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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Album review: Unlikely pairing of Sting and Shaggy dials up the spirit of Marley for some rays of pop-reggae

The unlikely duo make the sun shine on collaborative effort

Sting & Shaggy's 44/876. Courtesy Interscope Records
Sting & Shaggy's 44/876. Courtesy Interscope Records

Seldom since the Wu-Tang Clan’s Method Man worked with Scottish bores Texas in the late 1990s (Say What You Want) have there been such a “huh?” music combo as this: Sting, the 66-year-old former Police frontman behind enduring hits Roxanne and Message in a Bottle; and Shaggy, the 49-year-old pop-reggae architect of, err, classic singles Boombastic and It Wasn’t Me.

The album title is the international dialling codes of the two artists’ respective countries, and their musical influences similarly meet in the middle – although, while Sting’s familiar tones are tinged with occasional disconcerting Jamaican twangs, Shaggy goes even farther into his patois without a hint of English influence. It’s easy to forget that Sting has dabbled in reggae before, although not as much as Shaggy’s confusingly named producer, Sting International, who handles much of the behind-the-desk work on 44/876.

Sting claims on the opening title track that “the ghost of Bob Marley” haunts him “to this day” – and it does hint at the album’s spirit, which evokes some of the reggae pioneer’s sunniest moments, alongside infrequent darker diversions such as courtroom lament Crooked Tree.

It’s an album that the world wouldn’t have missed were it never conceived, but given that it does exist, the results could have been a lot worse – and that even extends to an unexpected cover of West End show tune Love Changes Everything.

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