Like the street soul boom that’s been going for a while, Lovers Rock continues to grow in popularity. This is something that hip labels like Emotional Rescue and Isle Of Jura seem super clued-up on. I have a lot of this stuff on my shelves, to be honest, since it’s a double-barreled blast of nostalgia for me. Packed with memories of both `80s teenage slow dances, and early `90s Balearic / acid house backrooms. That didn’t stop me though, through 2022, cherry-picking just a “few” more…
Brown Sugar appear on this roll-call three times. The vocal trio – which included Caron Wheeler, later of Soul II Soul fame – recorded throughout the late `70s for Dennis Harris` Peckham-based label, Lover’s Rock. Guitarist, and Matumbi member, John Kpiaye, produced Black Pride and I’m In Love With A Dreadlocks in 1977. Soul Jazz reissued both as 12s.
Brown Sugar also featured on an “all killer, no filler” E.P. from Backatcha. Their shot at Denice Williams’ soul smash, Free, slow danced close, real close, alongside Cassandra’s Love Me Sweeter Tonight, from 1976, and Jean Barrett’s take on For The Love Of You. All, again, produced by John Kpiaye, and the latter having a damn fine crack at displacing John Holt’s version of The Isley Brothers` hit from the top cover slot.
Backatcha also licensed Sonia Ferguson’s essential 1980 shake of Sister Sledge’s Easier To Love, from Harlesden label, Cha Cha Music. Now I already had this via an Athens Of North release – which Discogs now says is not legit. Backatcha put the Bernard Edwards / Nile Rodgers penned song out as a 12 and 7… and ideally you really need both. The 12 has an unreleased 9 minute version, plus a very Balearic dub. The 7, though is flipped by a much tougher stripped back mix, that’s been renamed, Malcolm X.
Japanese store, Jetset, teamed up with southwest London label, Fashion, for three cool 45s. After Isaac Hayes and Smith & Mighty I didn’t think that I needed another cover of Burt Bacharach’s Walk On By, but Janet Lee Davis proved me wrong. Lifted from a mid-90s album whose credits include legends like Steely & Clevie, Mafia & Fluxy, and Gussie P., Janet’s is a tuff electronic take. From 1996, Debbie Gordon’s reworking of the Betty Wright number, Tonight Is The Night, is a funky, rare groove-esque squelch. Jackie & The Investigators` 1980 version of the Carol King classic, It’s Too Late, might be, vocally, a bit too sweet for me, but the dub is dynamite.
Not one, but two, Japanese labels reissued Sheila Hylton`s “hijacking” of Neil Young’s Lot Of Love. First Stamina Records did a perfect repro of the Harry J / Jaywax 1979 seven. Then Rocka Shacka put it out as part of their Reggae Funkyfied series.
The aforementioned Steely & Clevie were also the people behind Pam Hall’s outstanding overhaul of The Brand New Heavies` Never Stop. Revived from a 1996 Cutting Edge 45 by German label Music Take Me Up (MTMU).
Berlin store, Sound Metaphors, via their labels, Thank You and Bless You, repressed a couple of productions by LA-based Patrick “Shaka Man” Houchen. Licensed from his Majicaa Records, Shakeena’s I Bet You was another “lovers” that really shone on its bass and electric guitar-dominated filp.
Likewise, the Dean Fraser sax-led dub of Sharon Forrester ’s rub of Rose Royce’s Love Don’t Live Here Anymore was the side that ,for me, stood out.
Modern musicologists Death Is Not The End (monikered, methinks, after a Shut Up & Dance record), launched a new imprint, 333, with a reissue of Devon Russell’s 1993 set Darker Than Blue. With assistance from an all-star line-up – Sly Dunbar, Earl “Chinna” Smith, Steve Barrow, Earl “Wire” Lindo, Aston “Family Man” Barrett, and King Tubby’s Firehouse Crew, to list just a few – Devon delivers righteous readings of several songs by the already mighty righteous Curtis Mayfield.
Coming full circle, I’ll close with another Soul Jazz 12, Willie Williams & Jackie Mittoo`s masterful vamp on McFadden & Whitehead’s Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now. Retitled, No One Can Stop Us, and originally released in 1979, it’s another corker from the London institution’s ongoing, decades long, collaboration with Clement “Coxsone” Dodd’s Studio One.
Shouts out to my dealers, Dub Store, Dub Vendor, Lighthouse, Ranamusica, and Sounds Of The Universe, plus a big Thank You! to Tom Dubwise for his top recommendations on the more way-out selections.
Brown Sugar – I’m In Love With A Dreadlocks
Sharon Forrester – Love Don’t Live Here Anymore
Devon Russell – Give Me Your Love
Cassandra – Love Me Sweeter
Willie Williams – No One Can Stop Us
Sonia – Easier To Love
Brown Sugar – Black Pride
Janet Lee Davis – Walk On By
Shakeena – I Bet You (Dub)
Pam Hall – Never Stop
Jackie & The Investigators – Fashion In A Fine Style
Debbie Gordon – Tonight Is The Night
Brown Sugar – I’m Free
Jean Barrett – For The Love Of You
Sheila Hylton – Lot Of Love