Sugar Minott

We Got a Good Thing Going

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At its nadir, lovers rock is a hideous monster, a glossy over-produced nasty, that takes the worst aspects of MOR and magnifies them. At its heights, however, lovers rock is the most sublime of styles, warm and romantic, breathing deep emotion and passion into a rich tapestry of Caribbean rhythms and British sensibilities. Good Thing Going is a classic of the genre. When Sugar Minott immigrated to London in late 1980, the local scene was in the throes of translating the style from its Jamaican roots into a totally unique U.K. music form, and the singer quickly dove into its depths. Signing to RCA, the singer shot straight up the charts with a fabulous cover of Michael Jackson's "Good Thing Going," which titled his full-length that arrived in the new year. U.S. fans were finally able to appreciate the album's glory when the Heartbeat label gave the set an American release in 1988. "Good Thing Going" was one of a trio of covers included within, and it was Minott's ability to not merely revitalize old numbers, but to give them a new resonance, that made them all special. His take on Dionne Warwick's "Walk on By" is superb, while "Never My Love" reverberates with emotion. The latter was initially a U.S. hit for the Association in 1967, and covers took it back into the charts on two subsequent occasions. In all these forms, the song was too trite to interest the British, but Minott's would give him another U.K. hit. If his covers are superb, his own material is magnificent, as are the arrangements and production (barring the title track, the entire set is self-produced). The entire set has a lovely light touch that melds together crisp Jamaican rhythms with sparkling melodies; the atmospheres are lush but breezy, and the lightness never translates into lightweight. "Jasmine," for example, is purely Jamaican in arrangement, performance, and mix, yet remains absolutely accessible to wider audiences. "Life Without Money" blends a roots atmosphere to a lovely rocksteady melody, while the big-band-styled brass line softens the song's shadows. "My Sisters" is even more innovative in its mix of a rich, romantic melody, funky vocoder-esque effects, and a faux sax wah-wahing above in Roaring Twenties style. However, Minott never showboats his creativity; like a master chef, it's his subtle use of ingredients and flavors that make this dish a masterpiece. Listeners initially lose themselves entirely in his warm, emotive vocals and the songs' romantic atmospheres; only with time and extended play do the nuances begin to exert themselves -- a gorgeous guitar riff, a particularly crisp drum pattern, an intriguing synth line, a heart-beating bassline. And it's then that the true mastery of the set becomes evident. A timeless classic.

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