The Mighty Invaders, composed of five Jamaican natives, a Briton and an American all living in Baltimore, have long been touted as one of the best stateside reggae bands. Their debut album, "Invasion," not only justifies that reputation, but also defines an American reggae sound distinct from its Carribean and British counterparts.

Yvonne Dean and the since-departed Ishelle Cole -- the Invaders' two female singer-keyboardists -- add a feminine perspective that's still unusual in reggae. And several years of playing American clubs several times a week has given the Invaders a quicker, more dance-oriented sound than the relaxed groove of the islands.

This "step-up beat," as the band calls it, is supplied by Colly Hendricks' strategically placed drum rolls and Stedford Clarke's reless, melodic bass lines. Perhaps the band's biggest asset is Gifton (Freshly) Taylor, whose engaging vocals give the songs a clear-cut personality. The album was recorded in Kingston, Jamaica, at Tuff Gong and Channel One Studios with their legendary house engineers.

The songs mix a bright dance beat and attractive melodies with Rastafarian philosophy and Third World politics. The record ends with two eloquent pleas by Taylor, "Share and Share Alike" and "The Ghetto," which prove that American reggae doesn't have to be imitative but can assume its own character.

THE MIGHTY INVADERS -- "Invasion" (Rave 3001). Appearing with Honeyboy Martin & the Unconquered People, the Determination Band, the Ashantis and Malcolm & the Positive People at the second annual reggae festival Sunday, 1 to 7:30, in Meridien Hill Park (often referred to as Malcolm X Park.).