Gates of Zion

Mixing up the medicine and thinking about the government

Eyes wide shut against pluming ganja smoke, the spliffin' Rastaman and Dylan both elevate cantankerousness with a spiritual bent. But this set's closing track, a reggae remix of "I and I," featuring Dylan's original vocals, proves no one does him better. Still, this collection of tropical warriors challenges World Bank-ravaged Jamaica's status quo—an even more bruised context than disgruntled Middle Amerika for Dylanesque ironies and disjointed juxtapositions . . . assuming the roots rebels get them. "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" takes the piss out of an unrecognizably sweet Michael Rose, Black Uhuru's soldierly frontman and reggae's most intimidating locksman, and Beres Hammond smooths all the neat pleats and twists out of "Just Like a Woman." Others bring their own convictions to Dylan's vision rather than trying to enshrine it. Toots's old-time soul fortifies "Maggie's Farm" with an anti-Massa meditation, and Sizzla's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" turns Bleecker Street psychedelia into a Heart of Darkness nightmare. For "The Times They Are A-Changin'," Apple Gabriel's breaking vocals transpose Dylan's dust-bowl twang from prophecy to threat. But Dominica's Nasio Fontaine stands proudest, alongside the Master and Jah, on the high ground of "Gotta Serve Somebody."

 
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