Yazz & Aswad – How Long

(video couldn’t be embedded – you can view here)
Release Date: July 93
Chart Position: 31

The Neggae scene is much like the dogging scene, you have to take the rough with the smooth and for every perfect orgasmic release, you have to take a few pre-cum stains on the windscreen along the way. Unfortunately this week’s single fits into the windscreen blemish category.  I haven’t heard this before but had my fingers crossed it wouldn’t be a cover of the Paul Carrack inspired Ace classic,  as soon as it started my heart sunk.
It’s more coffee table eggae, cynically manufactured neggae production with the vocals from a nostalgic, sentimental classic. I know Aswad paid their dues and all that, but this is them cashing in, and it’s a bland, insipid cash in at that. The vocals are decent, they can both sing but you can say that about a third of the X Factor contestants. I just can’t get any enthusiasm for this, maybe it’s S.A.D.S. or maybe it’s just the fact this is the neggae equivalent of being served up bread, rice and pasta as a meal, well boring mon.
Score: 3/10 – How long? 3 minutes and 56 seconds unfortunately.

I listened to this once and got lost halfway through as it fumbled around with a cigar lounge beat and an equally bad Yazz to go along with Aswad. Second time round I just couldn’t do it, turned it off and put on Shabba followed by some Jonny Gill acoustic sessions.
Yazz has a bit of Dawn Penn about her voice and that does my head in a little. Don’t get me wrong, I like Aswad but this is a shocker. It gets put into the Rick Astley postbox; ’nuff said about that.
Let’s move on to next week shall we and get into some Bitty McLean!
Score: 2/10 and already erased from my memory banks

So Yazz, famed for her ‘Only Way Is Up’ smash hit and other Dance, Funk and Christian influenced offerings teams up with Aswad. A partnership that initially I found strange until I did a bit more digging and it all started to make more sense. For her this was probably quite natural as it was going back to her father’s roots on the island. Aswad were involved with numerous other artists and did not seem too picky on who they managed to get into a studio with. But probably more relevant was the fact they were all part of the socialist elite and attended Holland Park School. If it was anything like my school, I can imagine the Aswad trio lining up single file every now and again, 50p in hand on the promise of a light fingering and a touch of boob behind the music hut at lunchtime. Not so often that it was considered weird but just enough to fuel a healthy little drug interest for her. Once the transaction was completed maybe the small talk took them to a place where they were all collaborating in the studio one day? Well I am actually glad they did.
I like this tune, it’s not a belter by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a fine offering that did nothing to harm either of their careers. In fact probably furthered their careers somewhat to the extent that Yazz no longer needed those 50ps and the Aswad boys could afford something a little more professional up town. The R&B influence helps the track along and gives it an edge over some of the other maybe more purist neggae tracks around at the time.
Just one suggestion from my side; maybe they called have called themselves Yazzwad? Might have offered a nice marketing angle?
Score: On balance I think a 6/10 is plenty from me on this one this week

I’ve a soft spot for this record for all the right reasons. OK, so it’s no Murder She Wrote or It’s Raining it’s Raining (both still to come), but it is a worthy addition to the Neggae canon. Firstly, if you glance down the Neggae Hot 90 you’ll see that this is the only real romantic duet on there. A lot of bromance, some standard Shabba style willy-waving, some novelty records, a few cash-ins, loads of covers, the odd gem, but no man-and-his-lady duets.
Another reason it’s great is that (to my ears) it touches on Lover’s Rock, that marvellous, overlooked strand of UK reggae from the late Sevs. The skittish electronic drums and digital bass produce a clean yet forceful sound that is very much a modernised version of its UK antecedent.
Aswad were of course no strangers to this. Like UB40, they were a FANTASTIC UK reggae outfit in the early 80s, and were renowned for the high quality variety of reggae they produced. Along with horn-heavy, ominous, Wailers style roots such as Warrior Charge, they also turned out lighter, romantic efforts such as 1982’s I Need you Love. I cannot stress how good this band were; and unlike UB40’s shocker from a few weeks earlier they come out of the Neggae era with their reputations intact.
Throw in Yazz to the mix and you’ve got a great little love song, plain and simple. Yasmin Evans soars gracefully over this record yet treats it with the respect it deserves. Some of her vocal flourishes are Whitneyesque; it’s a wonder she didn’t go on to greater things. Park alongside LSK in the file marked great crimes of British pop music. She sh*ts all over Annie Lennox that’s for sure.
There are a few criticisms. I think the song is a little over-produced, the riddim gets muted in the wash of synths. The instrumental break is a little meh. The great Lovers Rock of 77-83 has a stark, haunting quality to it that heightens the often melancholy melody. Drums are usually dubby, high in the mix and LIVE, so you can’t help but get your swerve on to it. Check out Carrol Thomson’s I’m so Sorry for an example. I wish ‘Yazzwad’ had gone all out on this one. It probably wouldn’t have charted, but man it would have sounded great.
Score: 7/10

At last. Our first entry from the London Based 80’s Reggae Juggernaut that is Aswad. Although a somewhat tepid entry into the Neggae era, better entries would follow from Brinsley Forde, Angus Gaye and Tony Robinson so I’m glad they’ve finally dipped a toe. The song itself is another Neggae cover. In my opinion, much like in the vein of UB40’s “I cant help falling in love with you“, its a brave call and a big ask to top the 1974 original from Ace. Does it go one better? Not for me it doesn’t.
The inclusion of Holland Park School chum and one hit wonder Yazz is a nice touch and offers light and shade in vocal variation. The Neggae feel is there, subtle island drums and off beat guitar riffs. However, when slowing a song down and Neggaefying, you have to produce something spectacular to keep the listener interested. By the time this one gets to the bridge a weird pan pipe kicks in. Reminds of the Patagonian who used to stand outside Woking Peacocks centre dressed in a wolf skin blowing his little lungs out to a Bontempi backing track. It got me thinking. I always thought he should team up with Michael the Bongo Man and Willie Nelson War Veteran to form some sort of Woking odd ball super group. Such a waste of raw street talent. They could have had Janice ( Michael’s stern faced wife/ minder) on crowd control, or perhaps she could act as some sort of “Bez” type dancer. Doing Parkour over benches and the war monument in the town square to keep the hoards of avid fans amused on a rain soaked Saturday afternoon. Sadly that’s where my interest in this song stopped. Even as covers go, its not the best in my opinion. Like Rod the Mod Stewart’s MOR 80’s “Sax Rawk” version and Barbara Mandrell’s 
Country offering before it, I think it falls down. If you want the best out of a bad bunch, Give Lipps Inc’s disco ditty a spin. Not quite Ace, but offers something different.
Score: How long? Too long and too slow. But an improvement on last week. 5 out of 10.



Shabba Ranks Featuring Queen Latifah – What’Cha Gonna Do?

Release Date: June 93
Chart Position: 21

They say ‘good things come to those who wait‘; and we’ve only had to wait two weeks for another Shabba entry to come along. I’m not sure if this is good or not, but I am sure that this is not his worst effort to date.
No visual effects via a video this time, so we are left with simply to pick apart this rap heavy mix of music. It reached the dizzying heights of #21 in the UK charts, which sounds impressive at first. However when you consider in June 93 thatthe UK buying public would pick up anything even slightly islandic it’s not so great an achievement. That said, I enjoyed Queen Latifah’s entrance midway through the song. It saves the song from drifting into no-man’s-land due to Shabba’s trademark repetitiveness is. In my opinion, she should have been given an a larger role in this collaboration as Shabba’s limitations are exposed fairly early on.
For me, this is more nightclubby than BBQy; more vodka and Red Bull than Malibu and pineapple. By the end of it, I just wanted to bust out with the real  “What ya gonna do (when the come for you)” from the Bad Boys of Reggae, Inner Circle.
Score: Put our Money makin’ Jamaican down for 6.5/10 with a slightly better effort – the no video approach works in Shabba’s favor here!

We arrive at yet another Shabba release, he’s like the cockroach of Neggae, impossible to kill. This time he’s linked up with one of the members of seminal hip hop collective the Native Tongues, however not the groundbreaking De La Soul, pioneering Jungle Brothers or the upcoming A Tribe Called Quest, no he’s gone with Monie Love’s Nan, Queen Latifiah. The song starts off with Shabba chanting ‘what cha’ gonna do?’ repeatedly, my first thought was ‘try not throw myself out the window for the next 4 minutes’. He then goes on to chant nonsense for a couple of minutes, not really sure what he’s going on about and don’t care, pretty sure it’s not a proposal for World Peace. Queen Latifah comes in does a bit of a rap, it probably took her a journey on her stair lift to write it, meh.
The production isn’t neggae, it’s just a formulaic hip hop backing track which to my disappointment was done by Lakim Shabazz, you’ve let yourself down there Laki son. I realise that this is reading like the last ever diary entry of a manic depressive but he’s ground me down, Shabba’s defeated me, I now just grudgingly accept him, he’s the neggae equivalent of Income Tax.
Score: 2/10. Have a day off you prancing pissflap.

God this is woeful. 3 and a half minutes of muted, substandard US produced pop-rap, or as I like to call it; pap.
I’ve never been a fan of this type of dance music; the polished sheen of it has a distinctly US feel. There was a lot of it around in the early 90s, a kind of hybrid between New Jack Swing and US House. If there’s a bit of grit and boogie in the music it kind of outweighs the trebly freshness of the sound – I’m thinking Masters at Work or even George Michael’s Too Funky. Get it wrong, as has happened here, and it all sounds rather like the theme tune from the Ricki Lake Show.
Phoned in raps from Shabba and Queen Latifah don’t do much for the song either. I’m surprised it reached number 21.
Score: 1/10. I never want to hear this tripe again.

Was this on of the Boyz n the Hood soundtrack? Sounds more similar to that type Hip-Hop /Pop-Rap than it does reggae. This is not reggae, neggae or even feggae (fake reggae) and for that reason I am not gong to spend too much time on this. It’s an OK track I suppose but it does not stand out from anything else of the time. Shabba sounds good and his toasting is as we would expect, Queen Latifah also sounds great as she pipes up every now and again, but the bland, tasteless baseline and breaks make it sound just very average and I’ve already forgotten too much detail about it.
Score: A confused and puzzled why its on the list 3/10 from me

I suppose I was tempting fate last week.
There I was, highlighting the gloriously obvious differences between our new runaway kings of Neggae Chaka Demus & Pliers and the far less talented and more self obsessed Mr Ranks. “Take note messrs Ranks & Gill” I said, little did I know that this steaming hot pile of Jamaican Shit Cake would be served up in the week that followed.
Demus and Pliers have triumphantly staked a flag in their own new plateau, leading the way for anyone who dared follow. Ranks it seems has chosen not to, yet again. What goes up, must come down, with every tropical heat wave, there has to be an Edna or Katrina to follow in the Sunshine Isles, this wet season comes in the form of a homophobic sex pest doing his best impression of Foghorn Leghorn.
Shabba seems to turn up again and again like the habitual bad eggae of Neggae. This time with Queen Latifah in tow, obviously this recording was made prior to her epiphany that she can actually make more money from acting badly than rapping badly.

Whatcha gonna do?
Whatcha gonna do?
Whatcha gonna do?
Whatcha gonna do?
Whatcha gonna do?

Turn you off , that’s what.Before I end up stamping on my laptop, repeatedly. My ears hurt and I cannot be doing with anymore of your b*llshit you rapey oddball. 45 seconds of listening to you repeating the same line over and over again is enough for most, and when it comes to Shabba, I’m less tolerant than most.
Go away.
Score: 1, because I liked Bringing Down the house. Sorry I just did.


Chaka Demus & Pliers – Tease Me

Release Date: June 93
Chart Position: 3

Folk had Simon and Garfunkel, Soul had Sam and Dave, Hip Hop Eric B and Rakim and pop Glenn and Chris. However, the most vital duo in musical history are Neggae’s Chaka Demus and Pliers. Chaka Demus was a moderately successful solo artist, who had respect from his peers but his record sales didn’t reflect this. One day as he was passing Robert Dyas he noticed they had a sidekick sale on, he went in, purchased Pliers and the rest is history (Sorry, no more terrible hardware jokes, I promise).

‘Tease me’ was their first UK release and straight from the off these boys make it known they’re not messing about with a ska hook intro so catchy it could land a thousand salt fish. Then the rest of Sly and Robbie’s production kicks in, a mounting build up of tabla and bass with the soulful vocals of Pliers over the top and Chaka adding in various ad-libbed shouts. More than one as well, so take note Shabba Ranks. The Ska intro is then bought back in and there’s even a cat on backing vocals punctuating the end of each verse, who went on to be a success in his own right. Around the 2m 30 mark a pan pipe sounds and marks the invention of Big Beat; 98% of Big Beat releases were based on this drum break looped and sped up. FACT.
Lyrically it’s a basic love song, however the poetic language incorporated by Pliers, ‘She’s floating like a butterfly, so charming’, invokes memories of Wordsworth, a sharp contrast to the usual Neggae declarations of romance which are usually of the ‘I love her so much I’m going to f*ck her until she cries and then has to shower for 3 weeks’ variety. Yeah, I’m talking about you Jonny (Gill not Atkins), Shabba and all the other rapey oddballs. Chaka Demus does bang on about having blue balls for quite a few of his lines, but it’s done playfully and he might have going through a drought at the time, it happened to a lot of us in ’93.
The video is pure neggae, the boys cruising round the island with loads of ladies keen to display their dancing abilities to the appreciative pair (although some of them do remind me of this.) When combined with some nice archive shots of the area and local populace it makes a thoroughly pleasing neggae spectacle. I can find very little fault in this song, my only surprise is that it wasn’t our 4th neggae number 1.
Score: A perfect neggae anthem and the first time in the hot 90 I’m going to give something full marks. not really, 9/10, teased ya.

We are now entering the imperial phase of Neggae. On the horizon are a lot of perfect pop songs, so I’ll be cashing in a few 10s on some pure Negganthems. This is one of them.
My big brother JohnJohn first informed me of Tease Me, singing the melody to me early one summer morning on the market stall we worked on. It was a big hit in the guildford denizen of the 90s that was Harpers nightclub, and John and his pals had enjoyed getting their bogle on to it the night before.
“Floating like a butterfly” he warbled, you must have heard it? – she give me one smile, two smile, three smile!”
I didn’t have a f*cking clue what he was on about. In fact looking back I think he was still shanted. He stunk of gin’n’hooch.
And then, over the next few weeks, the song slowly entered my consciousness. You’d hear it on passing car stereos, on ghetto blasters down  the lido, at the barbers even. And through TOTP, the UK chart rundown and Kiss FM this sweet melody and skanking riddim entered into our heads through our ears like a little rasta worm. It would dominate the summer of ’93 (staying in the top 10 for 3 months) and the British love affair with authentic Jamaican music was reignited.
What’s great is that the melody laid down by Pliers is not simple; it takes a few listen to get your head around. It is arhythmical and freeform, sliding all over the scales. A La La La long this is not. Pop music melodies can be complex and catchy (God Only Knows, This Charming Man, or the beautiful reggae oddity When I See You Smile), and this is the a fine example. Stellar Stuff.
Chaka Demus’ rap is masculine yet soulful; he’s basically a Neggae Otis Redding or Teddy Pendergrass. And unlike other toasters we’ve seen so far (*cough*SHABBA! *cough*) Chaka doesn’t just repeat the same melody throughout. His diction is clear and his wordplay intelligent. Yes some of the content is bawdy, but it’s delivered with charm and craft.
There are so many great pop moments in the production too; the looped ska sample, the strangled cat, flute breakdown, proto-Timberland style tabla, banging BigBeat breaks. It’s simply pop perfection.
Score: 10/10 – arise Sir Chaka Demus and Lord Pliers of Kingston.

By Andalucia’s own standards it was an average journey to my office this morning. Grey sky, no sunshine and a good chance of some afternoon drizzle. The atmosphere in my my office right now however is altogether different. An Oasis of colour and a complete disregard for the miserable meh-ther conditions.
Why? Tease me by Chaka Demus and Pliers.
I dreaded the Neggae Review when I arrived in this morning, thinking this could ruin my day. But no, this Powerhouse, this beacon of Neggae Masterdom has the ability to lift the mood of even the most ardent of misery guts or work place Neggie Nigel. It’s Friday afternoon listening at its best, come rain or shine.
Everything about this song and video is prefectly pitched and timed.
The opening Ska Break. Pliers soothing Vocals, Chaka Demus background toasting before the the quiet break down and build up. Then POW! The Ska break chugs back in and your ears are awash with tropical bliss. The variation in the form of Chaka’s rapping takes the song to the next level. In a similar fashion to Inner Circle, the cheeky Demus manages to compare his woman’s love to burning fire in his soul and catching a big fish before telling her what to do once he has climaxed! Genius.
On his re- entry (Not Chaka’s you filthy so and so!) Pliers changes the pace of his verse rather than stay formulaic and follow the intro and opening 32. This is why this song just doesn’t get boring. It’s well crafted and has stood the test of time, sounding just as good, if not better now than it did when it peaked at #3 in the UK charts almost 20 years ago. It stayed there in a hammock, catching rays and lapping up plaudits for 3 whole months. You could say that Chaka Demus and Pliers in their own trademark style, extended British Summer Time in 1993. This is two men at the top of their game. Feeding off each other’s talents, complementing each other without over stepping the mark.
Shabba Ranks, Johnny Gill take note. Musically Chaka Demus and Pliers are having it away on this one and they know it. For that reason, they’re smiling, bogling, and generally having a laugh. The quality of this piece of music, its lyrics, production and performance gives them the right to do what they want in the video. Do they posture arrogantly, look moody or dress up like Villains from Demolition Man? No they don’t. They are cool as f*ck as it is and have no need for cheap gimickery.
This is the best Neggae entry I’ve seen so far to date. A tough call but it tops Shaggy’s Oh Carolina. I toyed with 8 but I’m awarding a bonus point to Chaka for being the first artist I remember to grace the UK pop charts with a “Hear me now” (at 2.33).
Score: Oooh Lard! 9 out of 10 from me.

Here we go! One of the defining moments of neggae. How it only got to no 3 I have no idea, it should have been no 1 and stayed there for monthslike that awful Bryan Adams and his woeful Robin Hood effort! These two were the first Jamaican act to deliver three consecutive top five hits in the UK (that sounded impressive when I looked it up, the more I think about it I am not sure it is impressive? Either way it’s a fact) and this is by far and away their best effort and typifies everything great about the green, gold and black dominance of popular culture.
When it launches with Pliers’ “She’s floating like a butterfly, so charming” and then Chaka bellowing “Baby Girl!”  it transports you back to a simpler time and how the summer of dread was just taking shape. We’d had a few anthems by this point and we obviously knew what it was all about but this was immense and it smacked us like the heart burn you get from a tropical fruit drink when you’re a little bit hungover.
The video is almost pure perfection, almost like a 3min 44sec documentary on a day in the life of Chaka and Pliers as they sample the delights of the hustle and bustle of Island life. You name it, it’s there: fat blokes with skinny chicks, tonnes of it on show and possibly the most aggressive booty shaking action we’ve seen to date all being applauded by the duo. It gets a little dark as we look at what could be considered a bit of harassment in some back alley ways, but all seems to be good natured so who am I to question their intentions. Having said that, I’m not sure what he’s doing at around 58 seconds into the video? Looks like he’s just finishing off into a cannon and then joking about firing the mess at his mates, strange but again it all looks in good spirits. Further to that there are some good strong hand gesturing as they show us around the local fishing village and then cruise around in their beaten up Saab convertible with chicks hanging off them. This is the classic neggae fest that I referred to in the UB40 review.
Chaka Demus and Pliers – thank you both for making life better and creating a real highlight of the 90’s.
Score: 9.5/10 from me!

This is the epitome of sublime Reg, Neg and all the good time island music that we love so dearly.
Chaka Demus and Pliers have put together a true classic that will stand the test of time. Instantly recognizable, true head bobbing and body swerving neggae here! This one got a lot of play back in the day and rightly so, it was a Capital FM fave that gave my rather inadequate speakers in the Fiesta a damn good work out. In fact, between Shaggy and these two characters I had West Byfleet and Woking rocking!
I love the rustic video, it compliments the song well, very simple and honest. As with any great neggae video, it doesn’t have to be complicated, just mix in a good bassline, island style instruments, sun, sand and dancing gals and we’ve got a winner. In fact this should be the blueprint for the Jamaican travel and tourism department for all future advertising campaigns. I want to book a holiday now, get on the beach and drink my malibu and pineapple while I watch the likes of Chaka Demus and Pliers do what they do….sing, dance and mingle with the ladies.
Score: Put me down for a 9.5/10 — The neggae revolution is in full swing now with this strong performance by the godfathers of Neg.


UB40 – (I Can’t Help) Falling In Love With You

Release Date: May 93
Chart Position: 1

Elvis was a hero to most but he never meant shit to me’, same here Chuck, fortunately this wasn’t the case with Ali Campbell. The ethereal intro is pure Clannad then someone hits the reggae button on the Casio keyboard and it’s all systems go, and just before it starts sounding like Dubstep the horns kick in and the soothing wave of Brum Neggae washes over you like a swell from the Grand Union Canal.

This is what Neggae cover versions are all about, respectful to the original yet still with that distinct Neggae sound which wouldn’t sound out of place in the bar at ‘Sandals’ (take note Suggs). I’m not going to go on about the lyrics as they’re more to do with Elvis than UB40, the vocals are great though, Ali Campbell at his best with Robin and the rest of the boys providing more than adequate backing vocals, production isn’t particularly ambitious but the original is such a classic it’s been nicely Neggaefied without going over the top.
Interesting story behind the video. At this time UB40 were struggling financially, as the petrol bill for the mopeds in the video for the 808 State collaboration had run into millions. This meant Ali Campbell had taken on a night time security job which entailed patrolling the labyrinth of hidden corridors in the Peacocks Centre which at the time had a rodent problem, Ali was offered the job due to his previous experience, although like the A-Level results on my CV he did exaggerate his level of involvement. Ali wasn’t one to miss a trick so decided to record the video on the cheap, even having the audacity to use the shopping centre’s own CCTV to record it on. He then invited the rest of the band along plus a couple of special guests (you’ll probably spot Ashley Cole and Tamer Hassan in the horn section and I think that may be a tashless Gareth Hale on sax) to basically berk about in front of the security cameras. It works nicely I think, no high end concept, no cheap effects, just a flash mob of night watchmen. For me this is the ultimate Neggae cover; cover versions don’t get Neggaer than this.
Score: 8/10 – I can’t help falling in love with Yow.

Within this blog I have often expressed my opinion on covers and I stand by the points I have made; if you can’t improve on the original don’t bother, and if you do attempt it and fail, then you are fair game as far as being dissed goes. Within this genre as I feel that covers can be an easy, lazy and distasteful way to make money by riding the crest of the neggae wave, ruining someone else’s work in the process.
I can imagine how most of the dross that made it that far was agreed upon; almost as if the tune was plucked randomly out of a hat: “Yeah, that one will do, you rap the second verse, I’ll put one of those rasta hats on and he’ll juggle some type of citric fruit in the background. It’ll be massive”.
Having said that however, I do also recognise that they were an important vehicle to keep the neggae train rolling and when executed well often breathed new life and added a modern twist to a forgotten great.
Right since I’ve got that off my chest, I’ll let you know what I think.

This is an absolute beauty from a great band and this version of Elvis’s ’61 classic is up there among the great covers of all time. They did everything a cover needs to do: take a great song and make it relevant again, and I believe that they have achieved both with this (although there is the grey area of charity covers which the likes of late 90’s Boy bands commercialised too well).
Ali Campbell’s delivery of the vocal intro is simply brilliant. The base punches in, we drop into it and it goes from strength to strength as it peaks and troughs throughout bridged nicely by the little “as a river flows…” section and all complimented by a strong horn section. Lyrically it’s pretty simple, it’s a classic, it should be, and it just all works beautifully.
The song went on to be the key tune from the Sliver soundtrack (pony film, it was essentially a shit Basic Instinct, 99% of people watched only on the promise of getting a better glimpse of Sharon Stone in her heyday, we were all massively disappointed) and as a result the video suffered. Now I know the video was never going to be the classic neggae booty fest we all love (we’ll leave that to the Shaggy’s and the Inner Circles of the world), but the depressing CCTV footage (which I understand has its relevance to the complex and intriguing plot line of the film) make for poor viewing, which is a little disappointing. Not even a Capri Sun on show, nothing!
Score: I can’t help falling over myself to give it an 8/10.

So Birmingham’s own Reggae Pioneers UB40 grace the Neggae hot 90 once again. I must say that this Elvis cover is a slight improvement on their last outing with 808 state. That said, it is only a cover and I think they push the original as far as it can go without being too disrespectful or too avant-garde.
The Elvis original from the film Blue Hawaii was a slow, melancholic yet endearing ballad. Its a brave effort by the UB’s to paint this red gold and green by throwing in a trademark horn section. The stabbing stutter drums remind me of this. They bring it up to speed and enable the listener to get into a half skank. Lets face it though, you’re never really going to get out of second gear on this one. There’s no real bounce, no alarms and no surprises. After a minute or so you’re pretty much done with it.
In my book it has to be a pretty outstanding rehash if you’re going to take something old repackage it and call it Neggae. Sadly, like “Shout” and “One in Ten” before it, this is another “ten a penny” Neggae cover.
As for the video, its a teaser from a crap film. Sharon Stone, doing her best to look sultry. Tom Berenger skulking about after Back Draft Baldwin and all shot in black and white to make it look art house and intriguing. Well it isn’t. You know when see the words Sharon Stone and psychological thriller the whole thing is going to be more wooden than Heather Mills’ Cruciate and only half as reliable. If you ever get the chance to watch Sliver, DON’T, its an hour and 47 minutes that you’ll never get back. The less said about it the better.
Score: A Berenger like average 5 from me.

UB40 have come in this week with a solid version of I Can’t help falling in love with you. Certainly a step up from the 808 State debacle.
Nothing wrong with the delivery and great use of horns and sax to compliment Ali Campbell’s Birmingham-rooted vocals. I find his voice quite soothing, almost lemsip-like. There is never any great pace or urgency about UB40’s music (they are more David Gower than Ian Botham), but this return to form is a welcome change from their previous entry and works well.
The video is a bit nondescript and for my money, Sliver should have picked another song to use. It’s low budget, black and white and could have been a little more creative. They look rather cramped and awkward in the basement corridors while singing and carrying on. I wonder if we incorporated Maxi’s white horse into this somewhere, somehow it may have enhanced the visual.
Overall a pretty strong effort from our no longer unemployed musicians.
Score: I’m in for a solid 7.5/10

“All aboard the 8.15 Neggraevy stopping service! This train will stop at Crapcoversville and Selloutchester, before reaching the final destination, Legacy-damage-upon-Thames.”

UB40 were one of the great British Bands of the early 80s – a sprawling, punk-inspired, self-taught reggae protest machine. Signing Off and Present Arms are bonafied UK Reggae classics – up there with anything by the Specials or The Beat. If you don’t believe me, check out this, this or this (they were particularly amazing live). And there is plenty more where that came from.
They changed direction with the slicker, commercial sound of Labour of Love in 1983 and topped the charts with its lead single Red Red Wine. A Neil Diamond cover, it opened up the UBs to a wider audience. It also sadly changed the way they approached music, and they became the kings of the reggae cover version – releasing no less than four albums of the stuff. Sadly, they never really returned to creating exciting, insightful UK reggae again.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against some of UB40’s covers. And Kingston Town, Homely Girl and I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight were all wonderful efforts. I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You is not I’m afraid. Here’s why it does nothing for me:

  1. The beats. They’re shit. The opening break is that sort of honky, heavy block machinery rhythm I’ve come to associate with the Bee Gees You Win Again. Not for me thanks. When the verse proper starts, the beat goes into that double time drum Stomp use. The sort of festival rhythm white students with dreadlocks like.
  2. Choice of song. I know there’s a lot of mouths to feed in the band but Jesus lads, an Elvis ballad? I really don’t like Elvis much. Culturally bereft. But If you’re going to Neggaetize one of his records at least go for one with some nads. A ska version of Burning Love I’d have stomached, but not this maca.
  3. The song and video were a tie-in with Sliver, a mediocre mid-90s thriller. The film was terrible but nonetheless made a handsome profit. So at least the lads will have got paid. Still, for reminding me of of how bad this film was the song loses a couple of points immediately.

I think 3 is what annoys me the most about all of this; they denigrated their artistic integrity by shilling out, made a fortune but still ended up bankrupt! I just hoped whatever they spent their money on was worthwhile (caviar-lined sensimilla I imagine).
Score: a very depressing 4/10


Shabba Ranks feat. Maxi Priest – House Call

Release Date: May 93
Chart Position: 8

So here we are again, another offering featuring Maxi Priest, the Crown Prince of Eggae. This time he’s teamed up with SHABBA! And whilst it’s not the worst offering either of them have come up with (see ‘Slow and Sexy’ and ‘One More Chance’) it’s still pretty flat. The first 15 seconds is promising and it sounds like it’s going to erupt into a Dance Hall classic, then the insipid instrumentation kicks in and the heart sinks as it takes any hope you had for the song, sits it down in a corner and bores it to death.
These two have the combined QC of Toyota and both stick to what they know best, Maxi with his generic reggae ballad crooning and Shabba chanting out unintelligible boasts about his sexual prowess, although this line ‘Its like a computer social program’ shows a prophetic streak, although his attempt at releasing his own facebook, fe’ book, wasn’t successful. The worst thing in this is Maxi Priest butchering Neggae’s greatest catchphrase with his pathetic attempt at aping it, it’s as bad as Will Smith.
The video is a dull formulaic tosh, based on standard R n’ B videos of the time, although you have to credit Shabba with turning up at all having been the victim of an attempted mugging by Edward Scissorhands en route. Overall it’s pretty dull, not awful but like watching Spurs in the nineties with no Ginola, a lesson in drudgery.
Score: 3/10 – eggaer than an advocaat and Rubicon cocktail

Not sure what to say about this really. For starters, Maxi clearly missed the memo about what the production was all about as he seems confused. He seems to be caught between thinking he’s producing a Boyz II Men cover, but behaving like he’s in a Phil Collins video. Shabba’s doing his thing which is fine, but put it together and it feels like a load of nothingness. Maxi’s moves are bad and remind me a bit of my dad dancing at a  wedding. It’s got the token Booty rubbing and dancing which is always pleasing but in a era flooded with this type of thing it feels cheap and easy.
The song its self is instantly forgettable in my mind. Shabba is good but I feel he is held back by Maxi. The song goes nowhere and has no development at all and after 30 seconds you’ve pretty much heard everything that you need to and it’s time to move on. Surprised it got to number 8, maybe we all got too carried away with the movement and would buy any old tat back then?
Score: An uninspired 4/10 from me

Shabba and Maxi, Maxi and Shabba, between the two of them we have seem the highs of Fe Real and Mr Loverman and the lows of Slow & Sexy and whatever the hell Maxi did with the white horse. This is somewhere in the middle of the pack for me.
Shabba is actually quite refined in his delivery through this, maybe even slightly subdued. It could possibly have something to do with the fact that the suit he’s wearing from Mr Loverman is now a shredded mess or he’s trying to slow it down and not outpace Maxi’s sweet vocals. I did enjoy Shabba’s dancing, almost Stu Barr like ticky tack heel tapping mixed in with some good old fashioned hip thrusts.
Although it blends well, it lacks the island tones i’m looking for. A bit too much R&B for me.
Score: 5/10 – not terrible, but not quite liltworthy either.

Shabba Ranks is really starting to get on my nerves. For me hes just got one of those faces. Every song/video he has featured on on this review seems rather formulaic.

1. Visit barbers for strange wedge like haircut.
2. Don strange attire. Something that looks urban yet futuristic.
3. Dance around like a rabbit with parkinson’s.
4. Rap repetitively like a deviant woody woodpecker on tramadol.
5. Bogle for the ladies.
6. Get someone to chuck in the odd “Shabba”. That’s me signature innit!

He’s awful, I find it difficult to look abjectly at any of his work. Why is he dressed like he’s a had a fight with a pack of wolves? Why does he stutter and repeat the first line of everything he records? Who knows ? Who cares?
Its a shame because I feel that musically this is Maxi Priests best offering to date. The song has a decent bass line and a good break. Its interesting enough when Maxi begins crooning and could go somewhere. Until Ranks turns up that is. Then he just goes on and on and on.
Maxi and poxy .
Score: 4 out of 10 for me.

Ignore what the others say, this is a 24-carat Neggae gem. It is the apex of Shabba Ranks’ Neggae oevre, the moment where his Soul-II-Soul, Sly-and-Robbie influenced Reggae’n’Blues was finally complimented with a decent melody.
From the opening gunshot beats and “FALSE PRETENDER!” holler, we are quickly immersed in a slice of pure ’93 rudeniss. This is the soundtrack to a time and place; Trevor Nelson playing it to death on Kiss FM, Reebok high-top trainers, Champion Jumpers, Benneton bags, Johnny Vaughan reviewing Reservoir Dogs on Moviewatch, Normski pratting about on Dance Energy. In a year or two this would all be gone. Soul II Soul would falter, Kiss FM would lose all its talent to Radio 1, upbeat swingbeat would be replaced by replaced by slicker R’n’B. For better or worse, Britpop would anglicise youth culture on the TV, on the radio and in record shops for the next ten years.
The production is similar but better to Mr. Loverman – the same team were assembled but they clearly had a few quid more to play with. The keys are fleshier, the bassline more inventive. Strings swirl in the middle eight.
And the clincher is Maxi Priest. This is his Neggae moment. “You’re body can’t lie-y-i-y-ie to me” is hookier than Abu Hamza – and his Shabba! shouts and dubwise chatter are lively and fresh.
Shabba is as Shabba does, I’ve built up an intolerance to him now. There is enough quality in this song to weather his mediocrity. It’s all about the melody.
Score: An underappreciated 8/10