When I review CDs, I try very hard to be objective. Sometimes I go into a review hoping to destroy an album, and I end up giving it a ridiculously high rating. Then there are times when I give a record a mediocre score despite the fact that I really want to praise it. I'd like to think that I've listened to enough music -- and a varied enough selection of music -- that I can write a review that transcends my personal likes and dislikes.
When it comes to dancehall, though, I've got no objectivity. I love dancehall. Love it, love it, love it. I probably don't know enough about it to distinguish the good from the bad, because when I hear those basslines rolling behind those sing-song vocals, I just get a big smile on my face and I lose myself in the rhythm. There's some dancehall that I like more than other dancehall, but that's kind of like saying there are some dogs I like more than other dogs.
(As an aside, I'd never heard of Soul Jazz Records, the label that put this out, until Tom in the Sights & Sounds department at the main EPFL location turned me onto the Nicky Siano collection. It's a great label, and I've bought a fair amount of their music in the past six months. Who knows when/if I would've gotten turned on to Soul Jazz if I weren't hanging out at the library, exploring the music, and talking to the librarians. If you live in Baltimore and you haven't gone over to the EPFL on Cathedral St., you're really missing out.)
This is the best dancehall collection I've ever heard. Unlike so many compilations out there, this disc trusts the listener. It trusts that the listener wants to hear more than another typical collection of hits. There's some challenging music on here, and it's exciting to hear the way different artists have -- both in the present and the distant past -- pushed the boundaries of this reggae offshoot. Dynamite! might not be a good CD for someone who wants an easily digestible collection of dancehall hits, but it's a superb listen for anyone who loves music and/or wants to learn more about dancehall.
The second sentence in the liner notes says, "We love dancehall." I relate. I just wish the author of the three-page essay had gone into a little bit more historical detail than he/she did. More detail on each song, along with more names, dates, and influences would've been nice. Out of nearly two dozen artists, only three had their photos included in the book. I'm not sure why these three got special treatment, but there's nothing particularly special about their photos.
Listen if you like: Shabba Ranks, Shaggy, Buju Banton, or any other mainstream dancehall artists. Anyone who likes reggae and wants a really good overview of one of its evolutionary branches should give this a listen.
If it were food, it'd be: a tasty burrito. As with dancehall and dogs, I've never met a burrito I didn't like (although some I certainly like more than others)