In the mood for some powerful singing, bedroom lyrics and contemporary relicks of classic Jamaican riddims? Then Richie Stephens’ latest album Real Reggae Music will make you drool.
Richie Stephens is a classically trained singer with a warm and passionate voice who over the years has done his fair share of cover versions, including pop and R&B gems from Teddy Pendergrass, Luther Vandross and Tom Jones. He has also worked for soul giant Motown Records and spent some time singing in Soul II Soul.
Real Reggae Music collects 14 tracks, of which most are previously unreleased, produced by Danny Brownie, Radiation Squad, Steelie & Clevie and Donovan Germain. If you have a decent reggae collection you’ll probably recognize most of the riddims, such as The Uniques’ rocksteady anthem My Conversation or Johnny Clarke’s dismal None Shall Escape the Judgement. The most recognizable track is however an up-tempo version of Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry.
It has been a while since Jamaican romantic crooners Sanchez, Singing Melody and Lukie D dropped albums, and while you wait for those you should give this mature set a spin.
In the summer of 2011 acclaimed German singjay Gentleman and veteran Jamaican singer Richie Stephens – known for his silky bedroom pop ballads – released Live Your Life. This partly acoustic, put your lighters in the air, reggaefied pop song was an immediate success, and so was its more dancehall-oriented follow-up Warrior.
These two hit songs encouraged the duo to do a full album titled after their debut single, and Live Your Life contains four other duets plus four individual tracks from each vocalist.
Live Your Life is adult soft rock and pop influenced reggae with hints of dancehall and rocksteady. Richie Stephens distinctive, warm and deep voice contrasts very well with Gentleman’s youthful and more energetic approach, especially in album-opener I Found Heaven which is reminiscent of late 60’s and early 70’s DJ and singer combinations.
This is reggae by the good guys for the wholesome moms and dads, and it’s well-produced and directly aimed an audience that doesn’t want any fuss with their reggae. It’s uplifting, but at the same time harmless and polite, even though I get a little upset when I hear the version of the stadium rock classic Drift Away, which has been versioned to death.
Live Your Life is for some reason a U.S. release only, and over there it’s available on CD and on digital platforms.