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Reggae Legends: Sugar Minott

Reggae Legends: Sugar Minott

Reggae Legends: Sugar Minott

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Sweetness Inna Early Dancehall.


By the time the four discs included in this recap appeared in the mid-‘80s, Sugar Minott was already a veteran singer, producer and nurturer of young talent. And if there was one performer who’d likely be capable of retaining reggae’s heart and soul in the face of the increasingly digitized riddims of the emerging dancehall scene, Sugar would be the one. Actually, the quartet of albums here, all produced by George Phang and never before released on CD, have as much a roots and culture vibe as anything else. The tempos may have been a bit brisker and the production less murky than the reggae of the preceding decade, but Sugar still had something to say and the voice to proclaim it. Such is evident on the 'Buy Off the Bar' album, which despite the boozy title track, also sports the militant stance of Can’t Cross the Border and Frontline along with the reasoning of Dread Upon Your Head, foreshadowing Morgan Heritage’s similarly-themed Don’t Haffi Dread by more than a decade.

The later 'Rydim' album is more drum machine-driven and colder as a result, but Sugar’s voice carries it and songs like the vanity-shattering Old King Cole and timely-at-the-time Nah Go to South Africa show him expressing both personal and global concerns in fine form. On 'Time Longer Than Rope' the tracks are extended, showcasing both singer and players (in this case possibly the Roots Radics or Hi Times Band or both) with equal fire. Minott is at his uptempo lyrical best as he urges repatriation with Ease Up Mr. Custom Man and advises his listeners to use what they’ve got on the thoughtful title track. Finally there’s 'Rockers Award Winners', which is half Sugar and half Leroy Smart tracks, nicely contrasting Smart’s more flamboyant delivery with Minott’s humble testifying. The riddims are anchored by Sly and Robbie and thus as solid as they come.

If pressed to pick a favorite, I’d have to say 'Time Longer Than Rope' is the best of the bunch. Still, there’s many top notch Sugar Minott pickings throughout this foursome, and taken as a whole they represent how handily one of reggae’s true legends rolled with the changes in the music and held fast to the signature greatness he brought to it.

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