Sugar Minott, “Rare Gems”
[Easy Star]

One of reggae’s greatest singers, Barrington “Sugar” Minott, has released a new album of old tunes, Rare Gems. Released on Easy Star Records this compilation consists of twenty-two unattainable songs, many of which never left Jamaica for any kind of production or sale abroad. To this listener it is amazing/astounding that any of these songs have not already become international hits. Sugar’s sweet vocals are incredible and the rhythm tracks are never tired with such heavy hitters gracing this album as: the mighty duo, Sly and Robbie, the great Studio One act, Jackie Mittoo, the Roots Radics, and Dean Fraser, just to mention a few. Sugar tackles almost every kind of style of reggae on this album, from dancehall to lovers’ rock. He is a master of all styles, never selling himself short to one genre.
Born in Kingston, Jamaica in the 1950’s, Sugar began singing as a teenager in the group African Brothers. After some time Coxsone Dodd of Studio One recognized his talent and hired him on to partake in various roles, from background singer to guitar player. The rest is history, as he took on a solo career in the later seventies and became a star in his own right. Rare Gems covers unreleased and hard to find tracks from 1979-1986.
He starts the album with a heavy roots track, “King of Kings” — with proud horn lines blaring during the chorus. He moves along with more roots reggae on tracks “Mr. Fisherman,” “What a Feeling,” and “The More We Are Together.” They all lead us to probably the sweetest track on the album, “Half A Love.” Here Sugar tries to teach us that, “half a love is better than no love at all.” Sugar’s enticing and crooning voice makes us feel his pain and his hope, this lovers’ rock track is a precious gem and might be worth checking out first when purchasing this album. Then for all you lovers’ rock fans, move on to “Give My Love To You,” another sweet ballad that makes you desire the one you love. Sugar is a master of such sweet sensations and honey vocals. He moves effortlessly into a dancehall rhythm on “Conscious Lover.” All the tracks on the album are amazing, but the next one to peruse is “Gambling,” another dancehall track that keeps your head knocking throughout. Another lovers’ rock treasure is “Tears You Cry,” immediately after “Gambling,” so don’t change the CD yet.
“Mind Blowing Decisions” sounds as if it is a track recorded later in the time span of this album. It is full of complicated chord changes and is a very nice soul groove with an electric piano gently stroking that happy spot in your brain. The album ends with “Chant,” a tune that Sugar chats over in a U-Roy/Prince Jazzbo style. It is a perfect tune to the end the album with, because it is groovin’ and keeps you wishin’ for more — so hit repeat and play it again. It is worth it.