The acoustic trend has taken reggae by storm and this year both Clinton Fearon and Tarrus Riley have each put out an acclaimed set. Now it’s Richie Spice’s turn. His Soothing Sounds: Acoustic collects re-recordings of old material coupled with new tracks. Reggaemani had a chat with Richie Spice about why he has stripped himself and why the album is already a classic.
Ask any music fan about his or her favorite acoustic reggae track and the answer will probably be Bob Marley’s heartfelt Redemption Song, included on his last album Uprising released in 1980. Bob Marley was not the first to record reggae with sparse arrangements, and one of my personal favorites is Joe Higgs’ – coincidentally Bob Marley’s mentor – unplugged version of There’s a Reward.
Over the last years the acoustic reggae catalogue has grown, partly thanks to guitarist Earl “Chinna” Smith and his nyabinghi-influenced project Inna de Yard All Stars.
Being a positive force
A third artist drops his acoustic project tomorrow. Richie Spice is his name, and you will know him by a trail of strong albums and equally strong singles, including Earth a Run Red, Youth Dem Cold, Marijuana and Di Plane Land. You might also recognize his rugged crooning and his railing against injustices and the plight of the oppressed.
“I want to educate the youths and make uplifting music,” explains Richie Spice over the phone from Kingston, Jamaica, and continues:
“Doing positive things and being a positive force is an important role to me.”
A family affair
Richie Spice was born Richell Bonner in the Kingston suburb of St. Andrew in 1971, and hails from a musical family that includes his older brother Pliers, from the deejay/singer duo Chaka Demus & Pliers, middle brother and singer Spanner Banner as well as his younger brother Snatcha Lion. The latter two team up with Richie Spice on the family affair More Love.
It was Spanner Banner who initially brought Richie Spice to the recording studio, although he didn’t get the opportunity to record that time it opened his eyes to the proficiency required to succeed in the reggae industry.
“It was a strong learning experience. At that time I tried to record but I was never really ready so I couldn’t manage it. But it showed me that there is a lot of work to be done. So just do the necessary things until you reach that space where you are supposed to be,” recalls Richie Spice.
Gave himself a test
His biggest hit to date is Youth Dem Cold, which peaked at 59 on Billboard’s Top 100 Singles Chart and was featured in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV.
Richie Spice is a man of few words and it seems he likes his music to do much of the talking, but it’s apparent that he has high hopes on his new album.
“It has been on my mind for a long time and now it’s manifested to reality. It’s a new path in my career and it’s very exciting,” he says.
The recording process has taken some time – approximately nine months – and the album is produced by himself with a little help from co-producer Mitchum “Khan” Chin.
“The process was different [compared to an ordinary album]. I played it at home, I played it in the studio, adding things, making improvements,” he explains, and continues:
“There are things in life you’d like to do if you’d get the opportunity, and I wanted to give myself a test. Can I do this,” he asks, and adds:
“The album has a good vibration and I was feeling it from a long time. It’s an inspired album with songs I really loved and other people loved them also. I wanted to break it down and add a new level to them,” he explains referring to the re-recorded tracks on the set.
“The songs are classic”
An unplugged environment is naked and personal, which puts Richie Spice’s passionate vocals very much in the front. He sings every word and every syllable like he means them, something that put a lot of weight on his socially-conscious anthems about righteousness, unity and love.
Soothing Sounds presents Richie Spice unplugged for the first time, even though the albums boasts a myriad of influences and musical influences – contemporary acoustic rock, Spanish guitar, jazz and African drum beats to 80’s soul in the bonus track Agony, with a bass line invented by Robbie Shakespeare right there in the studio.
“It carries a variety of songs. Like Free, to be free within yourself, and My Heart, about searching,” he says, and continues:
“I fulfilled it and to me it’s a masterpiece. The songs are classic and it’s special to me and my fans. It’s deep in the soul of the people.”