Dennis Brown

Milk and Honey

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The partnership of Dennis Brown and Errol "Flabba" Holt continues to pay rich dividends, for of all the producers the singer worked with across the '90s, arguably Holt was the most sympathetic. Blood Brothers, where Brown joined forces with Gregory Isaacs, was very good indeed, but Holt still had to cater to the latter man's style as well; here he can lavish his attention on Brown alone. The results are awe-inspiring. Backed by Holt's Roots Radics, and with a guest appearance by bassist Leroy Sibbles and drummer Sly Dunbar, the album is driven by modern digitized beats, but boasts the Radics at their richest. The group plunder the Jamaican songbook for old rhythms, reaching back into the past to root out old roots numbers, disinter the beautiful melodies of the rocksteady era, and even cross the Caribbean to plunder the American pop chart. There's a phenomenal lush and soulful cover of the Jackson 5's classic "Never Can Say Goodbye," slightly retitled within. Horace Andy's gorgeous "My Guiding Star" provides Brown with the inspiration for the lovelorn "Why U Wanna," its rhythm totally reinvented by the Radics. That's just one of a stream of glorious love songs that Milk and Honey is drenched in. "Caress Me Girl" is just as soulful, but its arrangement is even more sizzling, the sparkling keyboards counterpointing Holt's heaving bassline. The cover of "Your Love" has a backing that is downright perky, all stiff beats and taut riffing, but here Brown is at his most passionate. "Dumb Thing" travels back in time, resurrecting an old Studio One rhythm, but serving it up in lush lovers rock style, sending Brown into sizzling R&B mode as he promises he'll be there, whenever the girl wants him. Then it's back to the present and into the dancehalls for "Darling." For as Holt has discovered, the tougher and sparser the rhythm, the more soulful the singer, and here Brown virtually self-immolates in the flames of his desire. "Love Love Love" is actually a cultural song and unity-themed, despite its bouncy rhythm and sweet pop melody. The title track revisits the past, a sizzling remake of an old Brown standard. "Revolution, Pt. 3," a continuation of a number originally cut for Sly & Robbie, and "Things in Life" journeys further back in time, their rich rocksteady rhythms providing the perfect backdrop for Brown's heartfelt words of wisdom. "Wisdom" itself is the richest roots number on the set, and the most inspiring, a true redemption song. It's an incredibly powerful set, a brilliant coming together of minds and music: Brown is in top form, the Radics at their best, and the production nigh on perfect.

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