The Itals

Cool and Dread

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Review

Because Brutal out Deh was such a striking debut album, the Itals' subsequent releases seem to suffer unfairly by comparison. For any other roots harmony group, Cool Dread might be viewed as a career highlight, but since the Itals already accomplished that feat on their first try, they'll have to settle for recording another tight, provocative, sometimes transcendent set of songs. Keith Porter, Ronnie Davis, and David Isaacs produce themselves on this effort, supported by the combined talents of the Roots Radics and the Vital Band. Effective use of keyboards and punchy horns adds unexpected toughness without detracting from the hypnotic rhythms and gorgeous harmony vocals. Sometimes the trio's voices are so lovely and uplifting they nearly conceal the seriousness of the lyrics. The sunny vocals of "Material Competition" belie the song's anti-materialistic message to the point where the Itals almost sound as if they are celebrating materialism rather than criticizing it. Yet that same cheerful, positive delivery gives "Sing Farewell" a wistful credibility that might actually persuade a listener to follow their example and turn the other cheek while humming the inescapable chorus. The heavenly "Peace and Love" is also instantly memorable. The album ends with the persuasive groove of "Jah Help Those" (who help themselves), which segues into "Helpful Dub," allowing the Itals to explore creatively while inspiring their audience. Cool Dread matches the quality of any Itals album since their remarkable debut, and thanks to those incredible harmonies, soul searching has rarely sounded so exhilarating. ~ Vince Ripol, Rovi