Mr. Vegas Sweet Jamaica

Mr. Vegas Sweet Jamaica
To call this album "sprawling" would not do it justice. In Jamaica's 50th year, dancehall star Mr. Vegas essays every style that has made the island's music great. Many have tried but few have succeeded with projects like this, and even Mr. Vegas can't quite pull it off over two discs. However, the dancehall disc is pretty consistently great, while the reggae disc ranges from highly enjoyable to tedious. Throughout, many top-notch producers guarantee excellent riddims. Nowhere is this better expressed than huge hit "Bruk It Down," a frenetic, irresistible choon in which Vegas's rapid-fire yet cool vocals ride a percolating, somewhat West African beat. As for the roots, I've never heard a bad reggae version of Blood Sweat and Tears' "You've Made Me So Very Happy" and this one doesn't disappoint. But the quality slides with "Gimme A Light" (a clumsy update of Desmond Dekker's "Israelites") and a completely unnecessary cover of "Ob La Di Ob Li Da." Major respect is due to Mr. Vegas for putting so much care into a concept album though, and this is one of the year's key releases in Jamaican music. (MV)