The Police reunion tour has been one of the biggest musical events of the past year as it brought to the fore the reggae-influenced repertoire of perhaps the biggest hit-making rock/pop group of the early Eighties. Spirits In The Material Worldunites an all-star aggregation of Jamaican and American artists who reclaim and amplify the reggae element in the Police’s music by doing overtly reggae versions of a hand-picked set of Police hits and favorite album tracks. This highly anticipated project, due out on Shanachie Entertainment on February 19, 2008, features such renowned artists as Toots & The Maytals, The Wailing Souls, Ali Campbell of UB40, Joan Osborne, Junior Reid and Lee “Scratch” Perry, among other dynamic talents. Produced by the legendary and Grammy-winning Inner Circle, a portion of the proceeds of Spirits In The Material World: A Reggae Tribute To The Policewill benefit The Toots Foundation, which was founded by Toots Hibbert of Toots & The Maytals to build and run youth centers in Jamaica.
Shanachie GM Randall Grass was inspired to record Spirits In The Material World when he heard about the Police reunion in early 2007. “I remembered in the late Seventies that The Police were one of a significant handful of rock/pop artists, such as The Clash, The Selector, Blondie and others, who were incorporating elements of reggae in their music and thereby helping to popularize reggae, something that was definitely observed with interest by many Jamaican artists. I felt it would be exciting to record strong reggae versions of Police songs whereby the reggae element would be the driving force rather than simply an inflection.”
Grass placed a call to Inner Circle, whose roots go deep from their time backing Bob Marley and making classic recordings with the late great Jacob Miller up through their huge crossover hit “Bad Boys,” the theme of the Cops television show. Inner Circle’s Miami studio has become a favorite venue for such R&B and rap stars as Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys, P. Diddy, Pit-bull, Mariah Carey and others so they were perfectly placed to oversee an album that bridges the worlds of pop and reggae.
“These guys (The Police) took a genre, put their own style to it and made the world aware of the roots style of reggae," notes Inner Circle's Roger Lewis, “so we owe big respect to Sting and the Police. This project has been one of the most intriguing projects we've ever done because everyone-Junior Reid, Ali Campbell, Toots, everyone-brought their own sound to these Police songs."
Each artist on Spirits In The Material World: A Reggae Tribute To The Police was asked to pick a Police song which they felt would be suitable for their style many of the Jamaican artists had been involved in cross-over projects before. The legendary Toots Hebert of Toots & The Maytals had recorded the acclaimed Toots In Memphis album The Wailing Souls, heard here in their newly re-united original four-man line-up, had their music featured in the film Cool Runnings, Horace Andy has been a featured vocalist with Massive Attack and Junior Reid had appeared on hip-hop remixes by Mims and Alicia Keys’ recent single “No One.”
Inner Circle themselves were one of the first self-contained Jamaican bands to be signed to an American major label. Some of the American artists chosen have also demonstrated an affinity for reggae. The Hawaiian band Pepper has found success with a punk/ska/reggae hybrid and Cyril Neville of The Neville Brothers has long demonstrated his love of reggae through his band Cyril Neville and The Uptown All-Stars.
A special treat is the appearance of Big Chief Monk Boudreaux of The Golden Eagles Mardi Gras Indian gang, who has long been a Bob Marley fan and here on Spirits In The Material World reunites a traditional New Orleans sensibility with a roots reggae sound.
“Reggae became for me th