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Sugar Minott - Sugar Minott at Studio One

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Artist: Sugar Minott

Album: Sugar Minott at Studio One

Label: Soul Jazz

Review date: Apr. 4, 2005

Growing up next door to a dancehall in Jamaica, a young Lincoln Minott soaked up the bass-lines and rhythms of ska, rock steady, and early reggae. Early on, he began improvising melodies and lyrics over those nearby grooves, singing in the smooth, sweet voice that earned him the nickname “Sugar.”

Before long Minott caught the ears of Coxsone Dodd at the legendary Studio One, and was writing hook-laden original songs, recording them with his mellifluous and breezy vocals over classic Studio One tracks: recycling those timeless grooves for a new life in the fast-exploding dancehall scene.

For those of us whose first immersion in reggae led to endless rummaging through record store import bins for the treasures of late-‘70s rockers and flyers and dubwise discs, hearing the tracks collected on this CD will likely summon up memories of an exhilarating era in Jamaican music, when sweet soul harmonies, clean-toned, chank-scratch guitars, and the occasional syn-drum accent announced a reggae-fied take on vintage rock steady that was designed to hit the pleasure zones of listeners and, most of all, dancers.

Sugar Minott defined and perfected the possibilities of that approach, and his effortless-sounding phrasing, along with his flowing, off-the-cuff way with the rhythm of words as they floated over the stellar playing of the Studio One musicians are evident in every track here. We also get treated to plenty of the imaginative sonic adventure that Dodd and the brilliant engineer Sylvan Morris were bringing to their records in those inventive late-analog days, just before the synthetic digital grooves of the ragga style took over.

Transplanted later to London, Minott was to become a pioneer of the slick, romantic genre called lover’s rock, and the roots of that hugely popular style can be heard clearly in the songs presented here. These classic ’70s Studio One tracks are perfect music for warm weather and open windows; a cooling breeze to balance the fiery rumble and dread of mystical dub and hard roots reggae.

By Kevin Macneil Brown

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