Ras Portraits

by: Black Uhuru

Portraits culls a dozen tracks from Black Uhuru's two RAS albums, 1986's Brutal and the following year's Positive, and their dub companions, all cut during the most chaotic period in the group's career. The trio had survived a musical shift from deep roots reggae to a more electro-driven raga style, and even picked up a Grammy along the way. What was far more difficult to overcome, however, was the departure of founding member Michael Rose. Junior Reid was brought in and the new lineup signed to RAS, only for Puma Jones' serious health problems to force her departure after the recording of Brutal. She was replaced by Olafunke, with whom the group recorded Positive -- at which point Reid and Duckie Simpson fell out, and Black Uhuru fell apart. Little of these upheavals are noticeable on Portraits, which showcases the best of the band from this two-year period. The compilation pulls four of the strongest tracks from each of their two albums, and two apiece from the dub versions, including both album's title tracks, the hit singles "Fit You Haffe Fit" and "Great Train Robbery," and Arthur Baker's exhilarating remix "Robbery Dub." Black Uhuru's '70s roots output has always received the lion's share of attention by fans and critics alike. However, with the rise of dancehall and its crossover into hip-hop, the group's mid-'80s output is due for serious re-evaluation. Dance-friendly with great whooshing synths and those ever-perfect vocals combine for an enchanting blend of reggae wave. As an intro to this era, one couldn't do better than this. ~ Jo-Ann Greene

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