Boris Gardiner

I Want to Wake Up With You: The Best of Boris Gardiner

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Since his start in the '60s, Boris Gardiner split his time between two parallel worlds. The first half of Gardiner's dual life was as the consummate session player, anchoring the rhythm section in a number of bands, most memorably as bass player for the Upsetters on classic Lee Perry productions like Junior Murvin's Police & Thieves and the Congos' Heart of the Congos. The other half of that split was as a hotel bandleader playing the watery pop hit interpretations that are the calling card of every lounge act to ever don matching velvet suits. Outside of Jamaica it was the rootsy, raw monolithic sound of ska and then reggae that attracted listeners, but on the island it was chameleon-like pop cover bands like Byron Lee & the Dragonaires that ruled the nation. For the most part, Gardiner's releases were crafted for the hotel crowds. The tune that this collection was named after, and which leads it off, "I Want to Wake Up With You," was his biggest hit and most reflects the soft pop approach of the hotel tourist scene. Other songs cut from the same cloth are "You're Everything to Me," his cover of the Stylistics' "You Make Me Feel Brand New," and the cover of Jim Reeves' country classic "Guilty." To a lesser degree, the reggae-fied covers like the calypso standard "Commanding Wife," Wayne Fontana's "Groovy Kind of Love," and the Sandpipers' "Never My Love" fit this triple-cream formula as well. It was no accident that Gardiner was an in-demand bass player at Studio One, Black Ark, Treasure Isle, and other studios. Reggae fans will perk up their ears upon hearing tunes written and produced by Gardiner that are included on I Want to Wake Up With You. The standouts are the classic blaxploitation-influenced "Ghetto Funk," living up to its street-level title 100 percent, and "You Just Got to Be in Love," perhaps Gardiner's finest, most soulful moment, a song that probably captivated tourists and locals alike. The uptempo reggae-pop of "Elizabethan Reggae" and "Dynamic Pressure" as well as rootsier meditations like "Bewitched" and, yes, another cover, "Ain't No Sunshine," will also satisfy those who prefer the shantytowns to the hotel beaches. That Gardiner moved so freely between the two camps says a lot about him as a musician but leaves this broad overview, which darts back and forth between the two, feeling a little unfocused.

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