Looking back on the Summer of Ragga (and indeed the Winter Of Ragga), what strikes me is how cuddly its chart presence was. Dancehall was a controversial import: for a pop audience used to reggae as good vibes unity music, the arrival of young lions like Shabba Ranks was a shock. Particularly as the sex, swagger and silk trousers might be mixed up inextricably with vicious homophobia. But none of that drama showed up in the charts. While The Word took time out from dousing students in beans to grapple with the issues, pre-watershed ragga was a brighter, sunnier experience.
Chaka Demus – the rough one – and Pliers – the smooth one – thoroughly retool a pop standard but it’s hard to imagine anyone being annoyed (or thrilled) by the resulting jollities: “Twist And Shout” is the kind of song which is so often covered you’d think it can’t have purists anymore. It has survived dozens of styles and, for that matter, will endure its current life in reality show limbo.
This particular version is all twist and very little shout – cheerful, almost languid, cantering along without any real spark but entertaining all the same. Musically it’s not taking many risks – there’s a lascivious intro from richer-voiced guest Jack Radics, a nagging backing yelp that sounds like a persistent terrier locked in the studio, and a twangy arrangement positioning the track as an “Oh Carolina” style blend of old and new. Pliers cajoles, his voice fluttering around Chaka Demus gruffer commands, but both men are more memorable elsewhere and their performance is a microcosm of the track: nobody does anything wrong, and somehow it fails to stick anyway.
(For those still intrigued by the idiosyncracies of Popular’s marking system, this was on the absolute 5/6 cusp until I listened to it with the sun out.)