Reggae on the River: 10th Anniversary Set

Reggae on the River

[10th Anniversary Set]


First Appeared at The Music Box, May 2003, Volume 10, #5

Written by John Metzger


For two decades, thousands of world music fans have gathered communally in Northern California for the Reggae on the River festival. With the re-release of its 2-disc, 10th anniversary compilation, this unique and well-respected event will undoubtedly find a wider audience, although the music contained herein is neither a hit nor a miss. Instead it falls somewhere in between, gently meandering along its sun-baked grooves with a sense of peaceful contentment. Some segments — like the call-and-response portions of Baaba Maal’s Yelle Jam (Hamady Boiro) or the spoken word introductions to several of the other tracks — might work well in concert setting, but within one’s home — regardless of whether one agrees with the messages of peace, love, and politics — it becomes rather silly, redundant, and eventually annoying to hear repeatedly.

Naturally, the spirit of Bob Marley drifts lazily throughout Reggae on the River, linking one artist to the next. For example, his Stir It Up is fondly recalled in Lucky Dube’s Back to My Roots, while Judy Mowatt unnecessarily covers One Love twice. This close affinity for Marley is also precisely what sinks this collection. Like those who try too hard to mimic The Beatles, most of the artists on Reggae on the River simply copy Marley (or Jimmy Cliff, for that matter, who contributes two songs that make only minimal use of his talent). The only real exception to this is Wailing Souls’ terrific Jah Give Us Life to Live, which gets downright jazzy. As a result, most of the tracks never truly capture the ethereal essence and inherent beauty of Marley’s art. starstar ˝

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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!


Copyright © 2003 The Music Box