Monday, October 5, 2020

"Elevate" by Sara Lugo

 

"Elevate"


Thought I was dead didn't you (that's okay, maybe I was)? If ever there were something that would get me interested in writing again --and I didn't know if there was-- it wouldn't be a line of tremendously fantastic albums over the years or one massive piece of terrible news from about a year ago (Rest Easy King). What it would be, however, would be something which was not only equally inherently interesting and challenging, but something undeniably COMFORTING as well. When we were active, I had favourite subjects to write about which were my favourites for a variety of different reasons and, CLEARLY, one such topic was the downright remedying and always allaying Sara Lugo. We immediately took an interest in the singer and, all these years later, she ranks amongst the greatest musicians I have EVER come across and I am a, until I end, a fan.


So, although I definitely have paid attention to her output over the years (including one MAMMOTH shot by the name of 'Woman On A Mission'), her latest project was one I was really looking forward to and, today I hope my loose command of language lasts just long enough to take a brief look at said project, the latest EP release from Sara Lugo and Take It Easy, "Elevate".


{Note: I can virtually guarantee that the writing in this post is and will continue to be truly horrible so, for your benefit, I will be brief}
{Note 3: I may pop up ocassionally again, but if you hold your breath waiting on another post you will... well.... well you'll just stop holding your breath}
{Note 4: Where's note 2????}


'Elevate'

Fittingly, setting the tone for the project named after it is the eponymous selection for Sara Lugo's new EP, "Elevate". The first thing that really struck me on this tune is just its sound. I don't know what, exactly, I would call this. It's has this kind of equally bright and brooding sound to it and I never REALLY got a hold of it. Call what it you like, however, when you add Lugo's vocals to it (which are almost entirely what you would call bright on this song) and what you have is a winner. The theme of the track, at least in the micro sense, is progression and being at least open to new ideas and designs. She ultimately goes on to use that notion to involve other sentiments such as overall personal development and even things like sadness and going through tough times, in general ["so just be, be, be the change you want to see"]. In the macro - you can really take a song like this in so many different directions, which you know I REALLY want to do.


'Flowaz'

Next in is 'Flowaz' which I immediately heard and it took me in one direction. At her absolute core, in my opinion (and I've certainly said somewhere in these pages many times), Sara Lugo is someone who very organically is capable of doing something which..... just doesn't really happen very much and, unless she makes some type of concerted effort NOT to do it, I don't know if she could change it even if she wanted to. What she can do, because of her style and her voice is to sing a straight up Jazz song and that isn't rare at all. HOWEVER, when you have someone who does that whose heart and whose passion, whose heart and whose (again) style and voice so often leads them in the direction of making Reggae music - what you have is a unicorn of an artist. They just don't exist. Right???


'Flowaz', at least to my ears, is a beautiful Jazz song, she pushes it through a few courses with the possible highlight being spells during which Lugo full on raps at times. The general aesthetics on this song are spectacular with my personal favourite section being a stretch of half a minute or so at the end where Lugo's vocals spark a lovely instrumental. 'Flowaz' also isn't without a lyrical offering and what I took it from it was the simple notion of attempting to find and highlight BEAUTY wherever you can and in whichever form you might, regardless of what that means to you. Surely, if you listen to this tune, you can add it to your list.

'Energy Of God'

Where 'Elevate' had an unusual vibe to it and 'Flowaz' was more in a Jazz direction to my ears, the EP's third selection, 'Energy Of God' almost comes through (at least at times) in an R&B or lightly Hip/Hoppish type of vibes. Unsurprisingly, that isn't a problem at all for Lugo. There is a certain grumble (I don't know what to call it) on this track which is a golden touch to listen to and the song, about halfway through, takes a twist and kind of opens up and blossoms into something else. For her part, Lugo uses it to make an inspirational contribution - essentially saying that EVERYONE has something to offer to the world and what we are to do is to find what that is and do our best to release it. I also took from this one that Lugo was also kind of aggressively sharing the title of motivator.... because maybe what it is that you do well is to MOTIVATE. So maybe you can do that and someday some loon somewhere will be writing about you! Get to work! 


"YOU'RE THE BEST THERE IS OF YOU SO WHY YOU HOLD BACK? [BOOM!]
Please join in, we need your love, you brighten up the dark"

'Time'

From a lyrical point of view, 'Time' is a song about simply making the 'best' of one's time It's about doing what you want to do as soon as you possibly can and attempting to stop procrastinating and finding reasons to not reach one's potential, in full and in spots. Be it finding time to love (like having someone catch your eye and sitting around too damn nervous to say something to them) (STOP BEING A COWARD AND SAY HELLO!) or finding time to pursue some type of other interest - do what you want to do and stop creating reasons not to. The sound here is another very interesting one and it loosely reminded me of an old Sara Lugo song (more on that in conclusion) with this kind of 'chime' type of vibe to it. Clearly someone far more intelligent than me should probably be explaining the music to you on this song but what I will say simply is that - your ears will not be upset at you for listening to 'Time' several times. Trust me.

'Free Flow'

They'll also not be upset if you continue to 'Elevate' with Sara Lugo and arrive at its next track, 'Free Flow'. This is the most VIVID tune that you will find here. It is super bright and there're times here when Lugo sounds like she's smiling while she's singing it. You'll also be smiling while she's singing it.

'Elevate [RVDS Remix]'

Finally is the RVDS Remixed version of the title track. What I will say about this one (resisting the urge to dive right in again) is that I actually enjoy it more than the original version. It's an excellent remix and this is coming from someone who generally isn't very interested in remixes at all, with very few exceptions.


Overall, as I alluded to while talking about 'Time'. There is an old song Sara Lugo did almost a decade ago now maybe (we are all so, soooooo old) by the name of 'Night Race' with an artist named Toussaint (biggup Toussaint) which so much sounds like something that would have been on a project like this one, musically speaking. It had this kind of subtly GRAND vibe to it which (if you can have such a thing) (and apparently you can) and was just a gorgeous song. I bring up 'Night Race' because..... well because I said I would and I really like that song, so I'll just start this again -


Overall, "Elevate" is a project from Sara Lugo (DUH!) which highlights so much of her diversity. While you will not find it saturated in Reggae, what you do find here will definitely keep even the most singular-minded of her fans happy throughout. Anddddddd! I mean it's new Sara Lugo and you really want to hear it! But you didn't need me to tell you all of that. I'll see you later.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Lovers Rock by Jalena!

"The Lovers Rock" by Jalena [Jalena]

1. 'If This Isn't Love'
2. 'High'
3. 'Better Days' featuring Harella
4. 'But I Love You'
5. 'No Living Without You'
6. 'Closer To Heaven'
7. 'Goodbye [Has Never Been So Hard]'

Big, biggup to Achis Reggae favourite, the infinitely delightful Jalena from out of Tortola, who recently returned with her latest project (her fifth by my count and first from 2015's "L'amour"), "The Lover's Rock". As its title would suggest, the new set finds Jalena exploring yet another style as previous releases have featured such a wide variety of different styles such as Reggae, Pop/R&B, of course Soca and even Zouk. Jalena has always been an artist, clearly, driven by results and everyone who has paid her attention knows that she is capable of sparking some damn colourful vibes of so many different colours, going allllllllll the way back to 'Roll It', (a HUGE tune - ridiculously nearing a decade old) (it cannot possibly have been that long ago) ["ROLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL! WIIIIIIIIIIIINE! YOU CAN'T CONTROL  THIS WAISTLIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINE!"] [BOOM!]. So her taking on a bit of Lover's Rock, certainly not a great deviation from her impressive skill set, comes as a very welcomed addition.
As for "The Lovers Rock", while I am still working my way through it, I definitely have to say that my early favourite is the ear candy, diabetes causing 'High' - an absolutely GORGEOUS selection. I also really enjoy 'Better Days' with Harella, the very subtle 'Closer To Heaven' and previous single, 'If This Isn't Love'. I should also say that, given the style of the music here, this might be the most impressive collective display of Jalena's vocals to date (although "L'amour" was really good there as well, it wasn't as long as "The Lovers Rock"), which is a quality I don't think she gets enough credit for. Jalena can sing! She has pipes!

Not sure about that?!!! See for yourself when you pick up "The Lovers Rock" by Jalena which you'll find in your favourite digital store right now. Go get it! I'm going back to bed.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

What I'm Listening To: Looking Up

Been sick [as usual], having a few good days though

The Palestine Riddim [Irie Sounds International - 2016]

First up today is something which has been on our radars for more than a minute as our old friend from Irie Sounds International, the indomitable James Lord, continues what is ultimately (and apparently) going to turn out to be a downright stellar 2016 for his label with the HEAVY Palestine Riddim. Earlier this year ISI dropped the highly regarded latest album release from veteran chanter Warrior King, "The Rootz Warrior" which featured the King's cut of the Palestine Riddim, 'President Yahya Jammeh'. So you may (and you should) be familiar with the track via that song, but it also offers a few more reasons to get acquainted if you haven't already… namely the downright MONSTROUS 'Jah Is In His Kingdom' from the unforgettable Yami Bolo. Hopefully 2017 turns out to be a more active year from the veteran vocalist as, just when you begin to lose hope, at times, he consistently offers reminders like this one (EASILY one of the better songs I've heard this year, altogether… like from anyone), of just how immense his talent still is. Rounding out the class of the Palestine Riddim are also lovely tracks courtesy of the likes of the Bugle, Prezident Brown and a surprising Joshua Hales whose 'Calling' is golden. And, as I alluded to, apparently this isn't the end of the year for Irie Sounds International as the Lead Di Way Riddim is also set for its own release.

Digital

"Stories of Life" by Black Prophet [Kingz Entertainment/Prophetic Music Production]

Biggup our ooooooooooooold friend, the great Jahsh Concurz, for pointing me in the direction of the latest release from esteemed Ghanaian vocalist, Black Prophet, "Stories of Life". This is another piece I've had quite awhile to digest and JC highly recommended it and I have to agree with him. "Stories of Life" features the handiwork of the legendary Dean Fraser and, by extension, contributions from both Tarrus Riley and Duane Stephenson, and it is absolutely stellar throughout. To my opinion (though it changes rather consistently) (biggup Danny I) it pinnacles at 'Elmina Castle' which features Riley [TEARS!] [BOOM!] [DAMN!] but selections such as the delightful 'African Freedom', 'Too Know', definitely 'Jah A We Know', 'I Wish' and others rank as giant standouts. For what it is, and I don't know if it will be regarded as such by the masses, 'Stories of Life' is probably one of the better albums I've heard this year. Thanks JC. 

CD + Digital

"I & I Culture" by Utan Green [Wild Pitch Music]
Biggup the wonderful people at Wild Pitch Music for deciding that the world would just be a much better place with another full (and I mean FULL) album from the WELL SEASONED Utan Green. To my knowledge the only album Green has released to date has been the virtually invisible (these days) "Rivers of Reality" (good luck tracking that one down) which is nearly two decades old now and clearly it has long been time for a follow-up (I don't care if the man released an album last year, it was time for a new one anyway) and that is exactly what we have in "I & I Culture". Now, as you would hope, if you haven't had an album in such a long time, despite what we may see from others, you probably have A LOT to say and Utan Green definitely does as "I & I Culture" checks in with a delicious eighteen songs and more than SEVENTY minutes of strong music. The results, besides just being quantiful (not an actual work) are also of significant quality and because of both size and class I can damn confidently say that if you enjoy Reggae music, particularly that of a slightly older sound (although ultimately I would well qualify this one as a modern set), there is SOMETHING  on this album that you're going to enjoy. As for me, tunes such as 'Captain' (which you might know), 'Sunshine', 'Ancient Man' ["A di same old Rastaman dem"], 'Man No Dead', 'Rasta Time' and several others, like 'Fighting' revolve around top honours on "I & I Culture"… honours CLEARLY held by the MASSIVE 'Chant'. An outstanding album and one which I may slap a review on in the new year. Elijah Prophet next??? PLEASE!!!

CD [I THINK] + Digital

"Power Surge" by Ward 21 [Germaica Digital]

There will ALWAYS be room on my players the still wildly entertaining Ward 21, no matter how disillusioned and out of touch I may grow with Dancehall music (a genre which, despite my never-ending LOVE of even the most RIDICULOUS and ZANY forms of Soca, routinely makes me feel old as hell these days). So I was well pleased to see that the group had re-linked with Germaica Digital to serve up an effective sequel to the golden bar that was "Still Disturbed" from a couple of years back in "Power Surge". This one doesn't light up as brightly as its predecessor did (which you really need to hear), but pieces like 'OG Kush', 'Pretty Phat Cat' (a preposterously SIGNATURE effort from the Ward) and especially the HEAVY 'Groundz' (biggup Baby Cham) give me what I need when it comes to the Ward, a full decade and a half after their first album and still going strong and completely without behaviour. 

Digital

"Concrete Jungle" by Chuck Fenda [Voiceful Records/Zojak Worldwide]

And finally, I was rather happy to see a great deal of early attention paid to "Concrete Jungle", the latest set from Chuck Fenda (I'm tired of using the word 'veteran', but that's what he is as well). By my count this is… the veteran's fourth studio album to date and his latest after 2013's "Jah Element" (there was also a Live set in there) and it should rate fairly well in his catalogue as "Concrete Jungle" is a decent offering throughout and one I'm still, obviously, working on. Albums like this, while I don't think they 'change the game' or 'take things to another' or do any of that crazy bullshit, just really fill a NEED of a high level of consistency in the genre. I don't go looking for Fenda's new album to amaze me or change my life, but when I get it I know that I can press play and walk away and that is the same situation here. Headers include 'Oh Merciful Father', 'If U No With Me' (the best song on this album), definitely the title track, 'That Place' (and a BEAUTIFUL place it is) as well as the obligatory ganja tune, 'This Plant', and its very unique sound. Etana, The Morgans and Sista Sasha all make appearances. 

CD + Digital

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Lifetime Riddim

The Lifetime Riddim [Lustre Kings Productions]

1. 'Put A Fyah In Deh' by Lutan Fyah

2. 'Yes To Life' by Jahdan Blakkamoore

3. 'Lifetime' by Akae Beka

4. 'All That I'm Thinking Of' by Pressure

5. 'One Day At A Time' by Vanessa Bongo

6. 'It Takes Time [Raining Outside]' by Randy Valentine

7. 'Ancient Great [Tell Her I Need Her]' by Danny I

8. Lifetime Riddim I Grade Dub Mix

And because the wonderful people from the Zion I Kings  CLEARLY refuse to let 2016 go out quietly, we have yet another new project coming forth from the collective as the 'Kings', Lustre Kings Productions, makes the latest contribution (#6) to the ZIK's consistently impressive Riddim Series with the Lifetime Riddim. This 'dreamy' set should be extremely familiar to fans as it just appeared on the latest release from the ZIK, Akae Beka's "Livicated" for Zion High Productions, in support of what would turn out to be the riddim's title track.

Okay, while I am still very early into working this one out, I HAD to let you know about what may potentially be a downright SPECIAL song. There're some really strong selections on the Lifetime Riddim - not the least of which are potentially stellar efforts from the likes of Lutan Fyah, Jahdan Blakkamoore and the aforementioned Akae Beka. And, really, just having had a brief listen through all of the songs as well as the wonderful dubbed out version of the track courtesy of I Grade Records, there does not appear to be a miss here at all.


HOWEVER, with that being said, what Danny I manages to do with his cut of the Lifetime Riddim, 'Ancient Great [Tell Her That I Need Her]' is just... I mean...

"I've been searching for a while amongst the virtuous and the vile
Knew when I met you, you just stood out like a vibe
Time progressed and many noticed just how well we got along -
JUST LIKE TWO SEPARATE VERSES IN ONE SONG

I wanna tell her that I need her
And tell her that respect is due
That I'll never mislead her
That I need her point of view"

That tune is MAMMOTH! Absolutely reminiscent of 'I Know', his dazzling edition of the Songbird Riddim from earlier in this same series, in terms of its quality and its wholly subtle GENIUS. So, I'll stop myself there because I could probably go on and on and on and you know it. You can finish it off for me when you pick up the Lifetime Riddim from Lustre Kings Productions and The Zion I Kings when it reaches stores on November 18th.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

'The Grind': A review of "Salvation" by Spectacular

Seeking. I think that particular forms of music, and of art in general, lend themselves to the displaying of particular qualities far more than others. If you look on a Hip-Hop blog or read a writer of that genre, I'd like to think that while we may have some similarities, that our perspective and EXPECTATIONS come from a different place. The standards of what is 'good' and what is not would be different, outside of just personal tastes and the levels reached before you can declare something a 'success's would also vary and that is a 'good' thing. And, at least presumably, it would be the same each time you changed genres and, again, that's a very nice thing to have such a wide variety of changing characteristics when the people who listen to it, support it and produce it are ever-changing works in progress ourselves. One of the things I believe that Reggae music showcases resoundingly well is the kind of hard-working, sometimes struggling (sometimes not) and persevering archetype of an artist who plies his/her trade under virtually any set of circumstances. When you take into consideration the nature of the music, especially Roots Reggae music, and the messages and subjects it captures, this come through in a major way and it is a very charming and delightful aspect of what I (and likely YOU) consider to be the greatest and most powerful genre of music in the world. Even more fascinating is the fact that artists of all levels -- be it bona fide stars or the very early up and comers -- can be a part of this at any point in their respective careers and some even seem to revel in it. On the absolute highest end, in Reggae circles, I think of individuals such as Norris Man who, whether you realize it or not, has had such a powerful and just fantastic career, yet you may not immediately think of him in the same way that you think of someone like a Sizzla Kalonji, Capleton or a Luciano. But if I asked you (or asked the man himself) to think of some of the other artists who came up at the same time, many of them are LOOOOOOOONG gone and had nothing to offer the world in the way of longevity for one reason or another, but it's 2016 and not only are people still singing songs like (the very fitting for the sake of this review) 'Persistence', which is well on its way to being twenty years old, but each and every year he gives us new songs and new albums to sing as well. I could well place others such as Bushman and Turbulence and Jah Mason in a similar category and others still who just really go to demonstrate how far hard work (and GREAT, MASSIVE skill as well) can take you in a genre and field such as Reggae music.

Today we have the very, VERY rare opportunity to take a look at someone else who falls into this category and in a very unique way as for the first time in… several centuries or so, the Burning Spectacular has been reignited and is on our radars in a big, big way. Spectacular is someone who has fully taken advantage of the modern age of Reggae music and I don't mean that in a technological TWITTER-ish type of way. Given just how popular the music is and how far it has spread, Spectacular has ridden that wave and has ridden it for YEARS in building a terrific fan base, following and line of producers to work with throughout the whole of Europe. And he certainly isn't alone, I think of other Jamaican artists who have taken similar steps and made similar strides and can well include the likes of names such as Jah Turban (who, I believe, actually lives in Denmark or at least did at some point), Lorenzo, Hi-Kee from a few years back and others who have found large pockets of activity and successes in feeding Roots Reggae STARVED Europe and European fans. Within that scope, I'd actually put Spectacular at the head of that pack arguably as he has aligned himself with some of the biggest outfits and movements to the point where it never seems as if he is never too far out of the spotlight and, again, whether you realize it or not, he has already managed to have a stellar career in making Reggae music around the world. 

"Find Yourself" [2005]
So let's take another step forward! Of course, if you follow his career at all THEE label with which you most closely associate Spectacular with is Irie Ites from out of Germany. Along with many Jamaican vocalists, Spectacular has become a big favourite throughout the years with the well respected imprint and, together, they have made some outstanding vibes (my personal favourite would probably be… 'Badda Than Dem', with 'Rasta' being a close second). So, at least presumably, one would have imagined that with all of the good music that vocalist and producer have made together across a span of time which stretches back to more than a decade now (just as was the case with the aforementioned Lorenzo who checked in with an album from II, "Movin' Ahead", back in 2009) . Nope. That's not the case. Initially, Spectacular made his debut on "Find Yourself", which released way back in 2005, via DHF Records which, I believe, is/was also out of Germany (the same label also did albums for Perfect Giddimani and Ward 21). In retrospect, "Find Yourself" may have been a better record than most people gave it credit for being, with the lasting tune being '50 Push Ups' ["Do fifty pushups, hundred skip yow!"], but it was a decent set for its time and, particularly how frequent Reggae albums came at the time, one would not have thought it would have taken nearly a dozen more years for a follow-up and, again, one not for Irie Ites. But that exactly has been the case as the fiery chanter now brings forth album #2, "Salvation". This set comes courtesy of Rastamusic Connection as well as Carabeo Music which're Spectacular's own labels, I believe. Hopefully, somewhere down the line there still comes an album from the veteran and Irie Ites, but until then, going through "Salvation", I'm going to find it hard to believe that established fans of Spectacular's, specifically, are not going to find a great deal to enjoy about the new release. Let me tell you about it.

Okay, if you are not amongst his "established fans… specifically", Spectacular's style, as his name might indicate is very LARGE and aggressive. There are so many of his peers that I could compare him to but not entirely. Pick any of the 'usual suspects' (two of whom feature on this album) and you'll have an idea, but you have to include the caveat that only when they come through with a more forceful style. You're not going to get love songs and Beres Hammond (biggup Beres Hammond) moments from Spectacular and, as I said, he's managed to piece together a very impressive career for himself doing precisely what he does best (actually a pretty good comparison to make, now that I think about it more, would probably be someone like UT Ras) (biggup UT Ras, new album, "Up & About", in stores now. Old album, "Tha Bitter Stretch", which was better, still in stores). Spectacular gets busy putting those harsh skills on display with his brand new album, "Salvation, with a big tune in first, 'Taking It Easy'. I THOROUGHLY enjoyed the opener for this album because I took it in a way in which Spectacular is saying for everyone not to get so stressed out over everything and that life has more than enough of its own turbulences, inherently, that you really don't need to 'help' it out by finding strains and anxieties where they don't actually exist. 

"Hey, mi si sign, but mi neva wonda
Mi hear teeth and tongue always ah plunda
Fighting who? Dem waan turn over
Tell you flash yuh lightning and you go roll yuh thunda
Mi give praises to The King, no get caught pon di banking
Every ranking always get a spanking
EVERY GENERAL MI TELL YUH GET A EARLY BURIAL -
WID A FLASHY FUNERAL
He could live good and give praises to The Most High God"

Spectacular gives it all to The Most High and doesn't worry about small things on the sterling 'Taking It Easy'. Sometimes you can't go easy on everyone which the chanter is quick to remind us on the second effort on the album, the maybe even stronger 'Handle Dem Ruff'. Out of all the songs you'll hear on "Salvation", I think this one maybe makes as fine of usage of Spectacular's aggressive style as any of them. It isn't totally over the top but it definitely does have its overwhelming moments which I think was the intent and he ultimately uses that style, in contrast to the piece which precedes it here, to make the point that you can't be nice to EVERYONE… because everyone doesn't comprehend niceness (you know a whole heap of people like that - don't you!). And I also have to mention the riddim on that one which is excellent. Things slow down a bit as the title track comes through on the album named for it and it is, essentially, the solid praising tune that you would have thought. I do like this song, however, particularly for its vibe. When it gets going to its middle portions, 'Salvation' the song is absolutely delightful, a fine choice for a title and, appropriately, one of the best songs on the album. 
Combinations are fairly expected when it comes to albums, but you know you're always quite interested in seeing exactly WHO a particular artist taps to work with on their respective project and, for "Salvation", Spectacular chose wisely in a pair of instances (Rebellion The Recaller was on "Find Yourself", amongst others). First of all check the big social commentary, 'System Dread'. Featured here is none other than Lutan Fyah who, to my knowledge, has a musical history alongside Spectacular which stretches back VERY far, when both would have been near their musical nascence -- literally, ten or fifteen years ago -- and both have continued to work together on various ventures throughout the years. I don't know how many combinations there have been (PERHAPS my personal favourite would have been 'Coming Home' from the "Justice" album courtesy of Philadub Records) (biggup Gardian and Philadub, I wonder what happened to them), but 'System Dread', which I believe is a single from this album, has to rank amongst the very best the duo have produced thus far ["Babylon yuh system dread! DEM TEK AN ARM AND AH COME FI A LEG!"]. It probably rests more likely in the realm of fantasy (given just how infrequently Spectacular does full albums), but… I don't know… if someone wanted… to maybe do an album with Spectacular and Lutan Fyah… wouldn't be the absolute worst idea anyone has ever undertaken. With that being said, however, one could rather easily make the case that Lutan Fyah alongside Spectacular is the second best combination on "Salvation" as 'Rise' is a FANTASTIC song. This one finds the Burning one joined by the legendary (have we gotten to the point where we can start calling him a 'legend'??? He'd surely decline, but I think that we're getting there) Anthony B. Everything on this one is BIG. Anthony B is big, Spectacular can't be anything else besides big and the riddim and the background singers are BIG! And that is quality which comes shining through immediately as  'Rise' begins. Lyrically, the two dazzle and throw a MAMMOTH praise to His Majesty on a beautiful drop which is not to be missed… and if they wanted to do this again, I wouldn't complain about it either. 

"So mi have to give Jah praises when mi rise up
Give thanks for another day - open my eyes up
So when dem si di Rastaman, tell dem no size up
SPECTACULAR, ANTHONY B PAGAN DEM KNOW DEM TIME UP"

All of the remaining selections on "Salvation" stand out for their own various reasons. Certainly 'Things Been Good' has to considered one of the most interesting. I don't know that, at least musically speaking, Spectacular (with his style) is someone who you would instantly think of making a romantic type of song  -- I don't think he has a "ROMANTIC" setting -- but he gives it his best shot and actually manages to impress. This isn't Cocoa Tea and, of course, he yells but it works on some level and manages to be  a very pleasant piece to listen to, which is not something I would have imagined here. 'Nah Do No Crime', on the other hand, has less 'suspense' as Spectacular, basically, says the same thing I've been saying about life for year: I'm not trying to go to jail for ANYTHING or ANYONE. I love (some of) you, but I'm not doing it, I got stuff to do (… okay maybe I don't, but I'm still not going). This tune is all about a personal responsibility that we all have to at least make an attempt at being decent examples of human beings and I love that kind of direction. It isn't pointing a finger at anyone else. Spectacular wants YOU to take accountability for YOU and your own behaviour and to simply make better decisions in life because jail isn't a nice place to have to go and stay and, as Mavado once told us, there are no women there (this song reminds me of I Wayne's 'Total Annihilation' for some reason). Check 'Jah Children', which is actually the longest song on the album. There're songs here which I like more than it, but you'll do well not to overlook this effort because it takes a bit of time to grow on you or at least it did for me. Though fairly straight forward, it has an unusual kind of 'pace' to it in my opinion and just offers a subtly different sound than just about everything else on "Salvation" (and hopefully I'm not the only one who thinks that) (… but I probably am). Finally are two tracks which are genuine standouts for this album and, surely, amongst the very best that I have ever heard from Spectacular in any capacity. The first is the impassioned and Buju Banton-esque 'They Can't Stop Me'

"They can't stop me
Cannot flop me
Yes, I'm on the rise!
I'm on the go!

They can't stop me
Cannot flop me
I'm moving fast and I ain't moving slow!

Wid dem island powder and dem dirty vial
Hey round corners, mi seh dem ah beat iron
Haile Selassie I, HIM cut and clear all science
Man out dependent so mi moving wid self-reliance
Dem and those ah worship car, dem house and dem appliance
WHAT ABOUT CARING AND SHARING?
MAKE LIFE BALANCE
Every dog have dem day, every puss have dem four o'clock
YOU NO WAAN MI RISE, BUT MI TELL YOU SEH A MY TIME FI ACT!"

BOOM! 'They Can't Stop Me' is the single best thing that I hear on the whole of "Salvation". There're moments here when everything aligns perfectly for Salvation and he thrills and it, like I mentioned in regards to 'Handle Dem Ruff', makes a nearly perfect usage of what Spectacular's style is and what he does well. BOOM AGAIN! And lastly (literally, it's the final song on the album) is the fiery 'Big or Small'. There is a point and message here of how people change over time for no real reason at all, but I have to confess that I'm taking 'Big or Small' for its vibes! It is a POWERFUL set which gives the listener not an inch of space (BECAUSE YOU DON'T DESERVE IT!) and, for me anyway, it's just the final burst of energy one would have loved on an album like this as Spectacular misses no opportunity at all to bring his own trademarked edge to the music.

I do have a standing critique of "Salvation", but I find myself mentioning it so often these days that it may just be on its way to becoming more of a sign of the times, rather than just a point on a specific album [after eleven years, you'd think he have more to say than just ten songs!!!]. So I'll stop whining about that… or will I???
Overall, I have to say that I was THRILLED to see Spectacular come with a new album. It has been so long that it isn't something that you'd look at and say that you're so thoroughly anticipating it, but as has been the case with others who have taken similar steps in recent times such as Q'Shan Deya from a few years back or even Utan Green (new album, "I & I Culture" in stores now), who have made returns with album releases after a long absence: It just makes you feel good! It was just a good idea and the thought of 'why not' jumps into mind right away! In this particular instance, it isn't as if Spectacular has been difficult to find for the last decade or so, it's been quite the opposite, but hearing him in this type of form is sure to not only turn up quite a few new fans, but also reenergize and REWARD a group who has made him quite successful. So, while we do wish it could have packed on just a few more pounds during its decade+ long gestation period and it will be a DAMN SHAME if I have to wait until 2027 for its follow-up, "Salvation" is SOLID and a fine display of the high level of skills of someone in Spectacular who, whether you always realize it or not, just keeps strolling right along. Well done.

Rated: 3.75/5
Rastamusic Connection & Carabeo Music
2016
CD [I THINK] + Digital

Review #540