One Way
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One Way (RAS, 1987)

Yes, this is the album that contains "Bad Boys," one of the most widely-known reggae songs in America -- thanks to its use as the theme song for the television show Cops -- but even for reggae diehards, there is a good amount of worthwhile material here.  Full of sound mid-tempo, dance-inducing grooves, this album wavers near enough to the boundary with the crossover audience to attract the non-reggae fan, but it remains distinctly non-pop.  For my money, the best song here is "Love One Another," which wields a great melody that sounds like it should've been a hit.   Other niceness comes in the form of "Front and Center," "Massive," and the title track.

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Track Listing
1. One Way
2. Love One Another
3. Front and Center
4. Life
5. Stay With Me
6. Massive
7. Bad Boys
8. Champion
9. Keep the Faith 

One Way
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Bad to the Bone

Bad to the Bone (RAS, 1992)

This may be the ultimate party reggae album, with its up-tempo grooves, driving bass lines, and rhythmic drums.  A bastardized version of this album later became the popular major label release Bad Boys, with a bastardized (read: more pop-oriented) version of "Make U Sweat" becoming a mainstream hit (with an "A La La La La Long" added to the title).  This album is superior to Bad Boys, though, since it adds solid tracks like "Party Party" and "Shock Out" (a remake of John Holt's classic "Ali Baba") while not having the worn-thin "Bad Boys."  Songs like "Tear Down These Walls," "Down By the River," and "Sunglasses At Nite," meanwhile, have a popular appeal that is utterly intoxicating, even for the hardcore "no-love-for-crossover" reggae fan.  The main mistake of this album, however (besides the slightly corny, hip-hoppy "Bad to the Bone"), is the addition of 4 "bonus tracks" on the CD release -- 3 of which are mediocre, and one (a remix of "Shock Out") is unnecessary.  Sticking to the original 10 songs would've made Bad to the Bone more efficient, and darn near perfect.  A guilty pleasure that you shouldn't feel guilty about.

Track Listing
1. Make U Sweat
2. Party Party (Serious Times)
3. Slow It Down (Take It Easy)
4. Looking for a Better Way
5. Shock Out "Hawaiian Style"
6. Bad to the Bone
7. Sunglasses at Nite
8. Tear Down These Walls
9. Long Time (Selassie a Warn You)
10. Down By the River
11. Bone Mix Ragga Style
12. Hold on to the Ridim
13. Why Them a Gwan So
14. Shock Out (Jamaican Style)
Bad to the Bone
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The Best of Inner Circle

The Best of Inner Circle (Cema Special Markets, 1993)

I should preface this review by saying that this is the "best of" Inner Circle before, say, 1977 or so. Yes, you Cops fans, no "Bad Boys" here. Even way back then, though, the crossover potential of the band was apparent in the cool '70s R&B-vibed "Jah Music" and in the somewhat less cool sap-fest "Music Is for Everyone." Those listeners used to the relatively lightweight '90s material of Inner Circle may be a bit surprised by the unfailing roots quality of tracks like "Ghetto on Fire," "80,000 Careless Ethiopians," or "Roman Soldiers of Babylon." Listening to the passionate vocals on these songs, there's little wonder why lead singer Jacob Miller was so popular during his short life. Overall, the band seems at its best when it balances out its pop and roots mentalities, as they do in "Love Is a Drug" and their marvelous take on The Wailers' "Soul Rebel," "I'm a Rastaman."

Track Listing
1. I'm a Rastaman (Rastaman Chant)
2. Forward Jah Jah Children
3. Love Is the Drug
4. Ghetto on Fire
5. Tired fe Lick Weed in a Bush
6. Music Is for Everyone
7. Roman Soldiers of Babylon
8. 80,000 Careless Ethiopians
9. This World
10. Jah Music

The Best of Inner Circle
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