Any hope that punk stable Epitaph's signing of dancehall ruler Buju Banton would bring about the ruffest record of the toaster's career dies quickly by the second track of Unchained Spirit. Banton tries to recast himself as a smoothed-out, new-school Beres Hammond, complete with acoustic guitar, soprano sax and chest-thumping lyrical passion.
It takes a third of the album before he even tries anything close to a dancehall cut, and even then it's Luciano who provides the crucial spark. Things pick up midway through Unchained Spirit, but Banton sounds directionless, turning from a rocksteady track and a weepy duet with Stephen Marley to some electric piano treacle about Sudan. There's even a hoarse jam with Rancid, but if Banton wanted impact, he should have just stuck with raw rhythms.
A crossover that should have been crossed out.