Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Power of the Trinity: Great Moments in Reggae Harmony [Shanachie, 1997]
Dancehall having relegated all classic reggae beyond Marley and the early dubmasters to the realm of specialist arcana, a concept that might have seemed obvious a decade ago now comes as essential pedagogy. Culture's Joseph Hill aside, not one of the leaders here commands a drop-dead voice, but whether they make themselves felt like the Itals' Keith Porter or remain as obscure as Israel Vibration's Skelly Spence, all find strength in unity. Nowhere else will you encounter the tragic intensity of the best of these tunes--and beyond Culture, whose Two Sevens Clash is an essential piece of popular music, the Wailing Souls' "War," the Mighty Diamonds' "Right Time," and the Congos' "Row Fisherman" are touchstones. The devotional aura is without parallel even in gospel or mbaqanga, both of which are far more upful, as Jamaicans used to say. It's the sound of conscious alienation, a pervasive longing for the motherland accessible to anybody who longs for anything--justice, or the chance to say goodbye one more time. A-