Sunday, April 24, 2011

Back to my youth!

Lovers rock isn't the most highly-regarded form of reggae. When you hear people arguing the merits of different eras, it hardly ever gets a look-in and I think that's a bit unfair. Growing up in England in the eighties, artists like Kofi, John McClean and Sandra Cross provided the soundtrack to some pretty crucial moments in my life and still have a special place in my heart.

My first selection is 'If I Give My Heart To You' by John McLean. Mad Professor produced a ton of really good lovers tunes on his Ariwa label, and for me this is one of the songs of the decade. Honey-voiced John McLean had a few other hits like 'Truly Bowled Over', but never did anything else even half as good as this one. The horns section may've been replaced by a synth, the rhythm may be a drum machine but it hardly matters: the lyrics are smart, McLean sings with the sort of finesse that few singers can manage, and the mix is fantastic light-hearted and playful in the sort of way that you only really hear on Ariwa.

The b-side is 'Doppler Effect' by Professor Doppler (aka Mad Professor). Listen to the drum, bass and piano - it's the sort of rhythm that got done to death at the start of the nineties, but it's also an evolution of the stuff Mad Professor was putting out on his African Connection dub LPs.

The next record is Brown Sugar's magnificent 'Our Reggae Music'. For those of you unfamiliar with them, Brown Sugar were a trio consisting of Kofi, Caron Wheeler and Pauline? Catlin. Kofi of course went on to very successful solo career, and Wheeler is far better known for her work with Soul II Soul a decade later but this is where it all started. The vocals are as great as you'd expect, and John Kpiaye's  guitar is a major bonus. Kpiaye's name crops up on so many great lovers tunes that I decided to do some digging, and after a just couple minutes found this biography! He's the man responsible for the reggae version of 'Swan Lake' and plays guitar on most of Linton Kwesi Johnson's LPs (think of that lovely hook on 'Reality Poem'). He put out an LP of his own a few years back that I really like and recommend - it may not be to everyone's taste but here's a sample:

Finally, here's one of the songs that all other lovers tunes are measured against - 'Ring My Bell' by Blood Sisters. For me this is better than Anita Ward's original disco version. It's not just that the vocal is absolutely flawless and the rhythm is superb - the dub is as good as you'll hear anywhere in reggae and both sides of the record are equally strong. I don't really know anything about Blood Sisters, they seem to have left no traces apart from one great record, a couple of good ones and a few photos on their MySpace page.

I'm going to sign off now with another video, a classic by someone called Melina Carrone, which came out on the back of Human Cargo's 'Carry Us Beyond'. 


AYO Dot said...

Don't fret . . . this Lovers Rock really gets to me! It's one of the important steps in British Reggae (very interesting about the Caron Wheeler connection) and a definite continuation in the Soul Ballad tradition.

lala said...

i blogged this marvelous selection ages ago:
tracks 8-10 are by John Kpiaye, not sure from where


01 Ob-La-De Ob-La-Da.mp3

02 By the Rivers Of Babylon.mp3

03 Kingston Underground.mp3

04 Far East Dub.mp3

05 Sax Logic.mp3

06 Ramble.mp3

07 Africa.mp3

08 African Echoes.mp3

09 Respect to Mr Ranglin.mp3

10 Out of the Shadow.mp3

11 East Side, West Side.mp3

12 So Much Trouble.mp3

13 Battle Hymn of the Republic.mp3

14 Could you be Loved.mp3

15 Stir It Up.mp3

bonus points for naming the other artists...

Anonymous said...

Hi, thank you for your blog, i really like. If it inerest you is Carolyn Catlin and not Pauline. See the album 'The lovers rock story (best of the early years). Long life to RROTS FROM THE YARD.
Marc from France

Shezekiel PR said...

Carolyn and pauline are sisters and were both with the lovers rock label

Anonymous said...

Yes Carolyn and Pauline are the 2 Legendary Catlyn Sisters... Foundations have been set by them.. Notes.