Album-Review: Richie Campbell - In The 876
by Gardy Stein
What an unexpected surprise! Coming out of the first round of listening to the secret release In The 876, I had to take a deep breath before I could proceed. Richie Campbell, the young Portuguese singer who almost sounds like a Jamaican, has created an exciting album without anyone knowing - and will now certainly stand in the middle of a whole heap of attention!
So far, I have never even heard of something like a secret release. It must have been hard for everybody involved to keep quiet about all the goodness coming our way. Honestly, most of the 12 tracks included are scorchers. Produced by Nicholas 'Niko Lifeline' Browne for Bridgetown Records, both the quality of the recordings and the conception of the whole work are breathtaking. Conceptually, the songs of the album are interrelated, connected by short messages voiced by different people: Jesse, Toian and Niko make it a lively affair, much more than just a playlist of songs, and Richie himself says in the beginning "You haffi be in the 876" to feel the vibe. Hence the title – another little mystery, that is however easily resolved by anyone who has personal contacts to Jamaica. Can you guess? +876 is the area code of the island!
After this short intro, we land right in the middle of everything with Feel Amazing. Just wait until this one drops in the dances - there will be pull-ups and sing-alongs and dancing frenzies for sure. Positive message and a veeeeery danceable beat make it a perfect opener for the album, in line with the included motto "You haffi fit fi mek a hit!". Richie definitely is. Not only the choice of topics (love is a big one, of course, treated in the video-accompanied Best Friend or the apologetic 25 To Life), but also the variety of styles contribute to the freshness experienced with this release.
In a lovers rock style, for instance, Give It All Away tells the ladies to wait with the first time when dating a man: "I've got time and I don't mind…". How sweet! Some romantic Latino-vibes shine through in Knock Me Out, due for a big part to the sexy voice of fellow Portuguese singer Sara Tavares. Other features include Toian in Get Over You and a fantastic Jesse Royal in That's Not Mine, an assertion of innocence to the officers who obviously found some illegal stuff during one of the rampant Jamaican police blocks. In Feels Like, the one called Agent Sasco makes the tune bubble over with some wicked vocal contribution, and Richie rides the up-tempo riddim like an old-school DJ as well. Along with eye-winking lyrics ("Gentleman step in, so me naa di only white man here."), the two singers make this tune one of the gems of the oeuvre.
On a more serious note, pure consciousness is brought across in Rise From We Fall, Standing Firm and Man Don't Cry, although the experiences of sufferation in the latter ring a bit hollow given the fact that Ricardo Costa (Richie's civil name) very likely didn't grow up lacking. The album releases us with the touching Better Than Today, an acoustic beauty that gives hope to anyone struggling with difficult situations.
Meanwhile, the songs have been rotating on my player for a few days and I'm still breathless, this time from singing along the uplifting lyrics at the top of my voice. In The 876 is a delicious secret finally revealed to the world – make sure you discover it!
Richie Campbell - In The 876
Release date: 05/04/2015
01. In the 876
02. I Feel Amazing
03. Best Friend
04. Feels Like feat. Agent Sasco
05. 25 to Life
06. Man Don't Cry
07. That's Not Mine feat. Jesse Royal
08. Get Over You feat. Toian
09. Give It All Away
10. Knock Me Out feat. Sara Tavares
11. Rise From We Fall
12. Standing Firm
13. Better than Today