jamaica, and again backed by the Revolutionaries, ironically the album's greatest beneficiaries were the Riddim Twins, who were rocketed to international fame upon this record's release. They deserved it though, and Chill Out remains as much a tribute to their talent as the vocal trio's. Shakespeare lays down the sinuous bass which provides the foundation for the record's rootsy sound. The four guitarists, three leads, plus Ranchie McLean's reggae riffing, flit across the grooves and genres, touching down on funk, blues, R&B, and rock along the way. The pianists and Wally Badarou's synth add atmosphere, with Dunbar's heavy beats, combining drums with electro syndrums, add a throbbing pulse to the proceedings. The sound is extremely dense, but the producers still found plenty of space for Black Uhuru's sublime vocals. Over, under, and around the band, the electronic effects whoosh, pulling the album from its island roots, and planting it firmly in an international environment. This is most notable on the title track, which blends rootsy rhythms with a dance beat, and urban stylings with a tinge of world music. "Darkness" is an equally adept meld of roots with new wave touches. If the album's A-side is weighted more towards the crossover crowd, the flip is rootsier in orientation, even if it, too, is awash in electronics. Several of the songs, minus the studio wizardry, would slot nicely into the group's late-'70s repertoire, particularly "Mondays" and "Wicked Act." The most affecting and effective track, however, is the ghetto misery of "Emotional Slaughter," which Sly & Robbie sympathetically arrange as a showcase for Michael Rose's superbly heartfelt vocal performance. On Chill Out, the vocalists, band, and producers came together as one, and created more than a masterpiece; the album remains a stunning legacy for all involved. ~ Jo-Ann Greene

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