The consistency of this album makes for one glorious, uninterrupted listen.
Angus Taylor 2007
Richell Bonner, a.k.a. Richie Spice, comes from a showbiz family. One of his brothers is Pliers (who, with Chaka Demus bagged a UK number one with “Murder She Wrote”) while the other is the smooth-voiced Jamaican crooner Spanner Banner. Arguably the most talented of the three, his rough-edged, soulful tones, versatility and songcraft have made him one of modern reggae’s best-loved singers.
Despite boasting some top-notch tunes, his 2005 album Spice In Your Life was a little self-indulgent and undisciplined, diluted with pointless hip-hop style skits and its fair share of filler. Thankfully, this year’s In The Streets To Africa has remedied all that, maintaining an unerring level of quality control and flowing end to end despite being a hefty 15 tracks long.
The album starts slowly with the dreamy harp sounds of “Get Up” before breaking into a run with two Bobby Konders-produced revamps; “Open The Doors” on the “Warn The Nation” rhythm and the smash “Youths So Cold” over “Take A Ride”. Next, the thumping beats and distorted bass of “Babylon A Gwann” keep things moving, before a collaboration with the late Joseph Hill of Culture on “Digital Ways”, highlighting the latter’s lifelong commitment to keeping up with the trends.
Then come three extremely strong roots tracks – “Sunny Day”, “Baby Face” and “Uptown Girl” – before two catchy love songs; the Don Corleon-produced “Brown Skin” and the Clive Hunt helmed “Groovin My Girl”. The inevitable herb anthem “High Grade” makes fresh use of the well-worn Don Drummond hit “Swing Easy”, while “Mind Off Of Me” and “Take It Easy” bring it down for the lay-daaaaays. To close, there are two heavily cultural tracks in “Never Stop Loving Jah” and the Nyabinghi chant of “Motherland Calling” which features the legendary Bongo Herman on drums.
Like the best Jamaican singers, Spice’s success comes down to being equally at ease with both religious or pan-African themes and romantic relaxation. While other artists this year have hit greater heights than the songs gathered here, the consistency of this album makes for one glorious, uninterrupted listen.