Various Artists, Spirits in the Material World: A Reggae Tribute to the Police (Shanachie)

Maybe this seemed like an obvious idea, but perhaps it was too obvious. When reggae artists cover Police songs, whatever is idiosyncratic about the songs is lost. The songs become reggae too easily. Nothing sounds wrong, but nothing sounds difficult and nothing sounds like an artistic stretch. The positive side of that fact is that it’s a very pleasant album, with tracks by such luminaries as Gregory Isaacs, Ali Campbell of UB 40, and Lee “Scratch” Perry who does a dub version of Horace Andy’s “Invisible Sun” that is serviceable, but hardly inspired. The downside is that little sticks. The gospel first verse of Toots and the Maytals’ “Da Doo Doo Doo, Da Dah Dah Dah” is a nice touch, but after that, the high points are Cyril Neville’s spacious, harmony-oriented “Wrapped Around Your Finger” and Monk Boudreaux’s rough, guitar-driven take on “Spirits in the Material World.” The drums are more felt than heard, creating room for the gritty guitars to fill the midrange with a rawness I associate more the reggae of the 1970s. It’s a welcome respite from the more contemporary, synthetic sounding reggae present. I wish Boudreaux’s voice wasn’t doubled because that diminishes his frail soul, but his remains a standout track on an otherwise fine but unspectacular album.