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Planet Jam: Light at the End of the Tunnel 

Students of the genre will tell you reggae is music whose essence is rooted in the grit and grind of those who toil in the third world, be it the tropics, Africa or the Americas. At its core, spirituality, politics and righteous indignation are all important parts of the equation. And, oh yeah, you need to be able to skank to it as well.

Now imagine all of this coming through the filter of a Romanian national who was a soldier on the front lines, literally, during his country's 1989 revolution, and you begin to get a sense that Planet Jam is anything but your standard good-time Jamaican reggae band.

Marius and Kacy Todirita, on guitar and bass, respectively, have been fronting PJ for more than 15 years, and this recording, compared to earlier works (Tribal Healing, The Outer World), is probably the one that most sounds like a reggae project from start to finish. The album opens with "Faith," on which the horn charts, featuring Glendon Gross on trumpet and Malik Alkabir on alto sax, are reminiscent of something Burning Spear might produce.

Marius and Kacy harbor no illusions about being great trained singers. But their lyrics, so heartfelt, and delivered with not an ounce of pretense, have allowed them to craft a style that makes their messages that much more accessible. Adding an additional air of authenticity are significant cameos from General Smiley and Arjun Baba.

More by Jim Lipson

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