Inner Circle

Black Roses

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AllMusic Review by

Bernard Touter Harvey and the Lewis brothers waited six years to re-form Inner Circle, long enough for their own pain to ease and their fans to come to terms with singer Jacob Miller's tragic death. They were not the same band they were; how could they be without Miller? But with the trio fleshed out with newly recruited singer Carlton Coffie and drummer Lancelot Hall, Inner Circle now began stamping their imprint on the current reggae scene. Like the band, reggae had also undergone a major transformation since 1980, and ragga was now sweeping the sound systems. However, this was not to put a damper on Inner Circle's organic sound; returning to their roots, they proceeded to weave together an accessible style from bits and pieces of the popular sounds of the day. And so Black Roses blooms in a rich mulch mix of dancehall, urban club, R&B, roots, rock, pop, and soul. Virtually every surviving roots group was attempting to create a similarly popular hybrid, but few pulled it off with the panache of Circle, probably because they were the only ones actually comfortable in this melange of a milieu. Some of the results are startling creative: "Goodbye Girl" is an exquisite blend of a lovely old Brenton Dowe number, hefty roots, and the riff from "The Good, the Bad & the Ugly." The title track crosses sharp dancehall beats with an emotional Marley-esque number; "Freedom Street" borrows its melody from Ken Boothe's song of the same name, but adds thumping beats and an African chorus; while "Picture on the Wall" pulls Motown into the dancehall. There ain't "No Stopping Us Now," Coffie adamantly declares, "No way!" And Circle's elegant method of taking old melodies and revitalizing them while seamlessly threading in their own new numbers creates an album that's as familiar as it is fresh and innovative. With themes encompassing culture, love, and anthemic party pieces, nothing could stop these heavy-hitters now.

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