I GREW UP ON A SELECT FEW albums when I was real little. Mainly, there were four that I distinctly remember. First, there was La Vida Mickey when I was young, young. Next came Los Lonely Boys, the inspiration for my piece last week. Third was Jack Johnson’s Curious George album when I got a little older. But the one album that remained with me throughout my early childhood? That was Reggae Dancer by Inner Circle. They may be most well known for two massive songs, but I knew them first and foremost from an album that doesn’t exist online… which really fucking annoys me.
You may recognize the group from one of their timeless songs. Ever heard of Sweat (A La La La La Long)? How about Bad Boys? You know, the theme song from COPS, also appearing in the movie Bad Boys? If you haven’t heard either, well I’m sorry, you might be living under a rock. If you just don’t remember the songs by name, please just look them up on YouTube or some streaming, you’re bound to recognize at least one by ear.
Without a doubt, this album holds a lot of nostalgic value and I may be biased because of it, but I swear to god, Reggae Dancer just doesn’t have a bad song. Sure, a couple songs toward the end could be better, but I’ll take solid over trash any day! In my opinion, the first half of the album doesn’t have a single ‘skip’ song; it’s just banger after banger. The group wasted no time getting after it, starting off with the most successful song off the project, Games People Play, a cover of Joe Smith’s Grammy-winning song from the late 60s. Again, probably biased, but Inner Circle’s version is far superior. It was definitely made to appeal to an American audience, but that doesn’t stop it from being an incredibly fun song, and a great introduction to the album’s sound. Both Summer Jammin’ and Whip It (With My Love) are two more songs that fall into this category. The songs are simple and carefree, lyrically, but man is that shit fun to listen to. I dare you to listen to either without moving around. On the off chance you can, well shit, you might just be Agent Smith from the Matrix.
Those three, along with other songs like Reggae Dancer and Something So Good, are easy listens, but also real relatable. However, I got no question in my mind which song is my favorite off the project. That title goes to Black Roses, and I crown it the best with absolutely zero remorse. It’s a sad song, which is obvious from the entire mood and the lyrics sung, but beautiful nonetheless. What I find so cool about the song is how open for interpretation it is. I guess they could literally be talking about a destroyed garden of black roses, although something tells me that’s unlikely. More likely options include childhood dreams slipping away, dealing with the loss of loved one(s), the racist actions black communities are faced with daily, or a response to the floods that terrorized the band’s home country, Jamaica, the same year they originally recorded the song (1986). Honestly, all seem like reasonable possibilities, but really I think everyone will translate the song differently, based on their experiences. That’s it's beauty: it can mean the world to anyone, but the significance will change by the listener. I dunno, might just be me, but that’s pretty damn powerful.
Being such a fun and powerful album, it would really be great if it was accessible on streaming platforms, huh? Welp, outside of Games People Play, it’s not. Those fuckers. I’ll link a YouTube playlist for the album here but otherwise, you’re kinda fucked. If anyone does want the album though, I have it in my personal library, thanks to burning the original CD (you what the what?) my family owns -- reach out if you want the files, you already know I got y’all. Hopefully someday, they’ll just be good doods and do us all the favor of uploading that shit everywhere. It’s where it deserves to be.
PERSONAL FAVORITES: Black Roses, Whip It (With My Love), Games People Play, Broken Glass, Something So Good