In the early '80s, before Sting rose to international superstar status (musician/actor/activist), he was but one-third of new wave combo the Police. Back then, few British artists bridged the worlds of reggae and mainstream rock/pop like the Police, with their blend of Jamaican rhythms and urgent, polished melodic flair. Call it good marketing and/or reggae performers repaying a debt, but Spirits in the Material World presents assorted reggae and American roots-oriented performers tipping their fedoras and knit-caps to the Bleach Blond Boys. High points include Cyril Neville's yearning "Wrapped Around My Finger," replete with warm, gospel-glazed harmonies; honey-voiced crooner Gregory Isaac's lilting rock-steady "So Lonely"; and the Wailing Souls' righteous roots version of "One World." Hawaii's Pepper give "Can't Stand Losing You" a ska- and dub-flavored accent, leaving the impression these lads would be lots of fun live. Not everything is gold, alas — Ali Campbell (from UB40) makes "Every Little Thing She Does... " bland and listless, and Joan Osborne's "Every Breath You Take" sounds like fodder for the Holiday Inn lounge circuit. As with most "tribute" sets, it's a mixed bag, but Spirits is a mostly solid listen for both Police and reggae devotees.
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