Quoting the simple but profound words from Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, "There's no place like home." In the case of Glen Ricketts, the smooth but powerful vocalist has made himself feel right at home -- both in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where he first immigrated when he was a young teenager, and his native Jamaica, where he was known as Glen Ricks -- enjoying a steady career between his two homes since 1967. The singer/songwriter's effortless tenor voice crosses over easily from classic soul to the gentle sway of Lovers Rock Reggae, with its romantic themes that were popularized in the seventies by superstars such as Horace Andy and Dennis Brown. Ricketts has come full circle through a career spanning over four decades, as evidenced on his latest, RISE Up, mixing a new set of fresh romantic originals andrevisiting a few favorites throughout his predominately solo hit-marking journey.
This incredible journey began shortly after high school, where Ricketts joined the Jamaican based vocal band The Fabulous Flames, who proceeded to win a local Toronto talent contest. They traveled back to Jamaica to release a 1969 album, featuring a cover of the Neil Diamond top-ten smash hit, "Holly Holy," which also launched Ricketts' reputation as a rising star in his homeland.
After leaving the Flames to pursue a solo career in the U.S., he met one of his influences, soul legend Donny Hathaway, who became his mentor for a short while. Reenergized from Hathaway's mentorship, Ricketts returned to Toronto, joining the groundbreaking funk/R&B outfit Crack of Dawn, which was compared to Earth, Wind & Fire. The first black band from Canada to sign with major label, CBS, their self-titled project in 1975 produced some modest hits like "Keep The Faith," but the rise of disco music ultimately usurped the band's funky sound, resulting in the premature break-up of C.O.D.
Fortunately, Ricketts' solo career leaped to another level, between the studio and touring throughout North America with soul icons The Spinners and The Temptations. He also garnered two Juno Award (the Canadian equivalent of the Grammy Awards) nominations for R&B/Soul Record of the Year: "I Found A Love" and "Big City" in 1986 & 1987, respectively. Through the early and mid-nineties, Ricketts recorded numerous singles in both Jamaica and England, such as his covers of The Spinners' "It's A Shame," and Marvin Gaye's "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology Song)." Also in the same time period, Ricketts worked alongside producing Dennis Brown's "Vision of a Reggae King," an influential project that blended Lovers Rock sensibility and the evolving Dancehall movement.
RISE Up marks still another return to Toronto, this time at Producer Eddie Bullen's Thunder Dome Studios. All the tracks are graced with Ricketts' trademark honey-dripped tenor and falsetto frosting. What really makes this CD tick is the soulfully delightful Marvin Gaye composition, "Baby I'm For Real," which was one of Ricketts' blazing hit singles produced by Sly (Dunbar) & Robbie (Shakespeare) in the nineties. From his Fabulous Flames days, "Growing Up" is a reunion with drummer/percussionist Dunbar, backed by an all-star cast of Jamaican heavyweights like Robby Lyn and Glen Browne. A new track, "Happens All The Time," balances sitar touches with the Lovers Rock flow.
RISE Up continues to solidify Ricketts' Reggae and Soul fan base both in Canada and Jamaica, and should reel in new fans who can take a break from the Hip-Hop/Modern Dancehall genre that currently rules the urban culture.
By Peggy Oliver