Amp Fiddler / Sly and Robbie Inspiration Information

How about a different kind of retro soul? Whereas the strip-mining of the ’60s continues unabated, Amp Fiddler and Sly and Robbie reference but never imitate subsequent decades on one of the freshest soul albums this year. This is the first release in Strut Records’ Inspiration Information series and this album’s feel is certainly reminiscent of Shuggie Otis’s original album of the same name. The stoned, easy listening soul of Otis’s disc is reflected in tracks like "Drama,” which feel slightly Latin thanks to Robbie’s unusual bass line. There are nods to Dunbar’s contemporary dancehall and of course, numerous references to Sly and Robbie’s bionic reggae heyday of the early ’80s. The album’s highlight, and one of the best tracks I’ve heard this year, is "Lonely,” which ranks with any work they’d done at their peak. Fiddler’s subtle, ambient keyboard work is another plus. This is a fascinating Caribbean-American sound, and while the highlights put some of the other tunes in lesser relief, it’s one of the best soul records of the year. (Strut)