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Minna

A&R Reviews

Artist:  Minnalee Lammie Title:  Minna, A Good Thing Review by Alex Henderson


It isn’t all that often that a singer markets herself as both a reggae singer and an R&B singer.  Plenty of reggae singers have been greatly influenced by American R&B, and some R&B singers have dabbled in reggae.  But vocalists who openly declare themselves to be a part of both are something of a rarity, and Kingston-born Minnalee Lammie (who moved to New York City and took up residence in the Bronx) is such a rarity.  Minna, A Good Thing, her debut album, has one foot in reggae and the other in R&B; the gritty, big-voiced Lammie is equally expressive in both areas, demonstrating that she is as fond of old-school soul as she is of old-school reggae.  And old-school is definitely the approach that Lammie favors on this album, which was recorded in Greenwich, NY (not in Jamaica).  She gets a great deal of inspiration from 1960s and 1970s reggae on Sugarcane and Song of You,” while turning to 1960s and 1970s soul for inspiration on A Good Thing,” She Don’t Live Here Anymore and the edgy Friction.”


Those who know a lot about the history of reggae might be tempted to compare Lammie (who toured with reggae icon Jimmy Cliff in the early 2000s) to Marcia Griffiths or Judy Mowatt, both examples of female reggae singers who were active in the 1960s and 1970s. But while Griffiths and Mowatt are valid stylistic comparisons when Lammie is performing loversrock (roots reggae that has romantic lyrics rather than political lyrics), it should be stressed that Griffiths and Mowatt arent known for performing reggae one minute and R&B the next.  Griffiths, Mowatt, Rita Marley and other female reggae singers have been greatly influenced by classic soul, but they are reggae singers first and foremost whereas Lammie is a reggae singer who is just as much of an R&B singer. Sometimes, Lammie will remind the listener of Griffiths, Mowatt or Marley, yet when she switches from reggae to R&B, one might think of old-school soul singers such as Jean Knight, Betty Wright, Judy Clay and Margie Joseph.


John Crow is a departure from the album’s other reggae offerings in that it isn’t lovers’ rock but rather, has more of a dubwise/dancehall aesthetic.  Lammie does some singing on John Crow,” although what she mostly does on that track is toasting instead of singing (toasting is a type of chanting that started with dubwise and continued with the more abrasive dancehall style after that).  And lyrically, John Crow differs from the rest of the album in that it gets into social commentary and describes a rude boy rather than favoring romantic subject matter.   For those who aren’t up on their Jamaican slang, rude boys are roughnecks who are living the thug life or the gangster life; the term has been used in reggae since the 1960s, and John Crow warns a rude boy that living a life of criminality cannot end well. John Crow is a cautionary tale, much like Bob Marley & the Wailers on Hooligan or Desmond Dekker on 007 (Shanty Town).”


Meanwhile, Lammies performance of the George Gershwin standard Summertime” is easily the album’s most bluesy and jazz-influenced track.   Lammie doesn’t approach Summertime” as reggae but rather, as a mixture of soul, jazz and blues. But when she tackles another 1930s standard, Ray Noble’s The Very Thought of You, Lammie successfully goes for a lovers’ rock arrangement. The Very Thought of You” is a  song that one usually associates with jazz, traditional pop and cabaret, but Lammie demonstrates that Nobles song can work perfectly well with a reggae beat.


Minna, A Good Thing sounds well-produced by not overproduced.  Bob Warren’s production, in fact, is very earthy and old-school, favoring real bass, real guitar, real drums and some horns over the electronic programming that is the norm in modern R&B. In the 1980s, R&B became very high-tech, but Lammie opts for the type of organic production style that was the norm in both R&B and reggae in the 1960s and 1970s.


Minna, A Good Thing doesn’t pretend to be stylistically groundbreaking; Lammie isn’t pointing either R&B or reggae in any new directions. Rather, she is very much a classicist, and her classicist aesthetic yields excellent results on the rewarding Minna, A Good Thing.


Review by Alex Henderson

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)


Alex V. Henderson is a veteran journalist who covers political, social, business and financial topics as well as arts and entertainment. His work has appeared in Billboard, Spin, The L.A. Weekly, AlterNet, JazzTimes, Jazziz, XBIZ, Creem, HITS, Black Radio Exclusive (BRE),  Skin Two, CD Review, Players, Latin Style, Pulse!, Music Connection, All About Jazz, the R&B Report, Black Beat, Cash Box and a long list of other well known publications. He has contributed several thousand CD reviews to The All Music Guide's popular website and serious of reference books (including AMG's rock, blues, R&B, country, electronica and hip-hop guides) and is the publisher of SexandPolitics.org. Alex has written numerous liner notes, bios and press releases for many well known record companies, includingVerve, Concord, MCA/Universal, Island, GNP Crescendo, Chesky, Delicious Vinyl, TSR,  Rhino, Priority, Del-Fi andChallenge. Contact Information for articles, features, liner notes, bios, press releases or content: Alex Henderson   email: vixenatrixx@aol.com