Wednesday, April 27, 2016

WORTHY!: A review of "The Rootz Warrior" by Warrior King

Most unfortunately I think that I’ve been reviewing music for so long that it’s kind of dulled my ability, at least at times, to listen to music for the sake of… simply enjoying the music. I’m always trying to pause something and make sure I heard what I thought that I heard and how it applies to what was said two verses prior and how it matches the riddim and all of these other things I tend to do in order to make a critique. That’s fine, it’s my own fault and I’ll likely not live long enough to get rid of it but I do admit  that I LOVE moments when something is either SO pleasing or has such a powerful surge of some other type of quality which either makes it incredibly pointless or incredibly difficult to think about critically. The general example of this is, of course, Soca music. I’m less than four months away from my thirty-fifth birthday (so, sooooooooo old) and I’ve yet to be able to cure that ‘infection’ and I never will. At its absolute best, or anywhere near it, Soca is somewhere beyond an explanation. You either feel it or you don’t and nothing anyone can say can give it to you or take it away from you in my opinion. When it comes to Reggae music things are different, surely, but not entirely. Yes, the genre can be presented in a form which I feel places it beyond explanation which is why, despite occasionally dipping into the vault throughout the years, we‘ve never spent much time discussing Bob Marley or Peter Tosh, but sporadically even in those cases I kind of feel the need to explain (don’t judge me) (or go ahead… I don’t care). In others still, I just find moments where I am so wholly satisfied with what I hear, that I don’t mind keeping it to myself. Today we take a look at someone whose music hasn’t usually placed him in that category because, throughout his career, when he’s been GOOD, Reggae music has noticed the output of Warrior King and done so in a major way. Dating back to his early years as a top flight artist, he’s been someone who has not only proven to be terribly difficult to ignore for fans of the genre, but also someone whose music has played and played and played! As we get further away from, it may be more difficult to remember, but Warrior King definitely enjoyed a very nice run to prominence as one of the biggest and most productive young stars of Roots Reggae music and, even these days, when he does something big, we’re still taking notice.

…well, yeah he’s done something big again. Besides just being happy to have something new from him in 2016, I’m always excited anytime I hear news on Warrior King because it always gives me a reason to go through his past. He’s never seemed to be the most prolific of vocalists (and that is ONLY in comparison to some of his outrageously active of peers, in virtually any other genre of music, his productivity would certainly be described as ‘steady’ and deservedly so) and maybe that has helped him in some aspects - an avoidance of over-saturation, but there is some CLASSIC material that the chanter [“Jah give I the powers to chant. Jah give I the powers to chant! Jah give I the powers to chant! Mi come to give the people what they need and not what they want!”] [BOOM!] has given us through the years and I anticipate the day, whether he is there to see it or not, when history shows a grand kindness to Warrior King for his contribution to Reggae music. And I’ll be happy to do it now -- definitely two of the nicest additions to my own personal collection is a pair of signed copies of his first two albums, “Virtuous Woman” and “Hold The Faith”, from about a decade ago now.
"Virtuous Woman" [2002] & "Hold The Faith" [2005]
So! Having not written what I would describe as an ‘official’ review in over  a year, I thought that I’d come back and tell you about what I believe is the fifth official studio album from the wonderful Warrior King, “The Rootz Warrior”. Apart from his initial two releases (both came from VP Records in 2002 and 2005, respectively), there was also the ghost-like “Love Is In the Air” in 2009 which flew well beneath the radars of many fans, I’m sure, and then there was the exceedingly well-received “Tell Me How Me Sound” from a couple of years on for Tad’s Records. The former, in retrospect, was an unusual blip in his career, while the latter was nearly a pillar. Of course I’ll have to explain it to you more but, “The Rootz Warrior” is a better album than “Tell Me How Me Sound”. Personally, this album has kept me company for the better part of two or three weeks or so. I have THOROUGHLY enjoyed it and had absolutely no intent on interrupting more time laying around being sick to spend what would surely take a week to write up and figured we’d find some other way to tell you about it eventually… probably (it actually would have went into the last WILT post). However, the new album finds Warrior King linking with an old friend of ours, the enduring James Lord of Irie Sounds International, which, along with the chanter’s own Rootz Warrior Productions imprint and the magical people at Zojak Worldwide, bring “The Rootz Warrior” to fruition and to all of them I, on behalf of YOU and everyone else who is going to hear this album, say “thank you, thank you very much”. Something went through my mind immediately when I first heard the album fully and it has dominated my opinions in regard to it from ever since then. “The Rootz Warrior” is VINTAGE level Warrior King. We may not (but then again we might) come away with these type of bursting anthems such as the afore-alluded to ‘Power To Chant’ or ‘Virtuous Woman’ or ‘Never Go Where Pagans Go’ (CLASSICS! ALL OF THEM! DAMN!), but that won’t be due to the quality of the music because there is some work on this release which ranks very closely to those landmark tracks in my opinion. And as an album, it goes on to rank as the Warrior King’s finest piece of work in almost a decade and a half. Let’s deal with it!  
"Love Is In The Air" [2009] & "Tell Me How Me Sound" [2011"]
Unsurprisingly “The Rootz Warrior” album appears to be a set which features a mixture of tunes fans are likely to know with other, and presumably newer, material. And it is such a downright DOMINANT track, at least to ears, which gets things started, in the form of ‘His Majesty [He’s Worthy]. In any realm in which common sense exists this praising tune is the finest offering on this album - it is absolutely spectacular!

“The world have seen his face
People from all different time and space
He sits upon the throne of David
Lets become members of a new race -
So all evil can be erased
His words are pure and sacred

He’s worthy
His Majesty is worthy 
He’s worthy to be praised always

He’s worthy
Haile Selassie is worthy
He’s worthy to be praised all days

He established the OAU
And for those who don’t have a clue - at the League of Nations, 1936
He prophesied World War II
Anywhere in the world He went, it was always a historic event
Best dressed Head of State, three consecutive years
He was showered with gifts and presents”

Fortunately, however, common sense has never been a strength of mine. Still, despite being my second favourite song on the album, ‘His Majesty’ SOARS and is as regal and royal of an effort as one would hope for given its subject. Next in is a tune which I think is familiar to my ears (though it may just be the horns), the also very strong ‘Stand Up In the Fyah’. This LUSH piece goes in a few different directions, but at its core what I ultimately took for it is the sense of one attempting to do the best that they can in life in all aspects. The Warrior King tackles several topics from being sure to be responsible [“You know not where you’re going because you know not where you’re from. How can an Afrikan join the Ku Klux Klan?!“] and clean and to give thanks for what you have and he finds a track between it all which makes for one very compelling tune. And speaking of tracks, the riddim on ‘Stand Up in the Fyah’ primes up after its beginnings and is subsequently DIVINE. Continuing with the theme of the opening of “The Rootz Warrior” is its third selection, ‘Rastafari Protect I’… PROBLEMS! This song is one which I think is probably going to help a whole heap of people in their journey in life as WK speaks about the basic DEPENDABLE and trustworthy nature of His Majesty and it put a SMILE on my face. It may just be the mightiest drop on the whole of the album lyrically (or just in general -- you could make that case), pinnacling, in my opinion, on a STUNNING third verse.

“Rastafari protect I from all enemies
Deliver me
He never let I down
For every sickness there’s a remedy
Burn impurity
His Majesty wear the triple crown

Keep I brave and bold
The devils seeking after my soul
They’re trying to take control
But my life is more precious than gold
All the people out there planning to destroy me like Bin Laden -
I never worry nor fret 

And sticking right there as well, definitely check the ‘shufflin’ ‘Ain’t Giving Up’. Another big addition to this album and one which rests near its head to my ears. Here’s another composition about perseverance in life and endeavouring to maintain oneself in the face of adverse situations and conditions. It also has a sweet, SWEET backing courtesy of its well proven and trusted riddim.

Another aspect of “The Rootz Warrior” which kind of made it a very ‘comfortable’ album for me was just how well it sounds. The sonic appeal of the album isn’t this kind of mechanical and rigid type of vibe which you can get from Roots Reggae music when it isn’t done well and it appears, at least, that a conscious effort was made to give the listener something which may not wholly challenge the thought, but something which can just make you feel good! Want an example? I’ll give you three of them. First check what is my Wife’s current favourite song on the album, ‘Your Love Is Amazing’ (and as I’ve said in the past, her taste in men may be AWFUL (and it is), but she knows a good song when she hears it) which was WK‘s cut of Irie Sounds‘ In Love Riddim from a few years back. This song probably isn’t going to change the world, but it’ll put a smile on more than a few faces [“Your love keeps me warm even when I’m in the fridge. It takes me to the place where The Most High is”] and that is an important power of another kind! Later we get the outstanding ‘Watching You’ which is going to put a lot of motion in a lot of necks and feet (I said that because I’m sitting here stepping and rocking back and forth in my chair), including yours and mine. And watch last year’s golden Legends of Soul Riddim from Crawba Productions glow all across the album in the form of ‘Moonlight Bright’. I could listen to this thing all day long if I had to. It has such a nice vibe and the love song appears to have been constructed for exactly such a purpose and, like I said, it will definitely make you feel good. “The Rootz Warrior” also features a pair of mixes of previous compositions, ‘The One For Me’ and ‘Signs of The Times’, respectively. The former gets an acoustic rinsing and runs not too far behind ‘Moonlight Bright’ for its sensory appeal. ‘Signs of The Times’, on the other hand, gets a Dubstep mix and is the longest song on the entire album by nearly a minute. I’ve never been a fan of Dubstep, but I’ve been quick in the past to find out that I am in a minority when it comes to that and a credit well goes to the idea of changing things up considerably.

'Same Source'

Warrior King, himself, charts a very interesting course when he heads to The Gambia for the tribute to the country’s sitting Head of State on ‘President Yahya Jammeh’. I may be wrong, but I can’t think of any other time WK making such a musical acknowledgment and it was somewhat surprising (although certainly Sizzla Kalonji approves). But what develops consequently is nothing but a tough addition to this album. Tougher, still, are a pair of drops later on this album which help to form THE class of it in my opinion. The first is its finest moment in my opinion, the MAMMOTH ‘Same Source’. I talked about songs present on “The Rootz Warrior” which seemed to serve a primary purpose of just making the audience enjoy themselves and the music and there were pieces at the beginning which were of far more mentally gripping ilk, ‘Same Source’, at least in my opinion, combines elements of both. It is a JOY to listen to and Warrior King takes full advantage of the instant to make a grand point of unification throughout the world. It has such an easy way about it and it so wonderfully plays into the vibes of the song as, while it may be a critical message (and it is), it is something which is BASIC to humanity [“I HOPE YOU KNOW, WE’RE ALL CONNECTED!”] and something which doesn’t need to be injected into your mind because it’s already there. It just needs to be refreshed. And there’s also ‘Greater’ which is fantastic. It is the type of song which, buried way down there at track #13, may go overlooked but that’ll be your loss because ‘Greater’ may just be one of the best songs that Warrior King has ever done. 

“Good, better, best - nothing less
Everything I do, I’m always aiming for the highest
Cleanliness is righteousness
Who Jah Jah bless, I say no man test
Anything that’s common to man you can do
Equal capacity, we have that fi true
Don’t put no limitations pon your mind
Mi bless by The Most High, so divine

Anything that you can do, Rasta can do it too
And do it greater
And Greater!

Any game that you can play, Rasta can play it too 
And play it greater!
And greater!”

Finally, there is a pair of  combinations on “The Rootz Warrior” featuring a couple of really big, big names. ‘I Wouldn’t Do That’ features the legendary Beres Hammond (wouldn’t it be nice if we got a new Beres album in 2016?). This is actually a remake of an older Hammond song with Warrior King now adding his portions and making for another very soothing effort -- but I could listen to Beres Hammond sing absolutely anything and find it soothing. There is a message here in the vibes of making the not so obvious but BEST choices in life to live in a proper way. Specifically, the thought is to eschew what may seem to be the ‘best’ things in life because things that are shiny always come with a shiny price tag, whether you realize it or not. And Richie Spice runs red all over ‘Heartbreaker’. On paper, a combination featuring Warrior King and Richie Spice is all kinds of interesting and although I wouldn’t count ‘Heartbreaker’ amongst the biggest highlights on this album, it doesn’t disappoint in the end. 
Overall (2700 words + that wasn’t too bad), “The Rootz Warrior” is the best album Warrior King has done in fourteen years, in my opinion. And, as I mentioned, THE class of this album ranks alongside the very best material that he has produced at any point in his career. What really stands out, in retrospect (besides how proud I am of myself that I actually finished this thing) (and I don’t think it‘s terrible, I‘d probably give myself a 2.75/5), is just how COMPLETE this album is. I may not be in love with EVERY song on it,  but I don’t look at one area and say that it could have definitely been improved if they’d done _____. I think it is as good as it could have possibly been and saying something like that in reference to a piece of work by someone as entirely gifted as Warrior King almost always means that WHATEVER it is, is probably special. “The Rootz Warrior” well has something special about it as Warrior King reaches vintage levels on his finest album release in a very long time. Well done. 

Rated: 4.35/5
Rootz Warrior Productions/Irie Sounds International/Zojak Worldwide
Digital {CD Coming soon}

Review #535

Friday, April 15, 2016

What I'm Listening To - Recap Right Now

"Start The Movement" by Yung J.R [Jr Productions/Justrock Records - 2015]

For the first of two or three hangovers that we couldn't deal with last year (when I was losing my entire mind), if you haven't already definitely be sure to check an album by the name of "Start The Movement" by one Yung J.R. Still best known as the offspring of Reggae legend, Junior Reid, should he continue to churn out material like this, Yung J.R figures to build a giant legacy of his own. "Start The Movement" may've been the most FUN album of its kind through the whole of 2015 and I didn't put it down through the first quarter of the new year. Big tunes such as 'General', a wicked update of 'I Love King Selassie' (and its dubbed out counterpart), 'Raggamuffin' and the album's biggest offering, 'Want No War', alongside Achis Reggae favourite, Cali P (more on him later), highlighted the set. Dre Island and Keida also made large contributions - not to be missed.

CD + Digital

"Mount Zion" by Miriam Simone [Dredda Records - 2015]
'Mount Zion'

One of the last mentions I meant to do (and almost came back just to review) before the break was a GORGEOUS debut album from equally stunning Dutch songstress, Miriam Simone, "Mount Zion", via the wonderful people at Dredda Records... better late than never. "Mount Zion" was one of the best albums of 2015 (if I had to put it on a list in my head, I'd probably rank it at around #8 or so) and really the big fulfillment of someone who had shown the talent over the years, particularly recently, to do something this special. While my personal favourite was the SOARING 'I Am Blessed' [TEARS!] [TEARS! AND PUDDLES TOO!], "Mount Zion" was full of big moments including the eponymous tune, 'Weh Mi Money Deh', the Isaacs-esque 'Rasta Love', previous single 'Rivers', 'No Place Like Home', 'His Kingdom Arise' alongside Lutan Fyah, 'Mother Earth'... pretty much every song on the album was a winner on some level and, like I said, it had few equals in what was a great year in albums from the genre.

CD [I THINK] + Digital

"Better Must Come" by Bay-C [Bombrush Records]

Bay-C of TOK fame continues to push forward with the release of a brand new EP set, "Better Must Come" from his Bombrush Records imprint.  You don't immediately think of it being such (at least I don't), but you're dealing with a SERIOUS veteran here (the days of 'Chi Chi Man' were FIFTEEN YEARS ago) and the results play out on those levels. To my opinion, it is big social commentary 'Eye For An Eye' which leads the way on the five-tracked effort (literally and figuratively, it's the best song and the opener):

"Man kick off, pon di block
Cut and seh him ahgo circle back, 
If him enemy still deh deh, then him ahgo murda dat
Go pon di ends, search fi shot
Load di clip inna di clock
Seh him waan him title back
Nah tek no idle chat - or him turn this inna bloody town
When will this cycle stop if everyday di rifle clap?
Ghetto youth unuh listen to mi sound"

[BOOM!] [THUNDER!] But you'll find quality amongst vitrually everything here - the title track, 'Hold It Out', 'Straight Outta Portmore' ["I represent Portmore, Kingston, countryside JA, home of the gallis, where we get girls like daily. Mi without a gal fi one night? You must be crazy! Look upon dem sexy gal yah, oh baby baby!"] [WHAT!] and the very fun 'Star'. Despite its title, "Better Must Come" is still quite eclectic and a very fun set: Exactly what you'd expect from its star.


"Chants Of Freedom" by Jah Hero [Manjago Vibrations]

I say that I was kind of trying to make up my mind about what I fully thought about "Chants Of Freedom" an album from an artist by the name of Jah Hero who, I think, was fully unknown to me prior to hearing it, but these days - I'm convinced. Hero originally comes from out of Gambia but these days calls Germany home (yet another big talent from out of both Africa and Germany) and he, seemingly, pours all of his surely diverse life-experiences all over this album which prove to make for one SOLID set. A pair of big songs set themselves apart on "Chants Of Freedom" for me in 'Rise' and 'Chanting' but not too far behind (if at all) are the likes of 'I Care', 'Good Ways' (which I'm considering going back to place in the first group) and others. This isn't THE best album I have ever heard, but if you enjoy modern Roots Reggae with just a dash of an old[er] school sound, you'll thoroughly enjoy "Chants Of Freedom" and definitely biggup Jah Hero for the big new album.

CD [I THINK] + Digital

'Make A Brighter Day' by Colin Roy [Rose & Steel Productions - 2015]
While one can CLEARLY questions my Wife's taste in who she chooses to spend her time with, her taste in music in pretty spot-on. Check what has quickly become her new favourite tune these days, 'Make A Brighter Day' by Colin Roy from out of the UK.


The Straight From The Fridge Riddim [Rootdown Records - 2016]

  'Guiding Shield' by Cali P

The ALWAYS reliable Rootdown Records got the new year started off more than properly with a big new riddim with a cool name, the Straight From The Fridge Riddim which certainly, as its name would suggest, sounds like something from yesteryear brought out and given a refreshing. Charged with given this burner its rejuvenation are some very talented vocalists such as Anthony B, Natel (whose 'Praise Jah' is OUTSTANDING), Ziggi Recado, Mr. Vegas (and another huge tune with 'Reggae Live'), a damaging Mowty Maklyka, Perfect Giddimani and Cali P who chimes in with one of the biggest highlights on the track, 'Guiding Shield'.

"Real Rasta youth come wid a Lion order
Trod over border and cross every water"

Lutan Fyah and Latty J also make well solid guest spots on what is clearly one of the early choices for riddim album of the year - and another amazing drop from Rootdown.


"Rebel of A Different Nature" by Koen Duncan [Fox Fuse - 2016]

Check "Rebel of A Different Nature" by Trini veteran vocalist Koen Duncan who (shares a name with one of my best friends in the entire world) (biggup Koen) returns with a brand new album in "Rebel of A Different Nature". Apparenty Duncan is managed by the wonderful people at JahLight Records and his latest project comes via the... indomitable Fox Fuse (I don't think they could stop if they wanted to). Duncan's focus is more towards the Gospel arena, but this isn't your standard pulpit and pew type of Gospel. "Rebel of A Different Nature", as its title says it will, breaks the mold. This sound is heavily infused with an easily digestible vibe of Soca and a little Dancehall and Hip-Hop (check 'Best For We', 'Number One' and 'Can't Stop We') thrown in, as well as Reggae. There is a VERY nice tune on this album (there're morre than the one but my favourite is -) called 'Heaven is Home' which is DELIGHTFUL and came in and just put a giant smile on my face. Fyah Lynx and Mr. S.O.N.G. make appearances.


"Theory of Reggaetivity" by Agent Sasco [Sound Age Entertainment/Germaica - 2016]



Saturday, April 9, 2016

"Portals" by Akae Beka!

"Portals" by Akae Beka [I Grade Records]

I can't do it as much these days as I'd like to... well, I probably COULD but I shouldn't and my Wife probably wouldn't want me sitting here for hours and hours but if you do look around here just a little, you'll notice that I do so LOVE to write and one of my absolute favourite topics to write about is Reggae music. More specifically, I love to write about the wholly unshakeable and downright wildly fascinating music of Midn... Akae Beka. I'll claim to be no expert (on anything - I'm not even an expert on myself), but I've probably written more about the musical works of Midn-- [DAMN!] Vaughn Benjamin than anyone. As a still relatively new listener in the HEAVY sense, while I do find just about all music that I enjoy to be therapeutic writes, Benjamin's work is even more so than most because he virtually always presents his listeners with several challenges. In order to fully appreciate his work, at least in my opinion, you have to bring something to the proverbial table. There has to have been some type of education and you have to have done your homework and brought your texts with you to class. And looking back, that's probably what was missing -- why I was unable or incapable of enjoying his output as much as I do now when I was younger.
"Homage To The Land" [2015]
These days I now look forward to doing all of that and much more and a brand new piece of work from Benjamin, despite his often gruesome release schedule, is one I anticipate unlike any other on the even remotely regular musical radar. It is the most fertile of ground for an over-thinker like myself and I ADORE digging through the material and the journey to comprehension. Last year the newly named Akae Beka released their debut "Homage To The Land" (which was the album that had 'Just Decided' on it) (easily one of the strongest tunes I've heard from anyone last year) for frequent Midnite stop, the reputable Fifth Son Records ["I hold His Majesty in awe"] ["in awe"] ["in awe"] and for the first time in recent memory, at least that I can think of from the top of my head, that was the lone album release of the year. Fast forward a year on and Akae Beka has wonderfully continued the WELL established routes of Midnite. Their next stop? I Grade Records and the Zion I Kings. The first day of the second quarter of 2016 has presented us with "Portals", the second official album from Akae Beka and the first Akae Beka/I Grade Records collaboration. The project directly follows 2014's massive duo, "Beauty For Ashes" and "Ride Tru" ["The culmination of the national focus was ivine interaction"] and a whole heap of other BRILLIANT pieces of work and while they are all RIPE, I do find the I Grade releases to be even more special because both artist and label tend to seem to bring out the very best in each other. Therefore, despite the fact that it may take me a few days to finish, today (and tomorrow and probably the day after that) before we head back into the cocoon, we take a quick [HA!] look at "Portals" from Akae Beka & I Grade Records. Let's go!

{Note: Don't get too excited, I haven't done this in a really long time and my expectations of myself are REALLY low, so I apologize in advance if... the writing here is really... really bad}

{Note 2: I probably wrote it out of order too}

#1. 'Heavy Low'
The glorious 'Heavy Low' sets the tone for "Portals" (I also think that it's the first single from the album as well) and it is a tune which has already provided me with a whole heap of fun moments. The first thing I noticed here was this kind of odd 'echoing' sound that the actual riddim has. As it progresses, this thing builds and builds and you have electrical and chaotic moments which literally make the vibes of 'Heavy Low' begin to sound like a storm.

As for the lyrical progression of the tune, while I'm still working on this one (and will still be years from now), where I am now is linking the vibes of the song with the words. Vaughn Benjamin speaks 'heavily' on the economy of the world and actually goes into things moving upward on that front (and on other things) - it is a tumultuous thing ["I hear thunder ah beat out with a heavy low!"]. It isn't easy to improve and to exist in. It is storming! And, in his own inimitable way, this song comes off as, perhaps, one of the most emotional from Benjamin in a long time.

#2. 'Ideals of The Emperor'
The sound behind 'Ideals of The Emperor' are every bit as majestic as you would hope for a tune with such a heavy title (it may be the best listening piece on the whole of "Portals") and, for his part, Benjamin turns in a performance not to be missed. The tune is a social commentary to its core ["Socialogical delicacies in a angry mood"], but as usual, it is a multi-faceted selection which is ultimately drawn in several different directions. The one I ultimately follow the most is the one which kind of umbrellas the tune. There is the ever-present EMPEROR here and where Benjamin seems to set it is to say that so many different things , such as the economy in particular, ultimately draw us away from the standard and the IDEALS which were set for us. He does seem to note progress in some instances and a song like this one can only develop as you go through it -- so definitely take your time. One of the album's finest.

"Caring for some food that you grew
Caring for some youth that Jah give you
A family inna unit, inna group
Dealing through the ups and down and scraping black and blue through"

#3. 'Like Rhyme'
Let me tell you something about this song.


There is something sooooooooooo  casually powerful about 'Like Rhyme' that the first time that I heard it, I had a smile on my face about halfway through that I couldn't remove even if I wanted to (and I didn't). The tune is all kinds of unique as it kind of comes through like a piece that Vaughn Benjamin may've just vibed. Maybe he didn't plan it... at least not as much as he usually does (is anyone, anyone at all, not ridiculously interested in this man's writing process. Infinitely curious) and, instead, just followed a feeling or two and turned in a MAMMOTH shot of a song. The easiness of this song also follows its subject as well. 'Like Rhyme' is an observation of unity and the similar experiences that we all share in life and how it brings us together, whether we realize it or not. 

"People go through similar things, same time
Cause life to flow like rhyme"

I also must give a giant credit to the ultra-familiar Balboa Becker and a Garret Kobsef (the latter, I think, we've never written about previously, but we have ran into his output over the years) who dazzle on the trombone and saxophone, respectively, on what is probably my second favourite song on this album.

#4. 'By All For All'
'By All For All' is the tune charged with keeping the vibes of the album high given the hammer which precedes it and it does an outstanding job of it. It surely helps that its backing is absolutely sterling in its very own, straight-forward type of way. Where 'Like Rhyme' definitely changed things up, 'By All For All' is well the type of piece we've come to expect and love from Benjamin over the years and, moving 'closer to center', is a good thing sometimes (this time being one of them). The piece, to my ears, is another dealing things which unite us ALL and certain aspects of life which are unique to the whole of humankind. And not too unlike the song chasing it (and every other song from Vaughn Benjamin), at the head of this "ALL" is the presence and the word of His Majesty. I'm still playing with this one mightily and it is a damn interesting journey of a song ["One Root. One Father - from. One truth. One Mother. One"] ["Same I ah one!"] [WHAT! ] [BOOM!].

#5. 'Orderly'
And then there was 'Orderly'. I kind of relate this tune back to 'Ideals of The Emperor', which kind of focused on the disconnect than mankind has seemed to forge between ourselves and The Almighty - 'Orderly' is the other side of that in my opinion. Here, Benjamin deals with NATURAL and unavoidable things almost as if to say that the correct way of doing things is there (it is INHERENT and it is INBORN!) but we just have to realize it. And if you take in the vibes of this tune, simultaneously, he also seems to be saying that it isn't a very difficult thing to do with a song as immediately appreciable as almost anything you'll find on this album.

#6. 'Portals'
Oh I had so much fun with this one! At least for me, I always look towards the title track of an album for some type of significant comprehension in regards to the entire album named after it. Of course I'm trusting that the artist, producer and/or whoevernamedit had something in mind besides a certain selection being their personal favourite or just having an easy sound to it and I am damn confident that wasn't the case here. Why??? 'Portals' actually has a rather awkward sound to it, at least initially, and it wasn't until spin #5+ or so that it really began to expand a bit for me. As for the tune's lyrical direction - what I took from it is Benjamin paying a big homage to the [no, not the land] music, itself, and its wide ranging power.

"Iration bless di vibes
Different kind of skank
Old song they want

He exalts the 'transferring' nature of the music and says to tell his listeners, "I love this sound. It takes me places and if you're not doing anything, you may want to come with me". I'll be there.

#7. 'Let Babylon Go' featuring Danny I

"Many years with natty dread
Half the time a Rastaman
Many years of searching within
Til I found The Higher Man
Til I overstood King David's words and the Songs Of Solomon
And I let Babylon go
Outta mi heart
Outta mi soul"

If you are not yet of the mindset, then I would hope that 'Let Babylon Go' makes you a believer: THINGS GET BETTER WHEN YOU ADD DANNY I to them. Go ahead! Try it! Go and do something and play a Danny I tune while you're doing it. I can almost guarantee you that you will have a more pleasant experience doing whatever it is because of the music you hear. The vocaist, who we simply do not hear from enough in my opinion, adds all kinds of pleasant sounds to "Portals"
 and even helps to bring beauty to what is currently the best song present here in my opinion. 'Let Babylon Go' is CRUCIAL and I think, regardless of what path in life you may walk, it is going to find a very a very receptive and familiar audience as many of us have also traveled that road as well. The song is an amazing one, it brought tears to my eyes and, HOPEFULLY, someone can give us a new Danny I ["When I hear the songbirds I think of you"] album in 2016 (I could wait until next year if I had to, but I don't want to). BOOM! DAMN! [LOOOOOOVE the horns on this song]

#8. 'Be Kindly'
I do not know at all what the prevailing reaction to 'Be Kindly' will be from the masses in regards to this album, but I'll go as far as to say that it is amongst the very best that "Portals" has to offer altogether and a very strong case could be made that it is THE best selection here in my opinion. Reminiscent of 'A Healing' ["Kind words and good emanation frequency!"] ["... increase the money, they leave the substance be"]from the "Beauty For Ashes" album (which I listen to fully... maybe 15-20 times a week these days and have for months, it has truly become one of my favourite albums of all time), 'Be Kindly' is a piece about having good manners and just being nice to someone!

"When one generates pleasantry
Practically excellency
Whoa - be timely
Be irie
Whoa be kindly"

Add to a LUSH background, which I will now declare the ifnest on the enitre album and, without question, you have a DOMINANT song and one which may just go a bit unnoticed, but you've been warned, don't make that mistake. BOOM! 

#9. 'Simplest Long'
"Just mek the best, wi haffi all fi turn out
Hailing Rastafari from I eye in di sun - now!
Inna every place wi talk with like-minded ones
How can we benefit civilization run along?
Starting from locality - internal structural
Confident inclusion with the clear come along
Who want fi si things getting better, put your hands
Next 50% is the Queen holdstrong
What Jah seh fi do fi mek di Trinity prolong
Love one another inna the simplest long
Inna simplest long"

'Simplest Long' is another gorgeous piece from 'Portals' about bringing people together and moving forward together as a unit. There is some unusual and hard to identify quality about this track which has just grown on me so much that I wouldn't at all be surprised if, going forward, this would become my favourite song on the album (I've said similar things before about songs and I've been right about it on occassion and I have a VERY good feeling about this one). There's some strange 'hitch' to it. It goes when you expect it to stop and it keeps going! It also just may possess the finest lyrical performance on this album as well as Benjamin does things, continuously which he and only he can do lyrically - the most interesting for me (as a nerd), is about halfway through when he speaks about how people enhance themselves in various ways, including going away for education and then returnuing home ["Contribute where you at, don't despise where you from"] and several other things which, as someone who now listens to his music as much as I possibly can, have begun to identify as these 'pillaring' lyrical staples of his music  -- clear on present on a tune which, itself, may be on its way to becoming a tower.

#10. 'Well Said'
I would have never expected what happened the first time that I listened to 'Well Said', at all. The most clear changeup for "Portals", after the first spin left me scratching my head wondering what I just heard, I had to then begin the process of getting into 'Well Said' (a process which, you know, will still be incomplete when I'm gone). This unexpectedly electric offering is almost completely biblical and it is loud and up close and personal with its audience! I fully expect this one to be a favourite from this album as well (it's going to be pretty difficult to ignore whether you like it or not) and hopefully cause people to look beyond this BLARING sound. I did and what I found was a song which I think is about prayer ["The realness of thank Jah for life"] and the NECESSITY for it in life. An EXPERIENCE sure to standout.

#11. 'Changes'
It isn't hard to use a phrase such as 'slow things down'' to describe whatever they used to follow 'Well Said' and that is precisely what happens on the sublime 'Changes' (if that next song didn't 'slow things down', then I guess we would have had Vaughn Benjamin's long awaited (not really) debut Soca or Heavy Metal song). The riddim here, exquisite, plays the perfect backdrop to a vibe which really focuses on LIFE and going through various stages in life. It was this song, another favourite of mine, which really kind of pointed in a captivating direction for the intent of the album for me. "Portals" really is an album about experiencing and ENJOYING life. It deals with so many specifics (it wouldn't be a Vaughn Benjamin album if it didn't), but the heartbeat here is one of being able to deal and cope with what life gives you and to, when necessary, know when to both give and take ["Burn the wick within the lamp slowly"].

There is a REALLY special quality about this song as well and, again, like I said about 'Simplest Long', I'm almost certain that time will do nothing but enhhance what is already a spectacular tune.

#12. 'Dem A Warriah'

"Don't you forsake the people
For some a dem a warriah
Oppression of despersion, desperation up a yah
Some a dem a warriah
Some a warriah"

Certain individuals and certain full groups of people have made a giant contribution to the world and some continue to do so these days: I think that is the observation Benjamin makes here on the downright MAMMOTH 'Dem A Warriah'. This tune was FOOD for my ears because it nudges (not a full push, just a clip) the listener down so many different potential paths of comprehension. You can talk about things like slavery and war (he uses the phrase "good service" and later uses "honour" in the same way and my brain just starts to SMILE!) (... if that's possible) (and it is) and other things but where I go is to apply some type of historical context to 'Dem A Warriah' and I think where Benjamin was headed (foolishness to try to read this man's mind but... yeah why not) was to draw comparisons between our ancestors and [some of] us. There're those who are still fighting this fight and providing the world with "good service" and doing it with "honour" as doing such is a quality which can be found in our bloodline. BOOM! (and biggup Andrew 'Moon' Bain who plays a SHINING guitar throughout the tune)

#13. 'Love is The Mainstay'
Sending us on our way and through the final portal is a lovely offering in 'Love is the Mainstay'. This tune, as the title would suggest, is a completely serene effort which finds Benjamin espousing on all of the wonders of LOVE. Thereotically, you've heard dozens of songs like this one before, but you know when you place such a topic in the hands of such a... wizard, he makes it entirely one of a kind and as the song progresses not only does Benjamin begin to add various new dimensions to the piece ["Don't let love be trampled down. Haile Selassie I, Judah Genesis Crown. HIS principles sent around. POLARIS IN YOUR LOGARITHM COUNT"], so do the players of instruments and by its conclusion, 'Love is the Mainstay' has become this all-encompassing (somewhat Jazz-ish) type of vibes, with everyone joining Laurent 'Tippy' Alfred (who soars on melodica throughout) to produce a full master class of vibes.
I don't know exactly how to describe it (because I'm rusty), but the full vibes of "Portals" are just a bit different than that of most of its immediate predecessors as Vaughn Benjamin/I Grade Records combinations and perhaps that was the intent with this now being the first link of Akae Beka with IGR. "Portals" has a sound which doesn't instantly jump out at you but instead, it challenges you to get a little comfortable (not too comfortable though) before it gives you all of its gifts. But the fun for these albums for me, now taking a personal look, is watching how they change. FULL SONGS no longer sound the same way they did when I first became familiar to them (want an example??? A song from "Kings Bell", 'Pon A Watchlist', I can listen to now, ENDLESSLY. Be careful with that tune ["Would not advise if your meditation no meditative"]). And I listen through this album and I hear sparks and I hear flares and points which my mind already gravitate to. I'm already leaving 'notes' for myself to go back and DIG because I know [from experience] that there is something there, maybe in a two second span that if I get perfectly, might just make me a better human being.

"People go through similar things same time"

And from years now- when we began to take a more constant look at the music of Midnite and begin to enjoy this kind of change in my own mind (which I now, most unfortunately, have to call 'growing up'), that has been the case and I've become a new veteran (biggup Lloyd Brown) at recognizing these feelings. My feeling about "Portals"? Right now, right after its release? They built it on top of a goldmine. Dig it up and the treasure is yours. OUTSTANDING.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Sara Lugo & Friends!

"Cause I really, really like you. There's something about you"

Okay so, I've been fortunate lately to be the recipient of quite a bit of good news (especially medically) (biggup Achis) (and biggup everyone wondering about us: I've been ill for about a year and a half) and it got a little (a lotta) better when the wonderful people at one of our absolute favourite labels Oneness Records from out of Germany once again linked with one of the current bona fide GEMS of Reggae music, the incomparable Sara Lugo for a very cool new projct. Having just teamed up in 2014 for the singer's second full album release, "Hit Me With Music", I seriously wasn't expecting album #3 until... 2017 at the earliest perhaps, but with a pair of stellar releases behind her (and you really need to have picked up both "Hit Me With Music" and its predecessor, "What About Love" of 2011, already) Lugo brings forth a very interesting compilation of combinations, "Sara Lugo and Friends"

We have actually seen things like this previously as another of our and Oneness' favourites, Mark Wonder, released a similarly theme set several years. As the title would suggest, the fourteen tracks appearing on "Sara Lugo and Friends" feature the vocalist alongside a whole heap of different names both from within and outside of Reggae music. And you certainly cannot do such a thing with just anyone but Lugo has shown throughout her career that she can... work with just about anyone at all with any type of style -- a devastatingly gorgeous facet of what can be considered, at least in my opinion, one of the most pleasing musical presentations in the whole of modern Reggae music -- and do so without changing virtually anything that she generally does. We had no idea at the time but we all received a tip that this project was forthcoming when Lugo made a MAJOR link with the mighty Jah 9 for what was the finest tune that I heard in the first quarter of 2016, 'Rejoice' (TEARS!), which, essentially, is the first single from "Sara Lugo and Friends",
The album is a mixture of very prominent and newer/less known material and, as expected, is fantastic throughout. The next song that really caught my attention looking through the tracklist was 'Wine Now' alongside yet another favourite of ours, Cali P (biggup Cali P). This piece was the duos infectious cut of the equally addictive and underrated Scrub-A-Dub Riddim from Inspired and Hemp Higher ["My girl, you know seh mi like you"] and I was SO happy to see it here. There have been several combinations Lugo has done which are not carried on this album (obviously they couldn't include them all) and a tune like that may've seemingly missed the cut, but its presence  well provides "Sara Lugo and Friends" with a dash of colour and edge. The same could be said (and I'm going to say it, watch here -) about a tune which was completely new to my ears and eyes 'Pour Le Plaisir' with French Hip Hop outfit, Phases Cachées. Didn't I say she could work with anyone? Lugo finds common ground with  Phases Cachées despite the captivating tune veering between English and French throughout and it is a tough selection here. Also new to me, I think, is the sublime 'Don't Stay Away' with Jamaican veteran Joseph Cotton on a downright delightful old school vibes. And while I may be familiar with 'Mi Voz' featuring Zuri, the song gets a fresh mix here courtesy of longtime Sara Lugo producer Umberto Echo.

As I mentioned "Sara Lugo and Friends" also ties in quite a few songs which fans are sure to recognize and LOVE immediately. Pieces such as 'High & Windy', 'Really Like You' and 'Learn & Grow' carry a heavy weight with Kabaka Pyramid, Protoje and Ras Muhamad, respectively and might appear on a 'best of' Sara Lugo album right now...

What would I personally put on "The Best of Sara Lugo" album right now if I was compiling it? Great thing to think about - ten songs right off the top of my head, let's do it. In no order in particular and watch me forget one or two:

1. 'Rock Steady'
2. 'High & Windy' featuring Kabaka Pyramid
3. 'Really Like You' featuring Protoje
4. 'Bombs of Love'
5. 'Familiar Stranger'
6. 'Soldiers of Love'
7. 'Hit Me With Music'
8. 'Part of My Life'
9. 'Night Race' featuring Touissant 
10. 'Play With Fire'


"Sara Lugo and Friends" also brings together some solid tunes you may not have heard in a minute (YOU, not me, YOU) featuring the likes of Naptali (biggup Naptali), Lutan Fyah, Skarra Mucci ('Dubbin Is A Must', big tune), Ray Darwin, Deliman and Heston and all we can say is WELL DONE! I'm considering it a bonus, and a giant one, because the prospects of potential brand new Sara Lugo album are looking sweet, but a set like this well makes it easier to wait (... actually no it doesn't. It probably makes it harder. Just forget that last sentence). In any case however, what this album does do is to show that, as I said, certain people can just mash up anything. It doesn't matter what someone brings to the table and it doesn't matter who brings it. In what remains a relatively brief time (although she definitely does qualify as a 'young veteran' these days) (and what would that make me? Probably old and crazy) Sara Lugo has shown a style which is so INHERENTLY versatile and OPEN and seemingly was at its nascency that her music, at its strongest, is in one way or another, best shared with others and not to be kept to yourself. Want an example? Pick up "Sara Lugo and Friends" from Oneness Records which is in digital stores right now. Go do it! I'm going back to bed... I already have the album... you have to get it now. You can either get it or you can get it. It's all really quite simple. Even I can comprehend it. So if you can't you must have some SERIOUS problems. Like REALLY big problems. Okay I'm really done this time.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016


This song may just be an too much. It could have been of farrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr less quality and still have been a great one. Achis Reggae and Milky Way favourites Jah9 [BOOM!] and Sara Lugo [DAMN!] team up for a very early contender for Song of The Year 2016 with the Oneness Records produced 'Rejoice'. Linking one of the sharpest pens and wits in all of Reggae music with... essentially an angel (I've spent most of my life learning a lot of big and beautiful words, and pick up a few new ones everyday, but I am struggling to find more ways to describe this woman's voice and music) was an absolute stroke of genius.

Who cares what I think though? Hear for yourself when you pick up 'Rejoice' by Jah9 & Sara from Oneness Records - right now. BOOM!