Sugar Minott

Rare Gems

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Rare Gems features 22 tracks recorded between 1979 and 1986, in what is generally considered to be Sugar Minott's most productive period. Most of these cuts have never been released outside of Jamaica before, and New York-based label Easy Star deserves kudos for putting this well-sequenced package together. Minott, best known for his pioneering dancehall material, shows his remarkable versatility here, jumping seamlessly from dancehall jives to conscious roots hymns, from heart-stopping lovers rock to DJ toasts, backed by such Jamaican luminaries as Sly & Robbie, Jackie Mittoo, Dean Fraser, the Roots Radics, and the Aggrovators. The beautiful and wise "Half a Love" is one of the standouts here, along with a wonderful version of the Supremes' "My Whole World Is Empty Without You," that Minott successfully shifts from a secular plea to a hymn to Jah. The final track, "Chant," is a straight DJ toast, and brings this beautifully arranged album to a fitting close. Given the wide array of styles here, this could have easily been a hit-or-miss collection, but Minott's sweet voice binds it all together, and Rare Gems emerges as one of his strongest releases.

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