At the Foot of the Mountain

by: Dennis Brown

Far from your typical Dennis Brown compilation, this 21-track set eschews all the much lamented late singer's best-known hits in favor of many of his lesser-known numbers. Culled almost exclusively from recordings done in the '80s and '90s, At the Foot of the Mountain features originals as well as a plethora of covers, including remodels of some of his own hits. The latter includes a re-cut of Brown's roots classic "Africa We Want to Go," and although the singer is still emotive, the song lacks both the militancy and yearning impatience that made the original so unforgettable. Brown re-cut this masterpiece on a number of occasions over the years, sadly, this was one of the least successful. His covers of other artists' hits, in contrast, are delightful, whether the singer is tackling the Beatles' "I'll Be Back" or Broadway's "Beautiful Morning," the results are sublime. Brown beautifully interprets a coterie of Jamaican masterpieces as well -- John Holt's "A Love I Can Feel," Ken Boothe's "Moving Away," Bob Marley's "Rainbow Country," Delroy Wilson's "Rain from the Sky," all are superbly delivered, with backings that can't beat the originals, but give them all enchanting modern make-overs. But not all the covers are grand slams, there's just no good way to reggae fy Procol Harem's rock standard "Whiter Shade of Pale," while even the mighty Brown can't salvage Minnie Riperton's twittering "Loving You." Much stronger material can be found among the singer's own compositions, like "Joy in the Morning" and "Come on Over," both cut for Prince Jammy in the mid-'80s, or "Say What You Say" recorded with the Mighty Two in 1978, and one of the only roots-era numbers to be found on this set. Brown's emotive vocals are showcased throughout this album, but roots fans will probably quickly lose interest with the perky reggae backings that have defined the dancehalls since then. But pure ragga is avoided, and there's plenty of hefty bass lines and incandescent keyboards to keep up interest. Not a definitive set of Brown's work by any means, but it does gather up many lesser, recycled recordings and throws a spotlight onto the singer's later years. ~ Jo-Ann Greene

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