by: Maxi Priest

Few artists have explored the possibilities of pop-reggae fusion as successfully as Maxi Priest, who is enormously popular in his native Britain and has achieved a level of stateside success that other reggae artists (with the exception of UB40) can only wish for. His smooth voice and his comfort with soul and hip-hop have only increased his marketability; purists may scoff, but there's no denying his talent. CombiNation finds him working in an explicitly soul-influenced style -- "What a Woman Needs" and "Wasn't Meant to Be" are seductive smooth groove ballads that have no noticeable connection to any reggae tradition -- with frequent detours into muscular hip-hop and dancehall grooves. "Mary's Got a Baby" is a monstrously funky collaboration with Beenie Man (a stripped-down remix ends the album); "Tell Your Man to Take a Walk" takes a similar approach, this time in partnership with the DJ Red Rat. Slow love songs predominate, although they don't provide most of the album's highlights. Recommended. ~ Rick Anderson

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