Jamaican legendary vocalist Dennis Brown is my all-time favourite singer, so when I heard about a new tribute compilation dedicated to his works I was somewhat sceptic. Why mess with perfection so to say. But after listening to the 30 tracks I realized I couldn’t be more wrong. We Remember Dennis Brown is a superb and loving tribute to an icon that has been dubbed both Boy Wonder and The Crown Prince of Reggae.
Dennis Brown’s music and influence as a singer is unmeasurable. He voiced his first recording at the tender age of eleven and before turning 16 he had worked with some of Jamaica’s top singers and producers. In the 70s he was on a creative high and put out hit after hit, equally at ease with both romance and social commentary. For about three decades Dennis Brown was the most popular singer in Jamaica – yes, more popular than Bob Marley – and created a truckload of reggae classics.
During his much too short lifetime – he passed in 1999 only 42 years old – he recorded extensively and has a capacious catalogue. And from this treasure chest seasoned producer Clive Hunt has dug to create this emotional and passionate tribute, which collects timeless classics and lesser-known gems.
The two discs are largely divided into culture and romance and showcase a wide and impressive range of voices from both Jamaica and abroad. And some of the songs were premiered already in February – Dennis Brown’s birthday month – including Caress Me from Romain Virgo, Milk & Honey by roots reggae rockers Raging Fyah and Bloody City from soulful songstress Jah9.
The songs on We Remember Dennis Brown lie close to the originals and Clive Hunt hasn’t aimed at create a new sound for these masterpieces, something that appeals to huge Dennis Brown fans like myself. And some of the tracks actually sound like the originals, but with a more powerful soundscape, and no one can deny Dennis Brown’s influence on a singer like Bushman, who successfully covers the militant Don’t Want To Be No General.
There are many bright moments and highlights and best of the bunch is Yahsha’s version of the devout The Existence of Jah, which originally appeared on Dennis Brown’s major label debut Foul Play, a set co-produced by Clive Hunt back in 1981. I’ve actually had this song on repeat several times.
Hopefully this compilation will reach both previous fans and find a large number of new ones. Dennis Brown’s greatness and relevance can’t be overstated and even though 30 tracks make a hefty compilation there’s much more to discover.