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CD REVIEW: Sanchez's 'Now and Forever' simply beautiful - mostly

Published:Saturday | February 13, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Judge the latest album by Sanchez, Now and Forever (produced by Donovan Germain, released by VP Records), by its simple, effective cover. In that image which makes the all-important first impression, Sanchez is the epitome of sartorial savoir-faire mature dancehall style, where the staple hat of earlier times meets the full white élan of dapper dancehall youth.

Similarly, on the 14-track CD, Sanchez sticks with simplicity (including the writing, which for some may fall too far into cliché territory), and for the most part, carries it off very, very well. Granted, with a voice like Sanchez's, where the church meets a dimly lit social spot with a lonely singer pouring heart and soul into a microphone (plus a healthy dash of sound-system attitude), it is pretty hard to sink into mediocrity. It must be noted, though, that that particular difficulty has been surmounted previously and on this set the standard does slip at the very end.

Cover version quagmire

However, for the most part, Now and Forever is a concept - lover's rock album (the production approach is more spare than lush, the musical bells and whistles played down in favour of totally foregrounding the voice), Sanchez long past the cover version quagmire which dogged his early days. It is important to note the 'intimate relationship' and not 'love', because while the bulk of the songs is about the mushy mushy stuff (Who Am I Without You, My Everything, rare cover Feel Good All Over and I'll Give Anything included) there are those which tackle the more prickly side of the game.

One of those is my pick on the set, Don't Fall For It, which unfortunately is placed way down the batting order at number 12. It packs a nice wallop, uncharacteristically (for the set) uptempo and definitely not standard fare from the stereotypical predatory male. He sings:

"There is a booby trap designed

to catch the ladies

A man will make you promises

and give you babies.

Don't go for it

It's just a trick

Don't go for it

Tell him you've got your man

And you're fully satisfied

He'll try to prove to you the man

at home is not real

Not afraid to start his Range

Rover and give you the wheel

He'll tell you of his assets, everything he owns

And ask you for your help to

count his money at home."

It's good stuff which, hopefully, the listener will get to, as the passage to that point through the set is very easy on the ear. There won't be any chance of missing another preferred track, the opening Won't Surrender, about the lady searching her gent's phone and his reaction ("so I destroyed all the evidence/simply means she has no case").

However, much like West Indies batting line-up of the 1990s with Courtney Walsh last man in, Now and Forever flags at the end. No. Maybe an Asafa Powell of two years ago comparison is more appropriate. Because, instead of continuing with what it was doing so well and running through the tape to glory, the CD ties up at the tape with two jarringly out of character songs where the voice is not enough to compensate for the lyrical simplicity about well-hackneyed themes.

The first is about the power of music and the dancehall experience, with a nod to Penthouse Records in it as Sanchez sings:

"You just have to love it

Worse if the selector head sick

Gazing on some chicks

Smoking on a big head spliff"

It comes off as banal to the nth

degree.

Then there is the closing Enjoy

Life, a slow, drums heavy track

which urges all to do just that.

Again, the lyrics are glaringly

sub-par, but there are some

redeeming lines:

"As products of the ghetto,

called the underprivileged

We chose reggae music to cross

poverty's bridge

We may not have subjects,

Master's or degrees

But a very sure income, smile

while collecting Gs"

It is an unfortunately weak ending, but not so much or bad to negate the quality of the rest of Now and Forever.

Track listing

1. Won't Surrender

2. Who Am I Without You

3. Longing to Come Home

4. I'm For Real

5. Feel Good All Over

6. My Everything

7. Bet Any Amount

8. Now and Forever

9. Extraordinary

10. Release That Property

11. When Someone Says I Love You

12. Don't Fall For It

13. I Can Feel It

14. Enjoy Life

- Mel Cooke