Stephen Marley

The least known and perhaps most talented son of Bob Marley is finally stepping into the limelight. Though Stephen Marley is usually working behind the scenes on his family members' projects, his long-awaited solo effort, Mind Control, lives up to its musical lineage with eleven tracks of pure roots-rock-reggae. Marley produced the entire record himself and played a smattering of instruments on it as well; the outcome is a cohesive piece of work. The disc's title track starts resoundingly with crisp horns and a deep bassline, which provide a perfect backdrop for Marley's smooth voice as he rallies against modern-day slavery. The tunes "You're Gonna Leave" and "Fed Up" are reminiscent of his father's 1978 opus, Kaya, without sounding overly derivative. The best song on the album, "Chase Dem," strikes out lyrically at deceitful politicians wallowing in graft with a piercing guitar and dubbed-out bass. A generic verse from Mr. Cheeks, formerly of the Jamaica, Queens rap group Lost Boyz, unfortunately takes some of the steam out of "Iron Bars," which tells the story of Stephen's 2002 incarceration in Florida after a run-in with a few of Tallahassee's finest, who disapproved of his ganja use. The vaguely Latin-sounding potential club hit, "Let Her Dance," also comes off a bit forced. Regardless Mind Control is an impressive disc just in time for spring. The man already has five Grammys for his previous production and songwriting work, but let's just call it six — it's unlikely there will be a better reggae album released in 2007.
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Braden Ruddy