Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Sugar Minott

  • Black Roots [Mango, 1979] B
  • Sufferer's Choice [Heartbeat, 1983] B+
  • Inna Reggae Dance Hall [Heartbeat, 1986] B

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Black Roots [Mango, 1979]
This is Jamaica pop, by which I mean modestly tuneful Rasta talk mellifluously sung. Pleasant, but nothing to base a canon on--only "Oppressors Oppression" (makes a wise man mad) and "Two Time Loser" (in love careless love) will do more than make you hum along. B

Sufferer's Choice [Heartbeat, 1983]
Play this back-to-back with Minott's 1979 Black Roots and then tell me reggae never changes. The progress is subtle, but I promise you'll hear it plenty clear enough. It begins as usual in the rhythms, which Sly & Robbie take over from lesser lights, but that doesn't explain why Minott, a creamy lovers rocker of no special distinction, not only keeps up but adds fillips of his own, fillips that would have been buried in the 1979 recording even if he'd been capable of them then. Sure the songwriting's improved too, but in this kind of music meaning inheres in responsive interaction. If formalism it must be, let it be formalism of the body. B+

Inna Reggae Dance Hall [Heartbeat, 1986]
A mild-mannered pro who "Nah Follow Nuh Fashion" because he never lets it get ahead of him trades in the Roots Radics on a computer-compatible rhythm machine, upping the tempo slightly and shifting his croon toward chant. Product, sure, but useful product, which even in Jamaica is an achievement these days. B