Vegas sings of Sweet Jamaica

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL Observer senior writer

Friday, March 16, 2012

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DOUBLE albums are a rarity in contemporary music, moreso dancehall/reggae.

Singjay Vegas has broken the local drought with Sweet Jamaica, a 31-song collection that was launched two weeks ago in St Andrew.

Featuring songs produced by Mikey Bennett, Danny Browne, Steely and Clevie and Sly and Robbie, Sweet Jamaica contains 31 songs and shows Vegas' versatility as a deejay and singer on songs like Bruk It Down and A Little Love.

The set will be officially released next month in compact disc form and digitally.

Songs like Bruk It Down and A Little Love have already been serviced to radio on CD, a deliberate strategy to build interest before the album's digital release. Vegas' previous album, 2007's Hot It Up, was released digitally but did not live up to expectations.

"The reggae market is still buying CDs so we decided to take it (album) on the road an' sell out of the tour bus," he told the Observer. "Digital sales are pretty slow compared to where we were 10 years ago," he continued. "I don't think we've done enough marketing in that area."

Digital sales account for the bulk of contemporary music industry sales.

But apart from major acts like Damian 'Junior Gong' Marley and Sean Paul and to some extent Gyptian, dancehall/reggae has not captured the download market in a big way.

According to Vegas, Sweet Jamaica will be partially distributed by VP Records on compact disc. He has a deal with San Francisco-based company INgroove to market the album digitally.

While he would love to see an improvement in album sales, Vegas says Sweet Jamaica is his career statement. The reggae disc, he stressed, is a nod to the music's pioneers and a determination to escape the dancehall bubble.

"It shows another side of Vegas. When you have a song like A Little Love or Alive and Well people can see that you trying to build a legacy," he said.

Vegas' version of A Little Love is produced by Steely and Clevie. The song was made popular in Jamaica by singer Jimmy London during the early 1970s, while Alive and Well is a collaboration with Luciano.

Vegas puts his inimitable spin on other reggae classics like Alton Ellis'

You've Made Me So Very Happy, Toots and the Maytals' Sweet and Dandy, and Take It Easy, originally done by Hopeton Lewis.

He also cut duets with Nadine Sutherland (Magical) and Sweet Jamaica which features Shaggy and Josey Wales.

As far as dancehall careers go, Vegas has had a pretty long run. He

started out as a deejay in the late 1980s while a student at Oberlin High School in rural St Andrew, but though he recorded for well-known producers like Don Yute, Delroy 'Sampalue' Phillips and Winston 'Wee Pow' Powell, he did not break through until the mid-1990s.

His first chart hit was Nike Air, produced by Jeremy Harding on the Playground beat that also yielded Beenie Man's Who Am I and Infiltrate by Sean Paul. Next was the Danny Browne-produced Heads High in 1997 which not only topped local charts but entered the British national and Billboard pop charts.

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