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New Day For Sugar Minott

New Day For Sugar Minott

New Day For Sugar Minott

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His first proper album in years makes for intriguing listening.


New Day For Sugar MinottNo Jamaican artist of the last few decades is as quintessentially “reggae” as singer producer and promoter Sugar Minott. But that doesn’t appear to have given him reason to rest on his laurels. After the traditional roots and anti-war protest of 2003’s Leave Out Of Babylon, New Day is a peaceful record that sits well in the current musical scenery while defying strict categorisation.

This is evident from the first notes of opener Gettin’ It On, which contrasts Minott’s purring voice with gruff deejays Ranking Joe and Josey Wales, over a fusion of dancehall beats, holiday show guitars and easy listening vibes. This lush global feel to Roman Pryce’s production and arrangements suits the universal messages of Reaching Out 2 U (“black people, white people, Indian people, Asian people, refrain from all Evil”) and One Life (“one life Jah give, one love to live”) with their twinkling idiophones, soft horns and rub-a-dub bass-lines creating a soothing, celestial sound.

The single real criticism that can be levelled at this release is that some of it doesn’t slip into fifth gear, so that the moods created by these smooth, refined landscapes of reggae, flamenco, light jazz and even Bollywood elements can at times seem a little beige. The two out and out exceptions are the pieces closest to contemporary “one drop”: the jaunty Stranger In Your Town, where the Sugar man sounds like he’s straining at the leash to get to the nearest party, and Need Love whose busy guitar lines and pleasant chord changes give the latter stages of the album a timely lift.

Of course, keeping things mellow is no crime for a 52-year-old artist who has overpaid his dues - and though the energy levels here suggest an older audience, the lavish experimental nature of the rhythms should draw a wider cross section of support. New Day may not be for everyone, but in a year when fellow veteran and “roots lover” Gregory Isaacs’ album ploughed familiar furrows; Sugar and Pryce deserve praise for such an offbeat and individual work.

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