Richie Spice ADD


Album Review: Richie Spice - Black Man Time


by Steve Topple

Album Review: Richie Spice - Black Man Time

The indomitable Richie Spice celebrated his Earthstrong with a brand new album – which reflects on the influences of the music he’s renowned for across the world. It also demonstrates just how deft Spice is at adapted to cultural changes – as what he’s given us is not just a Reggae album.

Black Man Time, released via Spice’s own label Richie Spice Music, is the artist’s 10th album. Self-produced, along with talents such as Clive Hunt, Steven ‘Lenky’ Marsden, and Fyah Wayne, the project is reflective of how what we know as Reggae has progressed over the years – as well as the global influence of Black culture more broadly, and the synergy within this across the world.

Admittedly, most of the album has a Roots Reggae focus, but with some pleasing attention to detail.

For example, Cyber World has some of Reggae’s suspects present, like bubble rhythm keys. However, the track has been enhanced by a focus on Synthwave-style instrumentation, including a heavily engineered guitar that growls and rasps like a synthesised wah-wah effect - playing perfectly into the track’s narrative theme. These Are The Days featuring Capleton changes tack slightly, focusing more on an older skool sound complete with a swaying horn section and some well-arranged backing vocals. But again, Spice has focused on that 80s electronic sound – including gritty synths strings, and some decent samples – creating an unsettling sound, compounded by the booming bass. Spice and Capleton are a perfect pairing for this musical palette, and the track is strong.

However, the Carl Dawkins cover Satisfaction moves things back to something more recognisable (and grounded in the original) – a pleasing Reggae sound littered with attractive chord progressions, some newly composed work the guitars (one line lilting and tropical, the other rasping and rock), and an attractive electric organ. Spice’s performance here is particularly endearing – as it is on Real Love, a modern Lovers Rock track. Here he works around the higher end of his vocal register with urgency, flipping up into a falsetto at points across a musical backdrop of more well-constructed chord progressions and some excellently arranged and executed backing vocals.

also takes on Rocksteady group The Slickers’ classic Johnny Too Bad (used in Jimmy Cliff’s film The Harder They Come, then covered repeatedly by other groups). He’s been faithful to the original – keeping that signature electric organ line and delivering a heartfelt performance to boot.

Then, Young Juvenile featuring the legendary Louie Culture is more of a Revival Reggae sound, with its hard drum line, heavy use of synths, and work around a brooding minor key – and hearing these two Reggae stalwarts play-off one another over a forthright modern sound is a real treat. Searching For featuring Charly Black continues the Revival ‘revival’ – with an urgent rhythm section arrangement that drives the track forward, against a backdrop of a wah-wah’d guitar and some pointed horns. Black’s lower register vocal contrasts well with Spice’s higher range – and the track is an immediate classic.

However, away from Spice’s Reggae roots he dips into some other styles and genres – with excellent results.

The opener Tea Bread is a gorgeous and unexpected, stripped-back piece of work from Spice – merging Folk Pop sensibilities like a gently strumming guitar that lilts casually in the background, with something more Afrobeats – including pattering blocks and bongos. However, midway through the composition takes a surprise turn, with a Dancehall rhythmic clave briefly taking over the momentum across the guitar and backing vocals. Of course, what the track actually is is a complete reworking of Spice’s 2004 hit Earth A Run Red – and it’s arguably even better; thoroughly compelling, and beautifully arranged.

Lion And The Lamb is a modern Afrobeats affair. The pattering, heavily syncopated drum arrangement is central to the sound, however in keeping with other parts of Black Man Time Spice has introduced some electronic effects – including a deliciously engineered bass, slightly distorted and pitch-bent – which are then juxtaposed with a delicate electric piano line. Bliss.

Spice’s reimagining of the Lionel Richie standard All Night Long is fascinating. He’s kept the track true to the original’s African influences but brought them up to date – including some great samples, an enhanced drum line more reminiscent of AfroDancehall and a new string section which juts around the track. Spice handles the intricate vocal details with ease – and it’s a solid updating of a classic track; a clever one at that, given Lionel’s leaning on Dub in the original – because he didn’t think of that rhythmic use of reverb across his vocal himself, did he?

Then, Love Can Make It Happen is almost soft-touch Dancehall – and features Spice’s brothers, Spanner Banner and Pliers. That recognisable rhythmic clave simmers beneath the surface, while the focus is on higher kHz instruments – blurring the lines between Dancehall, Reggae, and Afrobeats perfectly – as well as delivering a pleasing main chorus, and some brilliant vocal synergy between the siblings.

High Grade is AfroDancehall-meets EDM: edgy, forward-moving, and with some captivating arrangement. There’s a real feeling of light-touch instrumentation again, with the focus not being on the bass but instead on the airier tones of water samples, some stark synth horns, an electric organ, and the rapidly pattering snare. The backing vocals are again lovely – and Spice gives an excellent performance, working all around his vocal register, and employing great use of varying dynamics.

Mother Earth is a glorious Afrobeats-inspired creation, fused with something more soulful across its harmonious verses where the instrumentation strips away to leave fluid, flowing choral backing vocals and just the rhythm section – before the chorus kicks the sound back in again. It’s inventive and ethereal at points, upbeat at others – encapsulating the subject matter well.

The previously released Happy New Year concludes the album, having an almost Old Skool Dancehall feel about it – the Reggae-laced instrumentation set against a rhythm section focused on the recognisable clave. Spice evokes the party feeling well – and it’s upbeat and joyous.

Lyrically, the few Lovers tracks are well-constructed with nice use of wordplay. Then, Cyber World lambasts our obsession and reliance on social media and the immorality that comes with that – while These Are The Days is its ‘part two’, discussing the end result of that, coupled with Babylon’s mendacity, on society – and how personal faith is needed to overcome it.

Young Juvenile makes a musical plea for the youth to move away from crime and violence – instead to find spiritual purpose away from Babylon’s claws – “let Emperor Selassie show the way”, as it were. Johnny Too Bad is well-placed in the album to follow this, as its 1970’s lyrics about the futility of violence and being the ‘big man’ – ending up’ running to the rock which won’t be there’ - still resonate today.

Homage is paid to cannabis on High Grade, while Searching For calls out the criminalisation of it, with agents of Babylon the police coming under fire for their complicity in the systemic suppression of the herb, while Mother Earth sings the praises of the Motherland.

But it’s perhaps Tea Bread which, as a sum of its parts, is the most revelatory track of Black Man Time. Not only are the profound lyrics still applicable today, but it shows Spice’s talent for songwriting – because the main melody works equally well over 2023’s Folk Pop reincarnation as it did on the Reggae original – arguably, if not better.

Overall, Black Man Time is a most-welcome project from Richie Spice and all involved – one that delivers in showing just how far Reggae’s influence has reached, but also the togetherness that the global Black community has, and needs. Excellent stuff – and the perfect way to celebrate the artist’s Earthstrong.

Release details

  • Richie Spice - Black Man Time
  • Richie Spice - Black Man Time

Richie Spice - Black Man Time

DIGITAL RELEASE [Richie Spice Music]

Release date: 09/08/2023


01. Tea Bread
02. Cyber World
03. These Are The Days feat. Capleton
04. Satisfaction
05. Real Love
06. Lion And The Lamb
07. All Night Long
08. Young Juvenile feat. Louie Culture
09. Johnny Too Bad
10. Love Can Make It Happen
11. High Grade
12. Searching For feat. Charly Black
13. Mother Earth
14. Happy New Year