Sly & Robbie: Language Barrier


Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare have always been recognized as The Rydim Twins of reggae - the tightest and most innovative drummer and bassist. Their experimental ideas have caught the eye of many an artist and producer. Grace Jones, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan and Joe Cocker are just a few of the non-reggae names that they could drop. Sly & Robbie's reggae projects are innumerable, and include work with Black Uhuru, Dennis Brown and The Mighty Diamonds.

Their latest album, "Language Barrier" addresses their need for a smashing of musical boundaries. Even though it's basically a funk/dance album other rhythms and melodies do pop up. As Robbie Shakespeare puts it "maybe our next major album will have reggae on it, but right now we want to get a bigger American audience". This method of introducing their talents to a wider audience might work, simply because "Language Barrier" is enticing enough to make you want to come back for more.

'Bass And Trouble', the first single from the album is basically a re-hash of Herbie Hancock's 'Rockit', with Hancock in tow. It's danceable and well syncopated in spots, but not much more. 'Miles (Black Satin)', in its bubbly, futuristic freakiness is more like something from Bill Laswell's melting pot of sound - Celluloid Records. It borrows its bass line from The Skatalites' 'Confucious', and uses as its melody line, an adaptation of 'The Elephant Walk'. A truely bizzare combo that works!! 'No Name On The Bullet' is Robbie's opportunity to get wierd, providing fairly simplistic lyrics on a heavy, bubbling bass. The heaviest piece on "Language Barrier" is the R&B-flavoured 'Get To This, Get To That'. If this doesn't make you want to groove, little else will.

Sly & Robbie's latest musical venture is a constantly moving scene of rhythms, and is denser in feeling than a lot of ghetto electro-beat around. It could help redefine the sound of funk, in the same way that The Rydim Twins did with Grace Jones. The album can only be done justice with heavy, heavy bass and volume. But watch out, you might just break more than language barriers.

Posted: Fri - February 7, 2003 at 04:54 PM