Various Is it Rolling Bob?: A Reggae Tribute to Bob Dylan Vol.1

It's a bad sign when the best track on a tribute album is performed by the subject of the tribute. Is it Rolling Bob? never really stood a chance, as reggae covers of famous songs often end up being little more than a novelty (remember ASWAD's "Don't Turn Around"?). With a few notable exceptions the artists on Is it Rolling Bob? fail to capture the essence of Dylan's material and make the songs their own. An all-star backing band only manages to contribute generic reggae-fied versions throughout, with little variety, and the guest vocalists generally don’t sound natural singing the material. Israel Vibration’s Apple Gabriel gives us "The Times They Are a Changin'," for instance, but it is wooden and detached. Toots Hibbert offers up a basic retelling of "Maggie's Farm," lacking in any of the gusto found in abundance on his early material, and even the enthusiasm from his recent True Love sessions. The Mighty Diamonds and Black Uhuru’s Michael Rose fair better with "Lay, Lady Lay" and "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" respectively, as each has a distinct enough vocal style to stamp a mark on the material. Luciano gives us an excellent version of "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" but the sheer fact that this song has been covered more times than Dave Bidini’s head means it quickly loses its appeal. Dominica's Nasio delivers one of the album's strongest performances with the Selassie-centric "Gotta Serve Somebody," but Sizzla cleans up with a growly-voiced ragga-tinged "Subterranean Homesick Blues," complete with new lyrics on Sizzla's botanical past time. Dylan's own "I and I" is offered here in what is called a reggae mix but other than a few tricky delays on the snare, the song ain't really reggae, man. (Sanctuary)