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Various Artists


Jamaican record companies issue more singles than any other record labels in the world. While most of these 45s never make it to America, a number of them are available stateside via any of a number of CD compilations. Organized by veteran critic and A&R man Randall Grass, Sound Boy Killing is one of the most listenable of the current crop. Despite its title, the collection eschews a single-minded focus on frenetic, patois-filled toasting, instead displaying dancehall’s widening chromatic spectrum. The disc includes several “combination stylee” numbers featuring reggae rappers matched with singers, as well as several soulfully sung solo performances. Such entries as Judith Gayle’s version of Mariah Carey’s “Dreamlover” may feature the electronic beats of dancehall, but the melody and soulful vocals are as traditional as any roots reggae. The reggae rappers here represent a variety of vocal styles. Snagglepuss’ wonderfully laid-back conversational tone helps make his version of “Carry Go Bring Come,” performed with vocalist Freddie McGregor, a treat, and even noted homophobe Buju Banton shines, both solo on “Murderer” and with silky smooth vocalist Cocoa Tea on “Too Young.”