Stephen Marley

Mind Control (Tuff Gong/Universal)

The least-known and perhaps most talented son of Bob Marley is finally stepping into the limelight. Though usually working behind the scenes on his family members' projects, Stephen Marley's long-awaited solo effort, Mind Control, lives up to its musical lineage with 11 tracks of pure roots-rock reggae. He produced the entire record himself and played a smattering of instruments, and the outcome is a cohesive piece of work. The disc's title track starts resoundingly with crisp horns and a deep bassline, which provide a perfect backdrop for Marley's smooth voice as he rallies against modern-day slavery. The tunes "You're Gonna Leave" and "Fed Up" are reminiscent of his father's 1978 opus Kaya without sounding overly derivative. The best song on the album, "Chase Dem," strikes out lyrically at deceitful politicians wallowing in graft with a piercing guitar and dubbed-out bass. A generic verse from Mr. Cheeks of the Jamaica, Queens, rap group Lost Boyz unfortunately takes some of the steam out of "Iron Bars," which tells the story of Stephen's 2002 incarceration in Florida after a run-in with a few of Tallahassee's finest, who disapproved of his ganja use. The vaguely Latin-sounding and potential club hit "Let Her Dance" also comes off a bit forced. Regardless, Mind Control is an impressive disc just in time for spring. The man already has five Grammys for his previous production and songwriting work, but let's just call it six — it's unlikely there will be a better reggae album released in 2007.

 
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