Reggae Savior Buckles a Bit Under the Accolades

Luciano may be largely unknown in the general population, but not on Planet Reggae, where everyone loves Looshy. In concert, he wraps you up in warm One Love with so little corniness that there's no morning-after regret. Sadly, there's less to say about Luciano's latest CD—a collection of pleasant new tracks and warmed-over classics— but there's plenty to be said about why this is so. Shortly after the sublime Garnett Silk's 1994 death, along came Looshy like an answered prayer to reggae's constant yearning for another singing prophet. He had a gorgeous baritone—reminiscent of another mourned seer, Dennis Brown—that illuminated "It's Me Again Jah," an equally gorgeous song-poem about being beaten to your knees while remaining powerful in your faith. In this particular world, singers are entertainers and saviors. That's a heavy load—plus the intoxicating aroma of piety and lust they give off draws women like filings to a magnet, necessitating a balancing act that can topple the most principled Rasta singer.

So 1995's Where There Is Life and other early albums, made as Looshy's dreadlocks were budding, revived reggae's dream of transforming Babylon shitstem. He had what it took: achingly personal takes on a life that rocked with universal import. Luciano is still incapable of a bad record, but Child of a King comes after years of inspiration-draining psychic tug-of-war and does not root itself deeply. And so the CD bogs down in familiar rote prescriptions: Rasta Principles 101. Yet a full concert's worth of stirring reggae anthems remains, so buy from the archives and don't miss Looshy live.

 
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