One Way Ticket

by: Luciano

Upon its release in 1995, Luciano's One Way Ticket was lauded by many reviewers as the album of the year, but with time it became evident that didn't quite do the set justice; in fact, it was one of the greatest albums of the decade. It wasn't just that there wasn't a single subpar track on this set, but that there wasn't a less than great track within. If One Way Ticket had been released by a major label, inevitably the pounding, funky soul powerhouse "Iah" would have opened the set, but producer Philip "Fatis" Burrell knew better. The storming rhythm and Luciano's formidable performance is so far removed from the rest of the set that it would have sunk the remainder with one chorus. Instead, Burrell wisely closed the album with it, and opened with a clutch of Jamaican hit singles. This includes the jubilant title track itself, wherein Luciano demands a ticket to take him home to Africa. "Black Survivors" is also a celebration of a sort, which acknowledges the sheer endurance of a people ripped from their roots and forced first into slavery, then left to rot in poverty. By God's grace blacks endured, and on "Give Thanks" Luciano does precisely that, proclaiming Jah's glory with a gorgeous, heartfelt psalm of praise. So deep is his faith that the singer has no doubts that "Jah Is Alive," and joins forces with DJ Charlie Chaplin to proclaim this fact on another stellar number. "Nature Boy" discusses Luciano's own conversion, and having learned that life is "more than silver and gold," the singer is determined to "Turn Your Life Around" and will always be there to "Throw Out the Life Line" to those in need. These first two are particularly strong numbers, the first delivered up in rootsy fashion, the second sending a conga line snaking salvation through the African savanna. With the rhythms laid down by Sly Dunbar, Donald Dennis, Dean Fraser, and founding Inner Circle member Cat Coore, the backings are superb, and Burrell ensures that the sound is diverse and accessible, but dancehall friendly. The haunting guitar lines create evocative atmospheres on rootsier numbers like "Black Survivors," "Nature Boy," and "Jah Is Alive." Keyboard riffs drive the upbeat "Chant Down Babylon," sparkle across the bouncy "One Way Ticket," burble angrily over the militant "Mr. Governor," wherein Luciano joins forces with Cocoa Tea for a sweet plea to have mercy on the sufferers, and reverberate on "Ragamuffin," another hit bundled up onto the set. Fraser's sax also shines on the fabulous ragga-fied "Ragamuffin," lighting up much of this album, and positively soaring across "Bounty Lover," a surprise track on this otherwise cultural set. Here, Luciano plays the coolest operator with Lady G., gallantly allowing the feminist-friendly DJ to tartly put his oh so smooth roaming Romeo right in his place. Another deserved hit. Indeed, every song within deserves special attention, and Luciano's performances are superb throughout -- heartfelt, rousing, introspective, instructive, ebullient, and exuberant in turn. The band is top-notch, and Burrell at his most inspired. Not just a classic album, One Way Ticket is a masterpiece. ~ Jo-Ann Greene

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