1/  Fire                                       (Ohio Players)                5.24  
  2/  Boops (Here To Go)                         (Sly,Robbie,BL,Shinehead,BC)  5.15  
  3/  Let's Rock                                 (Sly,Robbie,BL,Collins,Berger)7.23  
  4/  Yes We Can Can                             (Toussaint)                   6.16
  5/  Rhythm Killer                              (Sly,Robbie,Laswell,Shinehead)7.17
  6/  Bank Job                                   (Sly,Robbie,BL,BC,Berger)     6.50

          Recorded at Quad Recording
          Engineered by Robert Musso
          Assistant engineer: Pete Sturge
          Mixed by Jason Corsaro at the Power Station
          Assistant mix engineer: Steve Boyer
          Produced by Bill Laswell/Material
          Administration: Roger Trilling
          Mastered by Howie Weinberg at Masterdisk
Sly Dunbar: Simmons drums, percussion; Robbie Shakespeare: bass; Bootsy Collins: voice, guitar; Gary "Mudbone" Cooper, Bernard Fowler & Shinehead: vocals; Pat Thrall: guitar; Nicky Skopelitis: guitar, Fairlight programming; Bernie Worrell: prepared piano; Karl Berger: vibes, melodica; Henry Threadgill: saxophones, flutes; D.ST.: turntable; Daniel Ponce: bells, bata; Aiyb Dieng: congas, bells, percussion.

Material strings arranged and conducted by Karl Berger

          1987 - Island Records (UK), BRLP 512 (Vinyl)
          1987 - Island Records (USA), 90585-1 (Vinyl)
          1987 - Island Records (USA), 90585-2 (CD)
Note: Bill Laswell does not play on this album.


"I close my eyes, the bass in my hand, and my channel open to God," reggae legend Robbie Shakespeare once said, explaining his approach. "I try to look for the perfect bass line." In partnership with drummer Sly Dunbar, Shakespeare has played on an estimated 200,000 tracks in the past thirty years, producing an astonishingly high percentage of perfect bass lines. As the leading rhythm section in a rhythm-oriented genre, Sly and Robbie have played on classic albums by everyone from Peter Tosh to Culture to Black Uhuru, redefining the beat of reggae many times over. (Dunbar has pointed out that when you play the same reggae kick-drop rhythm every day for a year, not only do you get good at it, you have an urgent need to find new variations on it.)

The two are also in big demand from musicians not born in Jamaica; they've been on the payroll of everyone from Bob Dylan to No Doubt. But it was their production of Grace Jones' Eighties club classic "Pull Up to the Bumper" that first demonstrated that Sly and Robbie were also superheroes of funk. This is the side of Sly and Robbie that Rhythm Killers showcases; although producer Bill Laswell nominally divides the record into six tracks, the rhythms flow relentlessly. Guest stars include the P-Funk alumni Bernie Worrell and Bootsy Collins (playing guitar rather than bass), toaster Shinehead and the avant-garde jazzman Henry Threadgill. Rhythm Killers is a thirty-five-minute dance party full of surprises and strange noises -- you never know when Dunbar will start playing heavy-metal drums or someone will whistle the theme to Masterpiece Theatre. Bridging classic funk and early hip-hop, Rhythm Killers sounds like the Great Missing DJ Set -- albeit one played by live musicians with perfect telepathy.

4 of 5 stars

Gavin Edwards (courtesy of the Rolling Stone website)