Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
On his latest solo set, Time, Bunny Rugs focuses intently on matters of the heart. He has multiple takes on the enduring topic of adult male-female romantic (which is different from strictly sexual) relationships.
However, while competence is never in doubt - Rugs is, after all, the excellent, enduring main lead voice of Third World Band, which celebrates 40 years this year - on the predominantly roots-reggae set, he is more convincing on the social commentary songs.
First, the love side. Just Can't Deny and Settling Down speak to what is often taken as the man's prerogative, settling down (although, truth be told, women play the field with unparalleled finesse). Heaven Sent - Dat Feelin' and You're My Everything speak to a man encountering or realising that he is with someone special.
The titles of Thinking About You and Love is Blind are self-explanatory, although the latter has a twist.
Rugs sees through the lady's wiles ("Girl, you told how much you really love me/And you'll never ever leave me/'Cause I'm your one and only/But girl, you're all over town"), but he is unable to cut the emotional ties with her ("'Cause I fall for your tricks every time").
Of course, what is a rumination on love without a look at its destruction? Rugs does that on What Kinda Man? ("Tell me what kind of man would tear it all apart/I shouldn't have played the fool girl from the start").
Love of another kind
However, there is love of another kind, love of country, which Rugs addresses on the album's final song, Land We Love. The lyrical approach is not novel, as it focuses on Jamaica's generally good climate ("there's a land not so far away/where the sun keep shining/all through the day") and outstanding personalities ("Jamaicans, we are number one/world leaders and champions/prophets and musicians"). However, with a saxophone solo preceding and then overlapping with him, Rugs' approach - sticking mainly well within his considerable range - works very well.
Long before that standout track, though, Rugs' take on the uptempo reggae track Kurfew, which includes the rapid-fire "riddle me this, riddle me that gunshot a riddle" conveys the urgency of the situation. Time, Bed of Roses and Don't Give Up are doses of personal philosophy in the face of deceit, and offers encouragement to those who are depressed by the said deceitful ("like sorcerer they turn routine into challenge") are convincing in delivery.
The list of musicians playing on Time confirms the quality that the ear has already appreciated. Among them are Sly Dunbar, Kirk Bennett and Sticky Thompson (drums/percussions), Duwayne Hoilett and Radcliffe Bryan (guitar), Robbie Lyn and Paul Crossdale (keyboards) Dean Fraser and Guillaume Briard (horns) and 'Cat' Coore (harmonica). The harmony vocalists include Sherita Lewis and Roselyn Williams, with Rohan Dwyer mastering engineer duties.
1. Just Can't Deny
2. Heaven Sent - Dat Feelin'
3. You're My Everything
4. Neva Gonna Give Up
6. It's Time
7. We've Got the Formula
8. Settling Down
10. Thinking About You
11. Love is Blind
12. What Kinda Man
13. Bed of Roses
14. Don't Give Up
15. Land We Love: Jamaica