Lucky Dube The Other Side

Probably African reggae's biggest star, South Africa's Lucky Dube has built his considerable reputation by recording socially conscience contemporary roots reggae, largely inspired by Peter Tosh, and by never straying too far from his Zulu Mbaquanga roots. The Other Side has indisputable dread performances by musicians from reggae's spiritual homeland with rich mid-toned organs, chicken scratch treble-y guitars and syncopated drum fills. Dube himself produced the album and his use of a Wailers-style line-up fills out the songs with a trio of female backup vocalists and two percussionists. At times Dube's pedestrian storytelling style and use of clichés — "No glove no love" and "The grass is greener on the other side" — make for mediocre poetry, but when they're delivered by a Zulu Marvin Gaye, a bit of leeway is allowed by the ear. The only song that stalls the album is "Soldier" with its kitschy boot camp melody. However, Dube has crafted a couple of classic songs on The Other Side, as much for their subject matter as their sound. The title track is actually a pretty fancy coup, considering Dube's Jamaican fan base. The song uses a Jamaican longing for repatriation to Africa and an African longing for emigration to the new world as a basis to argue the futility in not being happy where you are. "Number in the Book" refers to Africa's AIDS pandemic and encourages sexual responsibility, no small feat considering the fact that media and governments in many African countries refuse to even talk about it. But Dube has never shied away from controversy. After all this is an artist that was banned in his own country during apartheid. (Heartbeat)