IT'S LITTLE WONDER that Leroy Sibbles' sweet, sensual vocal style has made him Canada's biggest reggae star. His roots extend back to the homeland, where twenty years ago he was the leader of the legendary Heptones, one of the first groups to popularize reggae outside the islands. Sibbles left that group in 1974, moving to Toronto, but he's never shed the liquid lyrical subtlety or the rhythmic richness of his sun-drenched origins.
Recorded in Jamaica using top studio musicians and singer Marcia Griffiths on backing vocals, "On Top" is a solid commercial offering that quickly settles into a supple dance groove. The sound is spare, breezy, the singing actually closer to soul (and particularly early '70s Marvin Gaye), with Sibbles shining on "Let Jah Music Ride" and "Only With You." His songs are the standard mix of love songs and social message bulletins, but the emphasis is on romantic fatalism ("Stay" and "Love in the Morning"). The mellow political insistence of earlier songs such as "Book of Rules" is absent on this go-round, though "Rock Steady Party" should help crowd the dance floor. LEROY SIBBLES -- "On Top" (Miccan 0052); appearing Saturday at Kilimanjaro's Heritage Hall.