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Monday 16 January 2012

Reggae Country

We like a bit of reggae here in the East End. I should qualify that by saying that we like a bit of reggae as long as it is UB40 or it was a hit in the 1960s or 1970s. You can't go into a pub on a Saturday night round here without hearing 'Kingston Town' or 'Everything I Own'.

So it came as no surprise when I was in Roman Road market recently (or "dahn the Roman" as we call call it) to find a dodgy geezer selling bootleg reggae CDs for £2 a pop. I picked up a handful of them, including a compilation called "Reggae's Gone Country" which came out last year.

Most of it is pretty tame stuff to be honest and there are a few duff choices - does the world really need a reggae version of 'Wolverton Mountain'? But on the plus side it does include covers of three of my all time favourite songs in any genre: 'He Stopped Loving Her Today', 'El Paso' and 'He'll Have To Go'. They are all decent enough, though none come close to the majesty of the originals, with Luciano's tribute to Jim Reeves probably the pick of the bunch. So that is what you are getting.

Of course there is nothing new about reggae artists covering country songs. Take for example Toots & The Maytals' stomping version of 'Take Me Home, Country Roads', which is infinitely preferable to the original. And the influence goes both ways. Toots popped up a few years' back on Willie Nelson's "Countryman" album, on which Willie reinterpreted his back catalogue in a rub-a-dub style-e - and produced one of the best records he has made in ages as a result.

Today's final selection has nothing to do with country music but I felt compelled to share it with you. Let me put three propositions to you:
  • There is a reggae version of 'Volare'
  • Barry White has done a version of 'Volare'
  • Barry White has made a reggae record
You would probably look at those and say the first was inevitable, the second conceivable and the third unlikely in the extreme. But now put them all together: Barry White has done a reggae version of 'Volare'. It's true. It's not good. But it's true.

"He'll Have To Go" - Luciano

"Take Me Home, Country Roads" - Toots & The Maytals

"Something To Think About" - Willie Nelson

"Volare" - Barry White

It would be kinder really to remember Barry doing what he did better than anyone.


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