Book of Life

by: I Wayne

At a time when dancehall dominates the reggae charts and singers and deejays alike tend to favor a harsh and gruff vocal delivery, I Wayne harks back to the days of sweet-voiced tenors like Johnny Clarke and Cornel Campbell. His lyrical subject matter is similarly old-school, and he focuses on roots-and-culture concerns in a mostly upbeat and hopeful style. His second album features rhythms in a variety of styles, and finds him paired with a nice assortment of deejays -- most of them impressive (note in particular Icoflamez's excellent performance on the one-drop anthem "Annihilation") and a few of them less so (in particular the awful Iniball on "Could a Never"). Unlike some modern reggae artists, I Wayne is actually at his best when he focuses on the reggae verities and steers clear of experimentation; the lovely "Free the People" makes excellent use of a vintage reggae rhythm, and the album's highlight is a bouncy combination track with Deva Brat on which both singer and deejay dance lightly over a tense high-tempo rocker's beat. When he explores funky non- reggae sounds, as on the album-closing "Natural Ites," the results are less compelling. Recommended overall. ~ Rick Anderson

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