Although not known to a wide audience Nereus Joseph has been making hit singles and albums for over a decade now, building up his fan base accordingly and never failing to supply the prime roots and lovers material to which they've grown accustomed.
Photo & most of the text provided courtesy of Ruff Cutt Productions.
Born Nereus Mwalimu in St Lucia, West Indies, Nereus Joseph came to the UK in 1969 at the age of seven. He was always interested in singing and after joining his school choir, formed a band in East London. They were soon performing at places like the Half Moon Theatre; a good experience for an artist still in his teens. The Mighty Diamonds were an early influence on his own vocal style, as were Dennis Brown and Freddie McGregor. He would later claim that listening to Tubby Diamond helped him to pitch up his voice, and such lessons were quickly absorbed. By 1984, he was the lead singer with Coptic Roots, whose debut single "Roots And Culture" was well received on the local reggae market. The group had initially come together for a live show in Vienna, and Nereus was also singing solo material at the time. "Sensi Crisis" was his own debut and a No.1 hit in 1985, swiftly followed by "Special Lady". Both songs were produced by Fashion for whom he'd cut a demo two years earlier, but had then forgotten about. It wasn't until he'd phoned them for advice that he was told they'd been searching for him! It was Fashion who suggested a name change on the basis that 'Nerious' rhymed with 'serious' and would therefore be easier to pronounce. They produced his debut album "Love's Got to Take Its Time" in 1987.
By then he'd recorded several hit singles for the label, including the popular "Let's Play", the 1990 classic "Guidance" and the duet "Rock With Me Baby" with Winsome. Over the next ten years he was to enjoy regular success with Fashion, recording two further albums and keeping the hit tracks flowing freely. He was even hailed as the UK equivalent of Cocoa Tea at one point. Not just because of his sweet singing voice or Rasta dreadlocks, but due to the quality of his roots and lovers output. Always he'd combine original songs like "Distant Lover", "Live It Up" or "Rock Steady Time" with an inspired choice of covers; Junior's "Morning Will Come" and Bob Marley's "Sun Is Shining" to name but two. After recording occasional tunes with Gussie P, King Original and then Latty from the Pasadenas, he then began performing with a band once more, touring Europe - including Turkey - with the Massive horns and Leeds-based outfit the Stone Roots during 1992. On his return, he then began a series of hit tunes with dee-jay Tenor Fly. The chart-topping "My Girl" started the ball rolling and in early 1994 they signed to Big Orange, with "Let's Play" getting considerable Radio 1 airplay. Yet the move didn't entail a complete split with Fashion. "Let's Play" was recorded at Fashion's A-Class studio anyway, and it was they who released "What's The Name Of The Sound" and "Whip Them Jah", two further combinations with Tenor Fly that also roared up the UK reggae charts during this period. After a long sabbatical Nereus Joseph's return was heralded by the results of recording sessions with Saxon's Musclehead, who produced "Giving All My Time", "Wonderful Feeling", and the sublime "Shouldn't Touch Me". He then became part of reggae's first supergroup, Passion, recording in combination with Peter Hunnigale, Mafia & Fluxy and Glamma Kid, and the group enjoyed the smash hit "Share Your Love". Following on from his success with Passion, Nereus released the Gussie P produced double a-side "Rejoice" and "I'll Keep Loving You". The success of this single led to the release of his excellent "Rejoice" album in 1997. Since then Nereus Joseph has continued to record some truly fine singles like for example "Black Man Time", a combination tune with Starkey Banton which Nereus produced in association with Kenny Edgehill for Sirius Records, and the Ruff Cutt produced "African Resistance". His next album, which is produced by London's Ruff Cutt crew, will be released before the end of 2001.
Someone from out side the reggae market is soon going to hail Nereus Joseph as the best kept secret in black British music. The chance to gain an even wider audience is long overdue, being a question of not if, but when.