Versatile dancehall star Mr. Vegas has broadened his portfolio in recent years – from hardcore dancehall via foundation reggae to slick lovers rock. It started in 2010 with the massive reggae anthem Sweet Jamaica, which was later followed by a double album by the same name.
That double disc was Mr. Vegas’ first shot at recording classic reggae and he did it very well. It was well-received and boasted several covers of non-reggae tracks. And Mr. Vegas obviously got a taste for recording covers. Because now he has a new album with only cover songs of which a majority are non-reggae originals. They are rather pop and R&B evergreens.
The album offers just what its title suggests – songs about romance, relationships and love. Unfortunately the album is just a bit too smooth and too slick. The cuts are ordinary hotel lounge covers with a reggae beat and nothing to get particularly excited about.
Mr. Vegas is a gifted singer and a talented artist and he can do way better than this. That was shown on the Sweet Jamaica album.
U.S. born and Jamaican bred songstress Alaine rose to prominence ten years ago with the beautiful No Ordinary Love on Don Corleon’sSeasons riddim. Several successful singles for him followed, including Without You on Changes riddim, Sincerely on Love Potion riddim, Whine on Sweat riddim and Heavenly on the riddim with the same title.
She has dropped two albums and collaborated with a broad variety of producers. And on her brand new third studio album Ten of Hearts – actually scheduled for release last year – she continues to work with a number of different producers.
Nine different producers is not out of the ordinary in reggae and sometimes is a recipe for a rather non-cohesive effort, but Alaine and her manager Shane C. Brown have managed to put out a modern and well-balanced album offering a mix of melancholic reggae and dancehall.
Alaine has been singing and writing songs for ten years. Love has been a popular topic and still is. Ten of Hearts is a summarizing title and it’s mostly about romancing. She sings about love between people as well as universal love between mankind. It’s sensual and romantic with several slow and catchy whine waisters and bedroom teasers.
Alaine is a talented and gifted singer with a clean and stylish tone. And therefore it’s a pity that a few cuts are showered with auto-tune. Sometimes it works well, the moody Sidewalk Hotel, and sometimes it might have been better avoided, the Dre Island-combination Like a Drum.
Ten of Hearts is a solid set with a heap of infectious tunes, but none quite reach the heights of her work with Don Corleon.
London-based lovers rock and R&B singer Lady Lex inked her first record deal in the mid-80s, but didn’t record much for a number of years. In 2012 an album produced by Peckings was slated for release, but it didn’t materialize until now. She has worked with Peckings since 2004 when she walked into the London shop and auditioned then and there.
Their first release together was I’m in the Mood for Love, voiced on the riddim she sang over in the store – Lonely Street. They have worked together ever since and Lady Lex has for example been featured on all three volumes of Peckings’ excellent Old Skool Young Blood series.
Is This Love is a hefty set with no less than 21 tracks, a mix of originals and covers, of which most are sung over vintage riddims. It’s a fine-tuned marriage between old school lovers rock sounds and a contemporary voice.
Several of the tracks are previously released and the set is something of a collection of singles. Included are strong cuts like Book of Job, on the sweet Break Up to Make Up riddim, God Bless the Child, on the smooth My Girl riddim, and Love Doctor, on the funky Can’t Stand It riddim.
Is This Love is a slick and vintage sounding set and it’s nice that Lady Lex and Peckings finally got it out on the streets.
DJ Andy Smith – a popular UK DJ – has curated a number of mixing compilations during his long career, for example The Document, Trojan Document, Let’s Boogaloo and Andy Smith’s Northern Soul. But he has also been Portishead’s tour DJ and supplied samples for their first two albums.
His latest project is a journey through Jamaican and British lovers rock. This 14 track selection – available as single tracks or a continuous mix – reaches deep into the genre and pulls out some gems, both classics and lost ones, all taken from legendary label Jet Star’s vast back catalogue.
This mix is a taster into lovers rock territory, and this particular genre is often synonymous with the UK, but this compilation offers an usually large proportion of Jamaican singers, for example Gregory Isaacs, John Holt, Al Campbell, Delroy Wilson, Barry Biggs and Dennis Brown. UK singers are of course also represented – Kofi, Sandra Cross and Carroll Thompson are featured.
The full album has been carefully and respectfully pieced together by Andy Smith and gives a broad view of a beloved and gentle style of reggae. So relax, dim the lights – as Winston Reedy sings on the set’s opening track – and press play.
UK reggae star Maxi Priest is back with his first studio album in almost a decade. Easy to Love collects eleven brand new tracks recorded together with a large number of first-rate producers and musicians, including Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare, Earl “Chinna” Smith, Clive Hunt, Colin “Bulby” York and Steven “Lenky” Marsden.
Maxi Priest dropped his debut album almost 30 years ago and has since successfully fused reggae and lightweight dancehall with pop, hip-hop and R&B. This infectious mix has made him enormously popular, and his monster smash hit Close To You cemented him as one of the best-selling reggae artists of all time. That particular single was put out in 1990 and climbed all the way to number one on Billboard.
Easy to Love is just as the title implies very easy to get along with. It’s comfortable, laid-back and easy-going. It’s lovers rock made with perfection and quality control.
Maxi Priest has a smooth and sensual voice and it suits the silky riddims very well. Catchy reggae songs like Holiday, Easy to Love and Every Little Thing stick like glue and their melodies tend to pop up every now and then. Same goes for more R&B-oriented cuts and ballads like Without a Woman and Hearts Across the World.
Together with reggae luminaries like Beres Hammond and Freddie McGregor, Maxi Priest is one of the kings of lovers rock, and since it has taken him a long time to come up with a new album I have a feeling Easy to Love has been eagerly awaited. And even though this set offers more traditional reggae than most Maxi Priest albums, fans will definately not be disappointed.
UK’s Fashion records had such a diverse output when the label was alive and kicking. Dancehall, roots and lovers rock as well as jungle and hip-hop mixes are for example presented on the second volume of Fashion in Fine Style – Significant Hits. A majority of the 20 tracks still sounds excellent, even though some of the plastic synths are very dated and downright painful at times.
Lovers rock was one of the label’s strongest cards and as with volume one, this genre is well-represented with a number of tracks from crooning and honeyed singers like Barry Boom and Michael Gordon. Included are also a few dancehall-tinged lovers cuts from, for example, General Levy and Philip Leo & C.J. Lewis.
When I wrote about the first volume about a year ago I called for Nereus Joseph’s huge 1985 hit Sensi Crisis and a tune or two from producer and melodica player Glen Brown. And my call was heard. The skanking Sensi Crisis is now included, so is Glen Brown’s swirling and echoing Detrimental Music.
There is a good amount of significant hits on this album. And the two volumes together collect a healthy 40 tunes of essential UK musical history. You get all the hits and more. Much more.
U.S. based reggae singer Sadiki is mainly known for his journeys in the lovers rock genre, and his third and latest album Jah Is The Only King is described in a press release as a clear departure from his previous sound.
But don’t let the title or a press release fool you. This album is not a clear departure from what he has been doing for years. Sure, there are a bunch of tracks with cultural or conscious topics, but the majority of the album is dedicated to romance and affairs of the heart.
Even though the album is mostly smooth as a baby’s butt, it’s a well-produced and well-sung effort produced by a number of people from around the globe – Kemar “Flava” McGregor from the U.S. Chris Peckings and Lloyd Mullings from the UK, Arena 026 Music from the Netherlands, First T & Kross from France, Enjoint from Japan and HearMeNow from Switzerland.
Sadiki has proven numerous times before that he’s an excellent vocalist, and on this album he’s as great as always. It’s soulful, powerful and sometimes it sounds like he’s singing while walking on eggshells.
There are several songs worthy of special attention, particularly Lovers Flight over Leroy Sibbles’Break Up To Make Up, the motherly celebration aptly titled Mama, the up-tempo and patois intense Destiny’s Child and Live Some Life, which borrows its horn part from Susan Cadogan’sHurt So Good.
Jah Is The Only King might not be the cultural set implied by the title, but when the material is as strong as these twelve tracks I don’t really care about titles or topics. It’s the music that counts.
UK lovers rocker Carroll Thompson’s debut album Hopelessly in Love has recently been reissued by SoulJazz Records. It was – just like Louisa Marks’ debut album Breakout – originally released in 1981 and has become something of a landmark in the lovers rock genre, even though the term wasn’t coined at the time.
Hopelessly in Love was preceded by chart toppers I’m Sorry and Simply in Love – both included on the album – and the whole set carries the same tender vibe as those tracks.
The riddims are easy-going, laid back and will make your head nod back and forth in a sensual style as well as making you and your partner stay up all night long and rub shoulder to shoulder until the skin starts to feel warm and sensitive.
The real peak of the album is Sing Me A Love Song, a track that could have been written by Holland-Dozier-Holland and recorded at Motown in the 60’s. It has breezy horns, pulsating bass line and smooth backing vocals.
Hopelessly in Love is released with original artwork and tracklisting and is available on vinyl, CD and digital download.
SoulJazz Records has recently reissued the late Louisa “Markswoman” Mark’s debut album Breakout, something of a landmark in the history of British reggae music and the lovers rock genre.
Louisa Mark was only in her teens when she kick-started the lovers rock phenomenon with her debut single Caught You In A Lie – a rendition of Robert Parker’s soul hit – in 1975. It was produced by UK soundsystem operator Lloyd Coxsone and backed by Dennis Bovell and his band Matumbi.
The debut album was originally released in 1981 and produced by Clem Bushay who invited a number of stellar musicians to play on the album, including Rico Rodriguez and Vin Gordon on trombone, Dennis Bovell on bass and no others than Owen Gray, The Heptones and Dave Barker on backing vocals.
With her high voice and youthful expression with lyrics about misplaced trust, heartfelt goodbyes and being in love Louisa Mark became an iconic figure on the UK reggae scene. Her success was however short-lived and Breakout was her sole album release.
More than 30 years have passed since Breakout was released, but it has stood the test of time, and the hit singles 6 Six Street and the Jackson 5 cover Even Though You’re Gone sound as sweet today as they did back then. That actually goes for the majority of the 13 tracks, of which three are bonus tracks – two rare single-only DJ cuts with Louisa Mark, including the legendary Trinity, and a spaced-out rare dub.
Breakout comes with the original cover sleeve and the original sleevenotes and is now available on CD, LP and digital download.
Beres Hammond is one of Jamaica’s most beloved artists with his patented soulful singing about longing, leaving and loving as well as the occasional cultural-themed track.
He has been putting out sweet music for almost four decades, mostly as a solo vocalist, but also as lead singer in Zap Pow, and today this band is probably best known through Alborosie’s and Collie Buddz’ samples of their hard-hitting 70’s scorcher Last War.
Under his own name he has put out anguished love songs and smash hits like What One Dance Can Do, Tempted to Touch and the U Roy combination Putting Up Resistance and he has also worked with a host of Jamaica’s most prominent producers, including Donovan Germain and the late Phillip “Fattis” Burrell.
Over the years he has not been as productive as many other Jamaican artists, but has nonetheless proved to be equally at ease with every reggae genre, though usually leaning towards the soulful and melodious.
His latest and mostly self-produced full-length set One Love, One Life follows his 2008-released album A Moment in Time and collects 20 tracks on two separate discs, of which one focuses on classic lovers rock, while the second disc contains more socially-conscious cuts.
Beres Hammond has one of those instantly recognizable voices – it’s torn, rugged and smoky-sweet. And it gives the elegantly arranged and well-produced material an optimistically melancholic feel.
The album is loaded with infectious melodies and blends smooth 80’s rub a dub with contemporary roots and R&B ballads, but also adding two tracks with a ska beat, and according to a recent interview it’s the first time he sings on a ska riddim.
In 2001 Beres Hammond was nominated for a Grammy for his Music is Life album, and if there’s any justice in this world he’ll receive a nomination and maybe also an award for this compelling and cohesive set of romance and culture.