Various Artists

This Is Lovers Rock

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As the lovers rock sound began to emerge out of London in the mid-'70s, the city's longstanding reggae label Greensleeves got wise and set up the Cool Rockers imprint to separate the sweet and the dreamy from the revolutionary music they usually traded in. The liner notes in their 2007 compilation This Is Lovers Rock are brief, informative, and surprisingly defensive about this move and the music. One listen to One Blood's slick and thin "Get in Touch (With Me)" or any number of the sugary tracks included here and it's easy to see this isn't the respected Gregory Isaacs or even Dennis Brown definition of lovers rock. This is soulful reggae that aims for polish no matter what the budget, with love being communicated through tenderness and delicate crooning. The title to key track "I'm in Love with a Dreadlocks" is the compilation's most dangerous moment, although that doesn't mean there isn't room for sass, like when Sister Love gets rid of a lover with "Goodbye Little Man." The breezy "Let's Dub It Up" from Junior Murvin sound-alike Dee Sharp is wonderful, and with Keith Douglas' "I Specialize in Good Girls" plus Sandra Cross covering the Mighty Diamonds' "Country Living," the set proves it knows its way around the lesser hits. Without Louisa Marks' "Caught You in a Lie," Janet Kay's "Silly Games," or all the Jamaican spawned tracks that followed in the U.K.'s footsteps, This Is Lovers Rock is hardly the definitive collection the title may imply, and as the liner notes point out, this gentle set won't sway the roots men or rude boys. Still, the sound quality is impressive, there are some desirable extended mixes, and enough prime material from reggae's underappreciated, softer side to warrant a recommendation.

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