Monday, April 26, 2010

Lovers Come Forward

Last year Shockman and ForwardEver gave a presentation titled Class and Romance Inna Di Dance at the EMP Pop Conference in Seattle on the history of British lovers rock and Jamaican romantic reggae. The talk charted the simultaneous development of these related styles and how they and influenced one another. We concluded by highlighting a few of the artists who are lighting up contemporary lovers reggae music – and there are many.

Thankfully, US-based VP Records has faithfully stood by romantic reggae, even in its leaner years, releasing music by Sanchez, Wayne Wonder and Tarrus Riley. As a result of VP's commitment, and the work of some talented new producers in the US, UK and Jamaica, we're hearing some of the best productions to come forward in the new century. 

VP’s recent Strictly The Best Volume 40 collection has great lovers material from Beres Hammond, Bitty McLean, Courtney John, Red Roze and Sherieta, to name a few. Likewise the compilation Covers for Reggae Lovers features 16 reggae versions of classic and new romantic songs. Covers was A&R’d by VP’s Clive Davidson, who generously agreed to talk about this release and the thought process that went in to it. So all lovers’ rock people – tune in!

ForwardEver: Did you commission songs especially for Covers for Reggae Lovers?

Clive Davidson: No, the songs were not commissioned for the album. Basically, these cover songs had to meet certain production standards and fall within the contractual agreements.

What were some of your first lovers’ rock or romantic reggae favorites from back in the day? What specific tunes?

CD: Well going back from the 1950s through ‘80s I can remember artists such as Jackie Edwards, Millie Small, The Wailers, Heptones, Delroy Wilson, Alton Ellis, Slim Smith, Third World, Sanchez and a host of others that had covered a lot of R ‘n’ B and pop songs. The Paragons covered “Talking Love,” originally sung by Engelbert Humperdinck. Ken Boothe sang David Gates’ “Everything I Own” and Boris Gardiner’s covered the Stylistics’ “You make me Feel Brand New.”

I remember I ran to the store to grab Sanchez's "Love We Had Stays On My Mind" (included on Covers for Reggae Lovers)when it first dropped on 7". That's the power of reggae covers. Any other songs give you that feeling on this comp?

CD: Well, Donny Hathaway was and still is one of my favorite artists and so when I heard Ian Andrews’ reggae cover version of his song “Someday We’ll All Be Free," I concluded that this would be on the compilation.

I came up in the golden era of 1980s-90s British lovers’ rock, and I dig the British contributions to this comp – folks like Lee Francis, Tajh and Bobby Kray. How did you link with some of those artists or producers?

 CD: First let me say that music is universal and I personally, listen to or try to listen to all genres of music. If it sounds good to me I accept it, and it doesn’t matter where it was made or who the artists or the producer is. The British artists have contributed quite a lot especially with the reggae covers.

There are many great new names on this comp -- Oliver Smoothe, Ian Andrews, Lee Vinchee. Is there a "new" lovers’ rock or romantic reggae scene brewing these days? Is this a trend for the future?

CD: I don’t think so. Both the covers and lovers’ rock [styles] have always been there. But they haven’t been exposed, presented or promoted to the public, as they should. Whenever [the music] is promoted properly then the reaction seems to generate the same reaction.

How soon do you think it will be before a reggae cover breaks out on American pop radio?

CD: If the radio programming on the pop commercial stations starts to add this format I would not be surprised if it made the Billboard Pop or R ‘n’ B charts. Covers For Reggae Lovers has charted on the Billboard Reggae Chart since its release on February 9, 2010.

In the ‘80s I recall hearing reggae covers of rock and pop bands like Fleetwood Mac ["Everywhere" -- even one of "Over My Head"]. You've included One Third's cover of Foreigner’s soft pop smash "I Wanna Know What Love Is" on the comp. What do you think about reggae music's strong tradition of covering Top 40 and rock groups?

CD: That is a very good question. In Jamaica, as a small nation, the populace has been exposed to all genres of music. If the music is good, whether it’s rock, R ‘n’ B, pop or jazz, a reggae cover version would be recorded with great success in sales.

Tarrus Riley has really raised the bar for reggae covers with his version of John Legend’s "Stay With You." What are your thoughts on Tarrus as an artist? 

CD: Tarrus Riley is a talented artist and has great potential to extend his name worldwide and beyond reggae, but this will not happen without a great production team plus commercial radio exposure both in North America and the UK. I only wish him success now and in the future.

 Any other comments on compiling Covers For Reggae Lovers or your upcoming works in reggae music? What does the future hold for you?

CD: The compilation was good for what it was. I did the best I could and stayed within the budget because one has to make sure that the cost of the product will be recouped and at the same time deliver a very good album, which is very important to the buying public. Music is my life and I’ll keep doing these productions.

Covers For Reggae Lovers is out now. Check for forthcoming lovers and romantic reggae albums from Gappy Ranks, Gramps Morgan and more.