The combination of veteran dancehall-roots crooner Cocoa Tea and the Xterminator production crew -- not to mention the participation of such A-list studio talent as Sly Dunbar, Dean Fraser, and Earl "Chinna" Smith -- should have resulted in an all-killer, no-filler album.
Perplexingly, though, Save Us Oh Jah is a disappointingly hit-and-miss affair, one that offers plenty of high points but also several flubs that are hard to explain.
The album opens on an unpromising note, with the rhythmically disorganized and melodically haphazard "Stay Far," on which Cocoa Tea never seems to find the key center and the musicians never seem to find a groove.
Things immediately get better with the title track and the sturdy, roots-wise "Let the Music Play" (which suffers only from the banal lyrics that have always been Cocoa Tea's biggest liability), and get even better with the funky and minimalistic reggae-R&B of "How You So Hypa" and the churning one-drop rhythms of "Wave You Hand." At several points in the program, Cocoa Tea's finger-wagging self-righteousness threatens to devolve into all-out Bobo Dread blood-thirst (note the hints of Bobo rhetoric on "Can't Tek the Fire Bun" and "Babylon Feel It"), and he's not above promulgating the usual "tricky woman" stereotypes either ("Indian Woman").
But there are some moments of real tenderness as well, and those Xterminator rhythms are able to cover a multitude of sins.
Fans won't be disappointed.