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PATO BANTON (Buy CDs by this artist)
Never Give In (UK Greensleeves) 1987 (Primitive Man) 1988
Pato & Roger Come Again EP (Primitive Man) 1988
Visions of the World (IRS) 1989
Wize Up! (No Compromise) (IRS) 1990

A dozen years after making his album debut (on the Beat's Special Beat Service) duetting with Ranking Roger on "Pato and Roger a Go Talk," Pato Banton (born Patrick Murray) returned to these shores with Never Give In. Mainly backed by Birmingham's Studio Two house band, which provides strong reggae riddims punctuated by colorful horns and rock-oriented lead guitar, Banton sings, toasts and speed-raps against war, poverty and drugs (except one, of course). Fortunately, his advice on how to behave in Babylon is laced with humor — his impersonations of his mother (on three songs), wife and a scared riot victim are hilarious. Also fun are duets with Paul Shaffer, another go-round with Ranking Roger and a wonderful high speed toast titled "Gwarn!"

The Pato & Roger Come Again EP contains two versions of the title track, one longer and one shorter than the one on Never Give In; "Don't Sniff Coke" (also from the LP), which features a rap about Pato's encounter with a dope dealer on a train; and the gritty non-LP "King Step."

While Visions of the World and Wize Up! remain fairly similar to Never Give In in terms of subject matter, the music is slicker, leaning more towards smooth dance rock, bland soul and synthesized pop reggae. Pato's added a bit more boast to his toast, but both albums lack the humor and flair of the first. Switching styles (and accents) in most unnerving manner, Banton makes a number of faint political statements on Visions of the World, adding only one amusing toast, "Ready Me Ready," about a romantic misadventure in London.

Steel Pulse's David Hinds duets on the title track of Wize Up!, which also features Banton's rendition of "Spirits in the Material World." (In a fitting stylistic payback, the Police song became an alternative radio hit for him.) Judging from this album, Banton could be the first toaster to become a pop star in America.

[Dave Schulps/Ira Robbins]