ADIFF ’11: The Story of Lover’s Rock
(trailer here), which opens the 2011 African Diaspora International Film Festival tonight.
Though firmly rooted in reggae, Lover’s Rock was smoother, mellower, and less political than the music coming out of Jamaica at the time. It also boasted considerably more prominent female artists. Indeed, the acknowledged crossover hits were mostly sung by women, like Louisa Mark’s version of “Caught You in a Lie” and Janet Kay’s “Silly Games.”
Of course, there were plenty of men involved, especially on the production side, including bassist Dennis Bovell, the producer of “Silly Games,” who is probably Shabazz’s best interview subject. He certainly still looks and sounds cool. In fact, most of the talking heads offer a better than average degree of musical insight, though one academic comes across pretty silly explaining how the slow grind stimulated dancers’ chakras (and it is not meant as a euphemism).
While Story might sound like it should only appeal to a narrow range of fans, Lover’s Rock influenced many future top UK recording artists, including UB40 (who charted fifty UK hits, but never got their proper due, according to one rock critic) and even the Police. It has also gone global, inspiring a considerable Japanese scene (including an intriguing but unnamed band briefly seen in the film).
Strangely though, Shabazz largely eschews archival performances, choosing instead to show the artists (who have aged well, for the most part) performing a contemporary PBS-style reunion concert. Still, most artists remain in good voice, such as standout Trevor Walters, whose rendition of Lionel Ritchie’s “Stuck on You” sure goes down easy. However, the same cannot be said for the periodic sketch-interludes featuring British comedians, who are largely unknown in America, for good reason.