Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Sly and Robbie

  • Sly and Robbie Present Taxi [Mango, 1981] A-
  • Rhythm Killers [Island, 1987] A
  • Silent Assassin [Island, 1989] B+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Sly and Robbie Present Taxi [Mango, 1981]
These catchy (the Wailing Souls' "Sweet Sugar Plum") to groovy (Sheila Hylton's "Bed's Too Big Without You") love songs are why Jah made syndrums: reggae as pure pop, with only Junior Delgado's haunted "Fort Augustus" and General Echo's droll "Drunken Master" presenting any political distraction from the polypercussive hooks of Jamaica's greatest production team if not citizens. A-

Rhythm Killers [Island, 1987]
Language Barrier was a world-music mishmash. Taxi Connection Live in London and The Sting are show and schlock reggae respectively. This is nonstop funk--powered by world pop's greatest rhythm section, which happens to be Jamaican, and filled out by a chauvinistic variation on Bill Laswell's usual international brigade--Daniel Ponce and Aiyb Dieng are the only furriners, although Henry Threadgill, Nicky Skopelitis, and D.S.T. aren't exactly from the same neighborhood. Art-rapper Rammelzee, Brooklyn toaster Shinehead, and studio mouthpiece Bernard Fowler add their lyrical signatures to those of P-Funk satellites Bootsy and Mudbone, but S&R's sensationalism combines with Laswell's imperiousness to rock each side from its Ohio Players or Allen Toussaint intro. Word. A

Silent Assassin [Island, 1989]
The BDP raps are as strong as the S&R riddims, but despite their wealth of narrative detail they're more predictable, flattening this attempt to formalize a reggae-hip hop synthesis already in progress. Attributes not present: wit, joy, jokes, hooks. B+