Sugar Minott

Sugar & Spice

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As is all too typical with Jamaican releases, the chronology of this album is a bit convoluted. In 1983, Sugar Minott joined forces with Sly & Robbie and the Taxi Gang and cut the "Devil Pickney" single. That was followed up in the new year by "Rub a Dub Sound" and "Herbsman Hustling," and the crew then set to work on Minott's new album. However, Taxi didn't release Sugar & Spice until 1986, and it wasn't until 1990 that it received an American release when the RAS label finally picked it up. By then, "Herbsman" had already titled another Minott set entirely, while "Rub a Dub" had appeared as "Inna Rub a Dub" on 1986's Inna Reggae Dance Hall, and with almost half of Spice comprising dubs, the album inevitably came across as a hits-and-bits set to American fans. Which is criminal, as the album was actually a seminal release. The percolating "Herbsman" was a ganja anthem, even as it vividly portrayed the daily grind of the collie seller. "Rub" boasts one of the most laid-back rhythms the Riddim Twins ever spun out; even with a duck quacking over it, "Rub" would have stormed the dancehalls, and with Minott's sweet tones its fires were even hotter. "Pickney" didn't blaze quite so brightly, although it's the better song, a breezy delight. All three of these numbers were aimed straight at Jamaica's sound systems, but Minott was also well established in Britain's lovers rock scene, and the gentle "Don't Know Why I Love You" and impassioned "Save Your Love for Me" were sent sailing to its heart. The gorgeous "Ain't Nobody Move Me" was also arranged lovers style, but here the singer declares his love for Jah. In contrast, the feverish "Love of Jah," and its stomping, moody dub, played directly to the roots crowds. All told then, it's an extremely well-rounded set, comprising cultural numbers, romantic pieces, and dancehall fads. The album shimmers between moods, with the sizzling dubs adding further depth to the set. Minott is at his peak, the rhythms are superb, and the album has a wonderfully organic quality, even as Sly & Robbie experiment with technology. Even six years late, this album packed undeniable power, and it has lost none of its potency since. A timeless classic.

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