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Gunman *
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  • Originally issued on LP in 1981, this is a long-overlooked classic of late roots reggae featuring a very good singer backed by one of the best studio bands of all time -- the mighty Roots Radics -- and mixed by the young dubmaster Scientist at King Tubby's studio. Like many of his colleagues, Michael Prophet had vocal skill that far outstripped his lyrical originality; even in a genre with a high tolerance for clich‚, songs like "Hold on to What You Got" and "Love and Unity" come across on this album as unusually hackneyed. But the heavyweight rhythm section of drummer Style Scott and bassist Flabba Holt give the songs all the ballast they need, and in a couple of cases (notably "Hold on to What You Got"), Scientist makes the wise choice of dropping Prophet's vocal out early on in the song and filling the remaining space with expert dubwise effects. But on most tracks the balance between vocal quality, lyrical invention, and elephantine beats is perfect. Highlights include the brilliant (and chart-topping, at the time) "Gunman," the incisive "Guide and Protect You" (which features one of the album's wickedest basslines) and the equally fine "Upside Down." The four 12" remixes that fill out the end of the program are a very nice bonus, though it's too bad the songs' dubwise extensions don't include any scraps of vocal. ~ Rick Anderson
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