"Back to Basics"
As its name suggests, dancehall reggae is not designed for cerebral pursuits. So it's hardly surprising to find veteran Jamaican dancehaller Beenie Man offering his equivalent of "California Girls" on his latest album: "I love all the English girls / I love all the Europe girls," he chants in "Love All Girls," before declaring his ultimate allegiance to "Caribbean girls." By dancehall standards, though, "Back to Basics" is pretty well-behaved. It includes many odes to carnal pleasure, but only one song title that can't be quoted here -- and even that one is self-censored.
Most dancehall albums, like their hip-hop counterparts, involve a variety of producers and guest stars, and alter their style depending on each song's individual motifs. On "Back to Basics," Beenie and his cohorts range from a boot-camp chant ("Grindacologist'') to a gospel anthem ("If a Neva God'') to a folkie number ("Back Against the Wall'') that substitutes acoustic guitar and vocal harmonies for the genre's customary synthbeats.
The result is a dancehall album that's both unusually diverse and surprisingly consistent. Women may be Beenie Man's foremost concern, but he doesn't neglect the music.
-- Mark Jenkins
Appearing Sunday at Crossroads.* To hear a free Sound Bite from Beenie Man, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8104. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)