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Love and Devotion

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Album Review

In the late '70s Jimmy Riley linked up with Sly & Robbie, and across a stream of stellar singles brought his music around full circle. The baritone had launched his career back in the rocksteady age with his Sensations, then rode to international fame in the early reggae age with the ultimate romantic band, the Uniques. Riley began releasing solo singles in 1969, establishing himself in the following decade as an important cultural artist. But as '70s neared their end, the pendulum began swinging away from serious concerns, a shift both Riley himself and his producers sensed. And so, the singer returned to matters of the heart across a string of Taxi singles. Several of these were stellar recuts of Uniques numbers, including a phenomenal remake of "Love and Devotion," which was one of Taxi's biggest hits of the year. "Give Me Your Love" and "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" were also drawn from the Uniques' canon, although back then the latter was called "Love and Affection." "You'll Lose a Precious Love" was actually a Temptations song, but the Uniques had cut a quite sensational cover, and now Riley would re-record that, too, along with another Temps number, "I Wish It Would Rain." Curtis Mayfield's "My Woman's Love" had also received Unique attention, and Riley revived that as well. However, the singer was not exactly reliving past glories, for Slim Smith had handled the Uniques' leads — thus, this was Riley's first chance to front these songs himself, with the Tamlins now providing the harmonies he himself had once handled. Amazingly, there's only the occasional echo of the past, so different are Riley's style and readings from those of Smith. To add to this disconnect, the riddims, too, are dramatically different from the originals, the band transforming the Bunny Lee riddims into sumptuous roots rockers backings that broadly hinted at the more ragga-fied sounds to come. Love and Devotion, titled after the hit, rounded up all these magnificent singles and more, including the lush, organ-driven "Bang Bang," the guitar-picking "I Try," the country & western-goes-Stax "The Choking Kind," and a stunning cover of Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing." Totally redefining his past, Riley is moving straight into the dancehall future, and this majestic set is stuffed with nothing but the best, capturing the singer at his most mighty, soulful heights.


Born: 22 May 1954 in Kingston, Jamaica

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Jimmy Riley was born Martin James Norman Riley on May 22, 1954 in Kingston, Jamaica. His first success came as a member of the Sensations (with Cornell Campbell, Aaron "Bobby" Davis, and his brother, Buster Riley), who recorded such hits as "Everyday Is Just a Holiday" for Duke Reid's Treasure Isle label in the mid-'60s. Riley left the Sensations in 1967 and, with Slim Smith and Lloyd Charmers, became part of the second incarnation of the Uniques. The Uniques only lasted a little over a year, but...
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Love and Devotion, Jimmy Riley
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