This compilation is way outside the usual area covered by reggae reissue label Blood & Fire, i.e. 1970s roots & dub. Apart from the first track, which is not a cover but a wicked slice of organ-led instrumental funk, the album entirely consists of reggae cover versions of classic soul tunes. Now this could in consequence have been a really rubbish compilation, because nearly every Jamaican singer or vocal group has covered numerous soul songs, often perfunctorily, but the quality control here is of the highest order, with no tracks less than very good.
Stand out tracks on such a consistent album are hard to find, but personal faves include both the Ken Boothe tunes (his superb take on Ain't No Sunshine is as good a version as anyone has recorded, had he been born in the USA he would have been one of the major soul stars of the 1960s/70s); The In Crowd's wicked floor-filler Mango Walk; Carl Bradney's Slipping Into Darkness; Delroy Wilson's fine version of the Temptations' Get Ready (the best of at least 3 versions he recorded) and Alton Ellis's lovely It's A Shame. But it's all good - not an album where you have to use the next track button. Shame they never did a second volume but apparently licensing a multi-producer album like this was a nightmare.
on 22 January 2002
B&F 's penultimate release of 2001, and one of their finest to date. In their typically methodical approach to re-releasing Jamaican popular music, they draw the reggae listener's attention to the massive influence that was U.S. Soul music.
If one element of this music stands out above all others, it is the exquisite performances that the artists have put to tape. John Holt's - For The Love of You is sublime...the bassline on Milton Henry's - Gypsy Woman simply awesome...Carl Bradney - Slipping into Darkness head-noddingly funky and if by track 18 you still aren't smiling then I'm sure Welton Irie's take on Grandmaster Flash will no doubt have won you over.
This record may be a detour from the label's previous output, however it is fantastically entertaining and important and should be overlooked at the listener's peril.
on 3 November 2001
Reggae Revive specialist label `Blood and Fire', whose catalogue is made up entirely of classic raw roots music from the 70's have taken the strange step of releasing a various artists album of mediocre soul covers. No doubt the idea is to broaden the appeal of the label by perhaps bringing it to the attention of a wider audience.
The packaging and overall sound quality are once again superb, which is remarkable considering that most if not all are sourced from 25-30 year old vinyl. However the majority of songs are covered by singers whose best days were already behind them, and seems to beg the questions, a) were these songs recorded through a lack of inspiration, and/or b) were these songs recorded to hopefully gain a cross-over hit at the end of a flagging career.
Who knows the answers? Most tracks are decent if uninspired re-interpretations, and most are pretty tedious. One or two tracks tend to stand out, the title track "Darker Than Blue", and the Tamlins "Baltimore" with the Sly & Robbie rhythm section providing a backing that was fairly interesting at the time. Welton Irie provides a US rap inspired toast, which was in turn inspired by JA DJ-style of delivery. The rest, while unlikely to cause offence is instantly forgetable, even more so when compared to the astonishingly original and ground breaking work of Yabby You, King Tubby, Big Youth, and The Congos all of whose finest work is already released on the same label.