Sweet And Nice is the vital debut album from Jamaica’s undisputed first lady of song Marica Griffiths. It’s reggae at its most soulful. Slinking through a tight ten tracks of R&B and pop-sourced material, it became an instant best seller. 45 years after its initial release the LP is available again on vinyl, now as a double LP, with an extra record collecting 14 rare tracks.
Sweet And Nice has appeared over the years with a revised running order and under different titles. But the original’s opening sequence of loping soul is legendary, even beyond reggae circles. These songs are now returned to how they were presented on that first Jamaican release, and under their intended album title. Be With doesn’t mess with magic.
Marcia’s version of “Here I Am (Come and Take Me)” has long been lusted after, played by genre-hopping selectors to snapping necks for decades now. It’s followed by the sophisticated, rollicking wah-wah funk of “Everything I Own” and the slice of smooth lovers soul par excellence that is “Green Grasshopper” and her ace, lilting Neil Diamond cover “Play Me”.
The thundering, humid funk of “Children At Play” “sounds uncannily like a precursor of Massive Attack”, as FACT Mag astutely noted when they put Sweet And Nice at number 16 in their list of the 100 best albums of the 1970s. Otherworldly, moody and essential.
Side two keeps the fire burning. “Sweet, Bitter Love” should leave you swooning, and is also one of the album’s alternate titles. Curtis Mayfield’s already-eternal “Gypsy Man” is up next, recast as proto-lovers rock.
“There’s No Me Without You” is elevated to canonical status by the majestic, forlorn horns of the Federal Soul Givers and Marcia’s heartbreaking delivery. And if this doesn’t get you then surely the next track will: arguably the definitive version of Ewan MacColl’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”. Yes, seriously.
“I Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely” re-takes its rightful place at the end of the LP’s second side… but we couldn’t leave it at that. So we added an entire second record of rare material recorded around the same time as Sweet And Nice, much of it unavailable since it was originally released. Some of these songs have only ever been found on now unattainable 7" singles and no, rarity doesn’t always correspond with quality, but in this case we’re talking about some seriously jaw-dropping music.
Amongst 14 extra tracks you’ll find the exquisite late-60s singles “Melody Life” and “Mark My Word” which, along with the sumptuous reading of “Band Of Gold”, are now £100 records, if you can find them! Just sayin’. There‘s also a fantastic version of “The First Cut Is the Deepest” and an alternate take of “Play Me” with producer Lloyd Charmers adding his own vocals.
Everything’s been remastered of course, including the original LP, so Sweet And Nice now sounds even sweeter, and even nicer.