REVIEW / A star in the margin: Joseph Gallivan sees the complete Shinehead ay Camden Jongleurs

Click to follow
IT'S STRANGE that people buy so many records by Shabba, Shaggy and even Snow, but that the far more talented Shinehead has been knocking around on the margins of the reggae / ragga scene for 10 years. His entrance at the Jongleurs was delayed by an hour and a half in the hope that the half-empty club would fill up, but in the end no extra punters materialised.

Carnival crowd or no, Shinehead entertained all comers with his polyglot skills. The naturalised New Yorker's trademark is his ability to switch between a boastful Bronx accent and a Jamaican patois so hard- edged it comes across like Dutch, then to follow that with dramatic dips into smooth lover's rock for some angelic crooning. Slipping in and out of his two best albums, The Real Rock and the new Sidewalk University (Elektra), he showed he can 'do' Eric B, Ninjaman and Frankie Paul, and then, just for a laugh, he did a Sting on his new single 'Jamaican In New York', capturing the Americanised school- teacher English perfectly.

But Shinehead is so much more than a mimic. Though he appropriates feel-good tunes (the McCartneys' 'Let 'Em In', even the jingles from spaghetti westerns and the children's television programme Rainbow) to the point of absurdity, he can still write an original, uplifting song like 'Strive', and sing it live with no backing tapes. His five- piece band No Offence were tight as a drum all night, breaking into the odd guitar or synth solo, but never into a sweat. The age of the compilation album should welcome this most complete talent.