The Clash may well have given a thumbs up to it with a song on their classic London Calling LP, but there is a lot of snobbery surrounding this sugary sweet, romantic form of reggae. Ian McCann addresses some of that ill-feeling in the liner notes that accompany this 40 track double CD: “Not everyone could see the joy of lovers. If any of it ever landed on the desks of Britain’s music critics, it was trounced. There were complaints about untutored, tuneless singers, soppy lyrics and a failure to address the burning issues of the day.”
Some of the slightly slicker material on Disc 2 of this chronologically-arranged compilation, such as Boris Gardner's 1986 hit ‘You're Everything To Me’, might be grist to the mill. But there is an awful lot more selections from the genre’s late 1970s heyday, on the stronger Disc 1, that support McCann’s belief that at its best “Lovers Rock is a truly uplifting listen”, including: Ruddy Thomas’s ‘Loving Pauper’, Candy Mackenzie’s ‘Tell Me A Lie’, Marcia Aitken’s 'I’m Still In Love With You’, and Janet Kay’s ‘Loving You’.
Lover's Rock is something of the poor relation of Reggae music. Whilst the likes of Dub, Roots, Ska, Dancehall, and just about every other genre has considerable kudos with collectors and music lovers, Lover's Rock is probably best described as the musical equivilant of the genre's version of Easy Listening. Whilst that may be the case, it's also true to say that this is one of Reggae's most durable sub-genres.
Trojan have linked with Island records to plunder a wider back catalogue for their recent reissue series giving their current releases (each representing one specific genre) the chance for buyers to chart the history of Jamaican music from its beginnings through its key developments. This compilation covers one of the widest date ranges beginning in 1976 and finishing with a song recorded in 1990. Its cast list is almost as broad and impressive as the timespan it covers.
Essentially Lover's Rock is music for lovers. It's lighter in touch, more soulful, and contains nothing of the politics, bravado, sonic boundary testing, or innovation that any of the other genres it spans. This is about songs and melody, pure and simple. One key ingredient is the fact that it relies heavily on taking songs of the day and giving them a Reggae makeover. At its worst it can be rather tame and almost bland, at its best it matches, even betters its source material, and is good as the best pop music of the day. It was a time when even the biggest stars could be tempted into cutting a track which would have a lighter more radio friendly appeal. So the likes of Freddie McGregor, Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, Keith Rowe, and Matumbi all may have had a reputation built outside the genre but they are found here.
The whole series is a great overview but bearing in mind there's a compilation containing many of the biggest hits Trojan Presents: Classic Reggae - The Soundtrack To Jamaica this collection can focus on the less familair tracks of the time. Thus names like Vivian Weathers, Kotch, Marie Pierre, and JC Lodge may not household names to many but the more serious reggae fans, yet they're here rubbing shoulders with some more familiar names. The start could easily have gone back a couple of years, but 1976 clearly was a point when reggae was hitting a goldmine of quality and there is much to like here. It's soulful and presents itself chronologically so you trace the changes in recording technology and the popular sounds of the time are charted, so by the end there is an almost digital feel about the sound.
This is 40 tracks of exceptionally high quality and contains some underrated anthems of the time and some lesser known gems in equal quality. Barry Biggs' lovely "Wide Awake In A Dream", Dennis Brown's "Love Has Found Its Way", and Freddie McGregor's "Lovers Rock, JA Style" are ones likely to be familiar to fans of reggae and highlight what great singers each were as well as the wonderfully high quality of song writing there is here. Yet it's some of the lesser known acts who make this compilation stick out above its budget price range. Shiela Hylton's cover of The Police's "Bed's Too Big Without You" gives the song an edge, it's powerful, brilliant and thoroughly deserving of a better legacy. She's one of many here who have dropped off the radar despite this actually charting at the time. Marie Pierre is given two tracks here highlighting her sweet soulful voice but whilst "Walk Away" is very nice indeed, "Can't Go Through With Life" is quite possibly the best thing on the compilation. I'd never heard this track before and find it hard to believe this didn't cross over to the pop charts unlike many of its contemporaries did at the time.
The plethora of covers (along with the Hylton and Biggs tracks already mentioned) include a nice sweet cover of "Easy" by Jimmy Lindsay, Marcia Griffith's digital remake of "Fever" which actually sounds truer to the original than any of the other Jamacian versions of the song I've ever heard, John Holt smooching "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine", Kotch proving that "Wonderful Tonight" can sound good with a reggae groove attached, and Janet Kay doing a lovely version of "Lovin' You" - although she can't hit that big note, it's a decent cover - to name a few here. There are also lots of great original pieces songs too. Ruddy Thomas' "Loving Pauper", and Keith Rowe's "Groovy Situation" being a couple of good examples. There are a couple of less impressive tracks here. Boris Gardner's "You're Everything To Me" may be the biggest hit but it really highlights what is actually wrong with the genre as it rarely manages to rise above the turgid.
The compilers have done a pretty good job here. This is a considered set which neatly avoids the bland, and sometimes tuneless end of the genre, also avoiding adding a huge number of tracks easily available elsewhere. This, in particular, is considerably to its credit. A nicely varied set providing a really good introduction to reggae's most unjustly maligned genre.
Fantastic collection of Lovers Rock. I have found it very hard to get past the first 7 tracks on CD 1 and in fact am constantly repeating the J sisters and Elizabeth Archers tracks (tracks 6 & 7). I think these two tunes some up the best lovers, sounding slightly out of tune, wonderful. I am actually trying to locate them on vinyl which appears to be easier said than done.
OMGsh ... look what I found... all the old time... way back when... Trojan Presents: Lovers Rock Reggae Tunes... that bring back so many good memories... this is so definitely a must for u to have... look how cheap it is !... x
I love this album. It is the classic lovers rock reggae I loved listening to when I was growing up but, as a retired raver, had not heard in recent years. Songs like: Gregory Isaacs, 'Sunday Morning'; Dennis Brown, 'Love has found its way'; Beres Hammond, 'What One Dance Can Do'; and my favourite, Rudy Thomas, 'Loving Pauper'. Yes, it includes numerous cover versions of pop and soul favourites. But, for me, when a good pop or soul song is injected with reggae rhythms, the result is music that anyone can sing or skank to. Lovers rock music is romantic but you don't need a lover to dance with. When I listen to this album, my foot taps, my head nods, my hips sway and I have to shout out 'TUNEeeeee...'