Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Max Romeo

  • War ina Babylon [Island, 1976] B+
  • Open the Iron Gate [United Artists, 1978] A-
  • Holding Out My Love to You [Shanachie, 1981] B-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

War ina Babylon [Island, 1976]
Romeo has long been a professional rude boy ina the Anglian outposts of Babylon, and this career training is reflected in the brightness of his reggae, refreshingly explicit and immediate (both musically and lyrically) in the wake of second-rate Toots and Marley. In fact, I find this album more attractive than all but two reggae LPs released stateside in 1976--the Mighty Diamonds and the first Burning Spear. But I won't argue with anyone who finds it tediously close in spirit to the foregone conclusions of Peter, Paul & Mary. B+

Open the Iron Gate [United Artists, 1978]
Unlike the lacklustre Reconstruction, these sweet, throbbing prophecies and jeremiads fulfill the promise of Romeo's U.S. debut. Or more likely anticipate it: the rocksteady rhythms suggest that it was cut years ago. Romeo is no innovator, though, and I think I catch a claim that Haile Selassie isn't really dead in one song, which would make it no earlier than 1975. There's a lot else to catch--Romeo remains very hooky for a Jamaican, and praise Jah for that. A-

Holding Out My Love to You [Shanachie, 1981]
You get a reggae pro who's always shown good pop sense, you get producer Keith Richards doubling on gittar, you get Sly & Robbie &c., and what do you get? You get the Kingston equivalent of an ordinary Philly International album, which is better than ordinary Motown, not as good as ordinary Stax. B-