Michael Rose: Never Give It Up

Ben Varkentine

Michael Rose

Never Give It Up

Label: Heartbeat
US Release Date: 2001-02-13

Both the most and the least I can say about this album is: Michael Rose, the former lead singer of Black Uhuru, has released a new reggae album. Rose, singer and author of such well-known Uhuru songs as "Sinsemilla" and "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner", left the group in 1985, retiring to his coffee farm in Jamaica. He reemerged in 1989 with work on the very fine soundtrack to the film The Mighty Quinn. He began his solo career in earnest the next year, and has enjoyed a handful of hits both in America and Britain since. Rose's keen, commanding voice has also proved influential on reggae vocalists who came after him, including but not limited to his replacement in Uhuru, Junior Reid. He tours consistently.

A Michael Rose homepage I consulted gives the tip-off. It describes this album as consisting "of self-produced material recorded some time ago in Miami/Florida." I would really like to know how long "some time ago" is. This record sounds for all the world as though it could have been recorded in 1987, during Rose's period of retirement. The syncopated, slowed-down rhythms, the bouncy bass lines, the predictable keyboard and horn parts, the female backing vocals, the songs extolling "the weed" and the music itself. Big surprise -- this is a reggae album, an utterly ordinary one. This has the distinct feeling of a placeholder album, something thrown together and tossed to the fan base. As such, it's not likely to make any new converts. One suspects there are better reggae albums to had, from Rose or other sources, and I would be surprised to hear that those who are far more deeply immersed in that music than I liked this album much more than I did.

To put cards on the table, let me state that I am hardly a reggae expert, but I don't consider myself totally ignorant of the genre either. Like most people, I know some Bob Marley, pop-reggae hybrids like UB40, and so on. I've also enjoyed Rose's work with Uhuru and on his own in the past. Rose is an important singer and Black Uhuru was an important group, but this is a markedly unimportant album.

I've written before in reviews here of how the danger of being influential in your field is that when those you've influenced catch up with you, it can tend to obscure what you're doing. Which is what I think happened to Prince, but that's another piece. Never Give it Up is another example -- at least in my opinion -- and my admission of liking UB40 may have given the aforementioned harder-core reggae fans leave to dismiss that opinion, I admit.

Both the most and the least I can say about this album is: Michael Rose, the former lead singer of Black Uhuru, has released a new reggae album.

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