Unchained Spirit

He's wimped out and sold out, but for once in his life, it seems that [B]Banton[/B] really means well.

Touted as ‘the voice of Jamaica in the ’90s’, [a]Buju Banton[/a]’s career has, like the history of his home island, been a lurch from crisis to crisis. He upset half the women in Jamaica in 1991 with ‘Love Mi Browning’, which professed the ragga sensation’s preference for pale-skinned girls, and immediately apologised with ‘Love Black Woman’. The world’s press were less forgiving when his ‘Boom Bye Bye’ single encouraged Jamaica’s gun-toting rude boys to shoot gay men.

Eight years on, Banton is a changed man. Since fellow DJ Panhead was gunned down in Spanish Town, Banton has put his bad boy days behind him. Now dreadlocked and reflective, the [a]Buju Banton[/a] of ‘Voice Of Jah’ and ‘Sudan’ is unrecognisable from the gruff-voiced bully of old.

Indeed, ‘Unchained Spirit’ is barely recognisable as a reggae album at all – heck, it’s got Rancid on it. Like his DJing ancestor Big Youth, Banton has gone from chatting to singing with results which are surprisingly effective. The musical shift from intense digital rhythms to a sound which could pass for a smooth soul, at times, is a more dramatic development.

It’s shamelessly soft, too. Even when he rediscovers his catarrh-loosening growl, it’s only to caution the youth on the danger of wasting their lives on ‘Life Is A Journey’.

Bless him, then. He’s wimped out and sold out, but for once in his life, it seems that Banton really means well.