Luciano Lessons of Life

Luciano has provided two examples this year of his ability to appeal to non-Jamaican reggae fans: his appearance on the widely hailed Blood and Fire compilation Tree of Satta and the collaboration with Twilight Circus on Foundation Rockers. Lessons of Life attempts to revitalise the Shanachie imprint (once a very important reggae label in the U.S.) and promote an album to make inroads not with hip-hop or multiple guest stars, but with an uber-roots outing in keeping with these career moves. In a sense, the crossover strategy is all about sticking to a roots vibe so beloved by millions around the globe who still can’t get with dancehall. Since Luciano works in this vein while releasing on average five albums a year, it’s an interesting strategy. Unfortunately, this overabundance of music reflects itself in an album long on universal messages, but short on distinctive songwriting. The production by Fat Eyes employs mostly live rhythm sections, but features lots of spacey dub techniques and well chosen electronics. This just can't disguise the fact that none of these songs stick with you after you've finished listening. Here's a guy who can sing the phone book and make it sound soulful, but he needs less love in his lyrics and more urgency. (Shanachie)