Entertainment

Friends Sly and Robbie take Grammy

By Howard Campbell
Observer senior writer

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

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The 60th Grammy Awards takes place on January 28 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. There are five nominees for Best Reggae Album. They are: Chronology by Chronixx; Stony Hill (Damian Marley); Avrakedabra (Morgan Heritage); Lost In Paradise (Common Kings) and Wash House Ting by J Boog.

Today, the Jamaica Observer continues its series reflecting on the Best Reggae Album category.

SLY Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare's place as probably reggae's greatest musician/producer teams was assured when they recorded their Friends album in 1998. A collection of songs featuring artistes they had worked with over the years, it won the 1999 Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album.

Distributed by Elektra Records, Friends got the nod over Buju Banton's Inna Heights; Beenie Man's Many Moods of Moses; The Wailing Souls' Psychedelic Souls and Ska Father by Toots & The Maytals.

On paper, Many Moods of Moses was favoured to win. A Shocking Vibes/VP Records project, it was Beenie Man's breakthrough album, driven by songs like Foundation (produced by Sly and Robbie), the Billboard hit Who Am I (Sim Simma), Oysters & Conch and Bad Mind is Active (My Prerogative).

Friends had a more international flavour which may have impressed judges at the National Academy of Recordings Arts and Sciences (NARAS), organisers of the Grammys.

It included covers of classic reggae songs such as Night Nurse and Ghetto Girl, originally recorded by Gregory Isaacs and Dennis Brown. Both were covered by Mick Hucknall of Simply Red. Maxi Priest put his spin on John Holt's Only A Smile while Ali Campbell of UB40 did a version of Seems To Me I'm Losing, a Dobby Dobson original.

Several critics do not consider Friends Sly and Robbie's finest work. Indeed, the respected Allmusic.com website was not impressed by the famed drum-and-bass duo's effort.

“Friends relies a little too much on the polished reggae-pop of Maxi Priest and UB40, both of whom make guest appearences on the disc. Since Sly & Robbie make their sultry grooves sound effortless, they can make even the slick pop of Lionel Richie's Penny Lover and the Mick Hucknall duet Night Nurse sound appealing, and they can prevent Theme From Mission Impossible from sounding kitschy. Nevertheless, these songs bog down the record, especially when compared to the covers that work — a seductive take on Cole Porter's You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To and a ripping version of the Stones' Satisfaction. Such high points are surrounded by amiable, undistinctive filler that never quite ruins the album, but prevents it from really taking off.”

Hucknall's Night Nurse was included on Simply Red's 1998 album, Blue. It also entered the British national chart.

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