When Shaggy had a Global smash with his irresistible version of the Folkes Brothers' "Oh Carolina," in 1993, and followed it up with the U.S. hit "Boombastic," in 1995, he carved a role for himself as dance-hall reggae's genial ambassador. Four years later, the former Orville Richard Burrell an ex-Marine who hails from Kingston, Jamaica, via Brooklyn, N.Y. is back with another friendly, all-things-to-all-people album.
The superbad, Stagger Lee-inna-Trenchtown machismo of the Buju Bantons and the Bounty Killers is of no interest to the Shagster. He may share a clowning baritone-rap style with these dance-hall dons, but his self-appointed "Mission" (as one of Midnite Lover's tracks is called) is to "see nothing but a smiling face." Even the raucous "Sexy Body Girls" takes an essentially polite approach to female pulchritude. Percy Sledge's quaint ballad "Warm and Tender Love" may seem an odd choice for a cover, but it sums up the sort of romance that Shaggy is offering.
Throughout Midnite Lover, Shaggy achieves an entertaining balance between soulful fun and dance-hall swagger. The Berns-Ragovoy tearwringer "Piece of My Heart" a Top 10 hit in Britain is reworked as a soul duet with neophyte singer Marsha and works even though the lass in question can't hold a candle to Erma Franklin. The cautionary "John Doe" and the title track are closer to P-Funk in feel, and "Way Back Home" is vintage rock-steady fused with the '60s beach soul of the Tams. The closing treatment of Bob Marley's "Thank You, Lord" features Ky-mani Marley sounding even more like Bob than Ziggy does.
Shaggy clearly cares not a jot for credibility, nor does he pretend to be a hard man. In "Think Ah So It Go," there's a riposte to the detractors who call him "brown and uptown" (as opposed to black and downtown), but one suspects that he could care less what the Bounty Killers of the world think of him. Watch him go global all over again. (RS 769)