Various ‘Lovers for Reggae Lovers’ (VP) 4/5

Lovers rock as sub-genre of reggae entered music vocabulary in the early 1980s and some argued that it was a specifically UK-based phenomenon (true to a certain extent and many of the best practitioners of that era were indeed British artists such as Janet Kay and Carol Thompson, though Jamaican singers of the calibre of Sugar Minott immediately embraced it as well), but in reality there have throughout the history of Jamican music been songs about love, particularly during the rock steady era, and the lovers title simply officialised what was in fact a startlingly obvious musical reality. For this excellent new compilation, a host of reggae singers, new and veteran, have been drafted in to sing in the smooth souful style associated with the sub-genre. Several classic soul tuned have been covered and the singers are to be congratulated for not going for the obvious contenders, but instead selecting some real gems. Among these Ian Andrews’ impassioned vocals on the Donny Hathaway soul standard ‘Someday we’ll all be free’ are outstanding while Jamelody impresses on one of the later Stevie Wonder compositions, ‘Ribbon in the sky’, that was originally hidden away on the 1982 Best of compilation ‘Musiquarium’. Jamelody’s raspy voice is ideally suited to this song. The Dells classic ‘Love we had stays on my mind’ is given a faithful rendition by Sanchez while modern roots master Luciano displays another side to his portfolio on ‘Through the years’. Former Studio One star Winston Francis contributes ‘I call it love’ and Britain’s very own Janet Kay shows that she has not lost her touch with ‘Take a bow’, a single that went to number one on the Billboard chart in may 2008. At a time when the similarities between seemingly disparate musical styles are being explored (soul and country, blues and African), it is heartening to know that the commonality of reggae and soul is once again the focus of attention and this well designed compilation goes some way to illuminating and enhancing our knowledge of the connections.

Tim Stenhouse