Friday, November 21, 2014

"Redemption" by Jah Bless!

"Redemption" by Jah Bless [Zion High Productions]
For good ideas. From ever since the Zion I Kings collective began their magnificent run, dating back a few years now, I thought that given some of the amazing compositions they were churning out that it would be an excellent thought if they were ever to do an entirely instrumental set. This could have been an instrumental of a previously released vocal album, a Dub album or a set which featured on particular player of instrument. I didn't care! Anything would have sufficed! They did give us glimpses of this throughout the years with pieces featuring the likes of, of course, Tuff Lion and someone else as well. That individual, saxophone ace Jah Bless, apparently made a big impression on the ZIK and Zion High Productions especially as Jah Bless and ZHP now team up for an album which continues the fine run of both ZHP and the ZIK and, hopefully, is the first of many of its kind, "Redemption". Today I thought that we'd take a closer look at the album and give a nice look at a very colourful and unique album which you are sure to enjoy, "Redemption" by Jah Bless. 

{Note: …okay so I figured out that it is a lot easier to write a review for an instrumental album in a track-by-track style}

1. 'Highway To Zion'

The afore-alluded to opener of "Redemption", 'Highway To Zion', is a song which you should know quite well as it previously appeared on Zion High Productions' MAMMOTH compilation from 2012, "Jah Golden Throne" (which does not at all seem nearly as old as the two and half years that it really is) (time FLIES!). On that album, where it was the closer, it was a sublime touch to a set which didn't need much in the way of help but certainly was a better release for it is presence. Here, as you can see, it is featured prominently and with good reason. The first thought in listening to 'Highway To Zion' is in regards to just how damn SMOOTH the piece is (there are no bumps on the highway to Zion) but as you listen to it more and more it does slightly intensify to my opinion. Though you'll find flashier material here, this one does have more than it seems on the surface, initially so give it a moment. It is also, clearly, one of the best songs on the album and the single track which does feature the handiwork of the Tuff Lion.

2. 'Militant Swing'

'Militant Swing' which comes next has more of a dusty and 'dubby' of feel to it but something which it most certainly does share with its predecessor (and most of the better songs on "Redemption") is just how expansive it becomes with the more attention that you give to it. It is complicated from the first listen but it becomes even more so as it goes about and, I should also mention how, whether by design and plan or not, you definitely feel a MARCH to this song, particularly at its 'chorus'. Credit hoes to a Jarritt Shield and Don Hylor Jr. who play the trumpet and trombone on the track, respectively, helping to make for a very solid sound. Oh and I LOVE the way 'Militant Swing' ends. 

3. 'Lightning and Thunder'

I was really looking forward to hearing 'Lightning and Thunder' because, from its title, I was well expecting something with a bit more of an attitude and some bite and that is what it turned out to be though, again, in a more subtle way. 'Lightning and Thunder' also is a little freer than the first two songs and you'll hear Jah Bless DANCING his way through much of the composition, making for what is definitely one of the most memorable and lasting moments here. 

4. 'Heartbeat Horns'

The world needs love and 'Heartbeat Horns' goes about doing its part in effusing enjoyment through the earth with what is sure to be one of the favourites from "Redemption". You may recognize this track from the aforementioned "Jah Golden Throne" album where it backed Jahdan Blakkamoore (who could really be nice to us all by making a new album next year) on 'World Needs Love' and it returns here for Jah Bless and company to thrill on as well. A large part of that 'company' includes Dean Fishback who hypnotizes and spellbinds on the piano and it is also one of the songs on the album featuring Tippy I from I Grade Records (biggup I Grade) on an instrument, the clavinet, and if I knew exactly what a clavinet was, I'd love to give him a bigger credit for that but I am sure that he does a good job on it. This is a piece which will definitely get you moving and there's nothing wrong with that. 

5. 'Dance With My Father'

'Dance With My Father' is actually a remake of an old Luther Vandross song and Jah Bless doesn't take it alone as also featured on vocals is a favourite of Zion High Productions, Chet Samuel. This is a Reggaefied remake, but I also hear a great deal of Jazz here and I REALLY like what happens on 'Dance With My Father' around the four minute moment when it gets a bit more relaxed and loose and a lot of different things begin to happen and you can just envision how much fun they must have had in the studio creating it. 

6. 'Jah Children Must Play'

I don't imagine that this is the type of tune which is going to steer a significant amount of attention paid to "Redemption" in its direction and that's too bad really because 'Jah Children Must Play' is FANTASTIC. After, thankfully, escaping what I thought was the possibility that we might have to actually hear the children playing throughout the entire song (you were thinking it too when you first heard it), it absolutely blossomed! I hear a lot of MOVEMENT on this song and that is the case both at its nascence as well as when it picks up considerably and it is a very nice sound to be able to 'play'. I made the connection that at its beginning you're kind of walking along and, later, you start to run. You may not have a specific destination, or you might, but you're running for the last minute of 'Jah Children Must Play' and, to my opinion, you're taking it to the level of being the second best song on this album. BOOM! 

7. 'Armageddon'

The only song which actually betters 'Jah Children Must Play' to my opinion is the one which chases it on the album, 'Armageddon'. TEARS! This piece well carries the ammunition and the bite and the intensity I was looking for and it drags it straight to the top. Even when things settle down, they do so in a way which well maintains the initial burst of energy on the song and that same sound does come back and come back and come back! Something else which also stands out besides the strength of the song is its mood. Around a minute and a half in, it gives you this sublime break… and then it BUILDS you right back up for another pinnacle [WHAT!] [BOOM!]. 'Armageddon' features the venerable Dean Pond on drums and Tippy I on pretty much everything else and is the single best stop on "Redemption".

8. 'Be Strong'

The much more relaxed and thoroughly sublime 'Be Strong' features another very familiar vibe (of course I can't identify where I know it from but I almost certain that I do) which is used to near perfection in this instance. I have to say that 'Be Strong' is a song on which Jah Bless may be outshined as the guitar work by both Earl 'Chinna' Smith and Ras Abijah (and Jah David on bass) stays with you just as much as the saxophone on the tune. Together, however, they make a special blend and one which is very nice to your ears.

9. 'Lessons of Life'

I had all kinds of fun dealing with 'Lessons of Life' (the song, not literally, some of  them were fun but so many of them were painful) (… and they still are) because of its kind 'roughly refined' sound. There is a polish on this sound and it is polished in abundance but 'Lessons of Life' is also kind of grimy at times. There is an almost electric vibe to the guitar (which is played by either Chet Samuel or Ronnie Moses) and the song's first 'verse' which features Jah Bless with the 'toot' as my Wife calls it, both of which have this infectiously organic and unplanned feel to them. And I also HAVE to mention the keyboard which is most subtle and comes via Ras Klamps.

10. 'Journey For Love'

It is an easy statement to make, given the title, but I certainly DO hear a love song on 'Journey For Love'. I hear moods and a kind of easy emotion to the song (but that's just my opinion, I also hear a flute which apparently is not really there). 'Journey For Love' has an interesting quality about it because I think that it is probably about half as long as I would have liked. When it reaches its end it almost seems as if it is just getting re-enthused and energized and then it begins to fade. What it does do in its time, however, is make a very nice impact on the listener and is amongst the songs on "Redemption" which I've listened to most. 

11. 'Tradition'

Jah David shines as bright as he does at any point on the album in providing the downright candy-like bass for 'Tradition'. With that thing behind you, you could pretty much do anything atop it and, thankfully Jah Bless does put forth a strong effort and one which, given its tone, was probably best. 'Tradition' despite having more flashy moments, sounds kind of quiet and comfortable to my ears and you have these effects kind of spiced in throughout (especially later on, however) which do give it an edge but every time I hear this song what leaps out is that damn bass-line. BOOM! 

12. 'Beautiful Mama'

The saxophonist takes the lead again on 'Beautiful Mama' and dazzles. I may not know exactly how to express what I'm trying to say here but there is a very nice 'backing singer' type of effect on 'Beautiful Mama'. I don't know if they doubled it or if they had another one playing but there is a saxophone behind Jah Bless which is so fascinating and it, and not the very surprising fifty-second long electric guitar solo, is what stands out most from 'Beautiful Mama'. You hear it on other songs as well but it is highlighted, at least to my ears, on this composition.

13. 'Power of The Trinity'

The 'chorus' on 'Power of The Trinity' is golden. It is one of the best on the whole of 'Redemption' and I basically 'started' at that point and spread out in listening to the track. What I found joining it was a song which, again, ranks very highly on the album in my opinion. This song got my head moving and really brought a smile to my face and I don't know if that was the thought here (though I suspect that it was) but I look at 'Power of The Trinity' as a very HAPPY tune. As it progressed (at right around four minutes) you hear echoes and background sounds which just really push the moment even further but it didn't need it. A gem! 

14. 'Redemption'

And finally the title track from "Redemption" ends things on a rolling note. This is a song to take a ride to if you have something on your mind and you need to think it through, 'Redemption, the song is your prescription. Checking in at more than six minutes long it is the longest selection on the album named after it by more than a minute and I think that they needed that long to make the point. What I hear is, as I tried to say, different states of mind on the same journey but it has a kind of 'complete' feel to it. So maybe it is about letting things go and finding some type of finality on things that have been bothering you and causing stress, which would definitely tie back into the title of the piece. 'Redemption' also does have its bright moments and, again, though I'm sure I cannot explain it (but you know that I'll try) it has a signature sound which is very bright and vibrant and you hear this thing, ever-present, and occasionally you can even kind of hear it in the background as well which is so nice because it almost seems like some piece of joy trying to interrupt some sadness.

So, while Reggae album shelves aren't exactly brimming with instrumental albums and especially not modern ones, I think that this is a very solid addition. "Redemption" is a very HEALTHY album at more than an hour in length over fourteen tracks and though I did say I would have liked some of the songs (especially one of them) a bit longer, that may just be…  because I am a nerd but I definitely recommend this one to fans of the genre both new and old given its close relations to other very new material. Of course that "other very new material" comes courtesy of Zion High Productions and the Zion I Kings which, in "Redemption" by Jah Bless add yet another jewel to their crown.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Ride Tru" With Midnite!

"Ride Tru" by Midnite [I Grade Records]
1. 'Calm The Day'
2. 'To Them'
3. 'To Ge Da'
4. 'Restore'
5. 'Credited'
6. 'Conquering Lion'
7. 'Voices of The Remnancy'
8. 'Haile Selassie I The First Time'
9. 'Arise Again'
10. 'I Beseech Jah' featuring Pressure
11. 'Worry Free'
12. 'How I & I Carry On'
13. 'Ride Tru'

So, while we were just talking about them -- both of them -- yesterday as they came together earlier this year for the sterling "Beauty For Ashes" set, apparently ONE time this year simply is not enough and, again, Midnite and I Grade Records with the Zion I Kings come together for what should be another giant offering, "Ride Tru" which is reportedly set to reach early next month. Though I was definitely surprised to see a second Midnite/I Grade Records release, I probably should not have been as with only two official albums to 'their' credit between the aforementioned "Beauty For Ashes" and August's "Stand The Test" from Iaahden Sounds (and, technically, there was also the dubbed out version of "Better World Rasta", though that hasn't come as a full release just yet), it hasn't been the typically [over] active year for Vaughn Benjamin and company. On top of that, the prospects of a virtually immediate follow-up to "Beauty For Ashes" (an album with corners and crevices which I'll probably spend years exploring) (and one which I believe was quite popular) is downright appetizing to say the least. 

And I've been fortunate to have a healthy listen to "Ride Tru" today (biggup I Grade Records) and I already have some impressions. Of course I have to save most of them but I will say just a little… because you know I can't help myself. First of all, I think that when compared to its predecessor, "Ride Tru" is a 'darker’ album. It does feature its more 'effervescent' moments (I always wanted to use that word) but "Ride Tru" appears to be more straightforward wizardry from Vaughn Benjamin. There is a song here, 'Credited', which I believe is the album's first single (something AMAZING is going on with the riddim of that piece) and that is emblematic of the sound of many of the songs on the album in my opinion. 'Credited', which is gorgeous is amongst my early favourites from "Ride Tru" and it is joined by the opener, 'Calm The Day' ["A cacophony of a barrage of words of a side-track of a deviate"], 'Conquering Lion' [TEARS!], the seven minutes + title track, 'I Beseech Jah' which, once again, unites Midnite and Pressure Busspipe and 'Haile Selassie I The First Time' as well. The album's biggest two selections (again, from a very early listen and I'll likely change my mind before I finish writing this) (… and then be far, FAR too lazy to go back and change it) are the magical 'To Them' and 'Voices of The Remnancy'. The former is an all kinds of DAMAGING [BOOM!] tribute to His Majesty which has this EASY sound to it which is almost overwhelming at times but in a most subtle way. 

"The Lamb that return yah with a Lion head
ONLY THIS TIME UPON A THRONE SEATED
Humble and perfected inna righteousness
All di like-minded know they needed strength
When goals line up along allegiances
That's when realizations overtake them when -
Di magnitude and scope of what they stand against
Turned into entire, whole world events" 

TEARS! CRYING RIGHT NOW! NOTHING I CAN DO ABOUT IT! NOTHING! 'Voices of The Remnancy', which also has a fantastic track behind it, is a tribute of another kind as Benjamin honours some of Reggae music's champions who have transitioned, including Buggy Rugs ["TEN THOUSAND SOLDIERS, NINETY-SIX DEGREES"] and Bob Marley ["Rastas right now ah celebrating right close with Marley. THERE IS NO CLOSER PROXIMITY TO ETERNITY"]. And I could go on and on and you know I want to!

But we'll save judgment until a full listen and You too simply have to check out the second Midnite/I Grade Records album of the year when "Ride Tru" reaches stores in December.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Completely Random Thoughts: MOISTURIZE YOUR CIRCUITRY!

"Beauty For Ashes" by Midnite [I Grade Records - 2014]
So it was my intent to attempt the ridiculous and write a Lyrics! feature for Vaughn Benjamin (as if narrowing that down to ten favourites is just… something I could do in an afternoon or something like that) and I'd actually started on an album that I had been listening to a lot lately, "Cipheraw" (Vault Review coming soon) (or something like that) and I got some material from it and it really helped me get started re-writing a review for that album and I went through a few others as well - trying to spread it out. Still, I have to say that it was "Beauty For Ashes", Midnite's pillaring set from earlier this year for I Grade Records and the Zion I Kings which has most caught my attention as, definitely, two of my favourite verses that Benjamin has ever done were written for that album. And I knew that in the back of my head but listening to the album brought it back crystal clear. I should also say that there're so many more from that album and, from a quality standpoint, I may even prefer one or two that I’m not going to mention but these two have just trapped my entire brain and absolutely refuse to let me go! 

The first is Benjamin's first full stanza from 'When Jah Arise' (although I suppose you could call it his second if you like), a tune which features him alongside another dominant lyricist, Lutan Fyah.

"Almighty Jah who is partial to none
Reigneth upon all!
Receiveth rainwater for the body - 
INSTALL!
MOISTURIZE YOUR CIRCUITRY
Stand tall and don't fall
Recall the reason that the sun serves us all
AND THE EARTH IS THE LORD!"

This is fairly simple when compared to some of the wordy acrobatics Benjamin performs on other tunes (like 'All i's On You', still the best song on the album in my opinion) ["Twenty million hits with diverse fused news, a ruse to diffuse a social current that is in marching shoes"] [WHAT!] but it hits me so hard because, if you follow it, it is nothing but directions to prosperity. The first two lines, like the final one are statements and between them Benjamin tells you what to do. The one which stands out most, obviously:

"MOISTURIZE YOUR CIRCUITRY" 

Is halting! Not only is there a musical pause of sorts just ahead of it but if you were to "moisturize your circuitry" … doesn't  that sound so nice! The song makes you thirsty! And I think that was the intent of Benjamin's to have listeners focus on the smallest details, like a glass of water, which can be amongst the most fulfilling. And the, sequentially, from the very next song on the album, there's this:

"It's these kind of things to be careful with
Rasta seen countenance fall and broken spirit
Just uplift out of it how Jah create and insist
And the legislative whip was the laws of uplift
Whip is governmental title inna politics 
Whip was also inna slavery, ah perform wickedness
Dem psychology trigger nerve and how dem touch it
Personal responsibility to each human unit of livity
THAT MEAN EVERY SIMPLE ONE INNA I-MANITY
Simple respect make a people in prosperity 
The ebb and the flow, the give and take of living, moving currency
King Selassie I speak out against isolationist policy
Human sovereignty where people still retain their dignity
And play a part inna how things run inna fi dem community
Situation where none can shut up loyalty
Gonna do the best they can to enhance the country
And some of them will face the sun
Some of them with tenacity
There's a fusing of culture and diversity"

This one I love for so many reasons but the prevailing one is that I think that it is THE passage of the album which tells you everything that you need to know about "Beauty For Ashes" (but you know you need to listen to the other twelve songs on this album, right?). For me, what was so impressive lyrically about that album was how Benjamin, essentially, took one topic -- UNITY -- and dissected it and ripped it apart and reassembled it in thirteen songs. Bringing people together is one of the major topics of discussion in Reggae music, you'll find more albums focusing almost entirely on the subject and probably thousands of individual songs as well. But strictly from the written aspect, I don't know that anyone has ever done it like Vaughn Benjamin did it on "Beauty For Ashes". There are genuine gems here but these days I look closest at:

"THAT MEAN EVERY SIMPLE ONE INNA I-MANITY"

Alone, that doesn't make any sense, it isn't a complete thought but when you place it in the frame of the words ahead of it and behind it, it starts to GLOW! That is particularly true when you attach it to these two: 

"King Selassie I speak out against isolationist policy
Human sovereignty where people still retain their dignity"

He's saying that no one is to be excluded! And, in total, you can say that the album is one about standing up for "every simple one inna I-manity". All of us! Surely I'm still in the process of breaking down this album and I'll likely only be finished when I stop breathing (or lose my hearing) but right now 'Same Boat We' and 'When Jah Arise' are proving to be ample sources of downright DELICIOUS mental food. 


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Rewind! - Oneness Records 2014

Over the course of the past half-decade or so, the Germany based Oneness Records has definitely become a favourite of ours. This has happened as the label has begun to make some of the absolute finest Reggae music to be found anywhere in the world and, really, carried with them both some of the biggest vocal talents in the genre as well as some others who have just as definitively become stars as well. In 2014, however, one can make a strong case that Oneness Records has hit an even higher level and, in doing so, has reaffirmed their status as one of the most reliable imprints when it comes to extremely high quality Reggae music. So, we thought that it would be a nice idea to take a look at a label which, as their name would suggest, really made themselves stand out in 2014 as we REWIND! Oneness Records 2014.

"One Love, One Heart, Oneness"
To get things started, way back in January (which really doesn't seem like a very long time ago, it's been a very short year) (or I just may have been sleepwalking through a few months, which is a distinct possibility), Oneness had a very good idea in the form of what turned out to be "One Love, One Heart, Oneness". This set was a compilation which included songs from a truly impressive cache of vocalists. Such as??? Luciano, Sizzla Kalonji & Mark Wonder, Alborosie, Ziggi Recado & J Boog, Buju Banton, Queen Omega, Junior Kelly, Jah Mason & Fyah T and others all made appearances. Also present, fittingly, may just be one of the most popular Oneness productions ever, 'High & Windy' which linked Kabaka Pyramid and someone named Sara Lugo.
The Rise Up Riddim

In February Oneness would return with their first of two big riddim projects for the year, the Rise Up Riddim. This composition was familiar to my ears as it had backed the glowing 'What Goes Around', which appeared on the all-conquering and classic Oneness produced "Long Journey" album by Naptali in 2010 and, most fortunately (and predictably), Oneness surrounded the Clarendon native with another very impressive roster of vocalists. This most gorgeous and serene track backed big selections from Queen Omega, Mark Wonder, Buju Banton, Ziggi Recado, Jahcoustix, Prince Malachi and a seemingly constantly surging Skarra Mucci alongside someone named Sara Lugo.

African Children Riddim
We also had a preview of what would become Oneness' second riddim release of the year, the African Children Riddim, in April when, last year, the label did a fine EP with Denham Smith entitled "Not The Same". It was the title track which would be Smith's strong contribution to the African Children Riddim and, again, Oneness provided listeners with a group of very talented wordsmiths as well. They included Luciano, Naptali, Ras Muhamad, the wonderful Mark Wonder, Fitta Warri ["A plant is just a plant. Give marijuana a chance. Look at those poisonous substance which you make legal in every instance"] and Exco Levi whose 'Blood Tears', in my opinion, took top honours on the African Children. Also in retrospect, the actual track here, which Oneness was kind enough to provide a clean instrumental of was probably amongst their greatest creations to date and what they ultimately did with it was top notch. 

"The Kings Book" by Suga Roy & Conrad Crystal

For the first of what would become a downright remarkable THREE album releases for the year, Oneness Records teamed up with veterans Suga Roy and Conrad Crystal and their own Fireball Records imprint in May for the well formidable "The Kings Book". This album really forced me to take a look at what the duo was up to as I hadn't been keen to pay a proper attention to their works over the previous two or three years or so but, if you work with Oneness Records, in some type of way you're going to get my attention and this was not the exception. I'll likely always recall "The Kings Book" best as "The Album With 'No Love' On It" because it did happen to carry the tune, featuring Cocoa Tea was… probably the best song I've ever heard from Suga Roy & Conrad Crystal . I LOVE that tune! "The Kings Book" also featured appearances from Gappy Ranks, Maikal X, Alborosie and Natural Black and though I may not have much of a reference to compare it to, may just be my favourite album from the pair to date.  
"Salam" by Ras Muhamad
Greetings! In July, even after all of that up there, Oneness would take another significant step ahead when they would release what would become undeniably one of the biggest albums of the year from anyone and what history may, someday, look back as a landmark set from Indonesian chanter, Ras Muhamad, "Salam". The album would feature a downright dazzling demonstration of Muhamad and company switching between languages and cultures yet, ultimately, finding a most familiar ground and unifying force in Reggae music. "Salam" was HUGE! And now, just a few months on, it has gotten even stronger and I love how remote it seems on paper when contrasted with actuality - which was entirely comfortable and FITTING. There was nothing about this album, musically, which seemed forced. It was so powerfully organic and just a fantastic project. This was best shown on pieces such as the title track and opener as well as 'Lion Roar' ["Well inna concrete jungle, you hear The Lion HIM ah roar!"], 'Blow Them Away', 'Conquest' and so many others. I also really enjoyed the blend of guests which, again, even further displayed that no matter how disparate things may seem, there is a most capable instrument of amalgamation in this music. Featured on this journey were Indonesian artists such as the Mighty Che, Kunokini and Conrad Good Vibration (I still really like that name), Jamaicans Naptali and Kabaka Pyramid as well as German Uwe Kaa and someone named Sara Lugo.

"Hit Me With Music" by Sara Lugo
…"someone named Sara Lugo". To end the year (presumably at least), Oneness Records would push what was easily one of the most anticipated albums of the year for us in October as the INFINITELY DELIGHTFUL Sara Lugo [WHAT!] [BOOM!] and her magic voice would return with her sophomore album, "Hit Me With Music". For her second trip the tall Reggae-Jazz hybrid explored a variety of different sounds and, unsurprisingly, they all seemed to work and made for a very colourful and interesting release. A tune such as 'Black & White' really saw Lugo taking an observance of and fully CELEBRATING many of the many things that make her unique musically and beyond; while others such as 'Soldiers Of Love' arrived at a similarly matchless destination but doing so on an unforgettably different path. We got to fall in love on 'The One', got more of it on 'More Love' and got to hook up on 'Really Like You' featuring Protoje, we grew up, apologised and learned from our mistakes on 'Learn & Grow' with Ras Muhamad, 'Never Ever' and 'Play With Fire'. We went to a dance on the title track (a SMOKEY, JAZZY one) and we felt no pain and in the morning, we all jumped on our bikes and rode through the park with Sara Lugo and Kabaka Pyramid on the likely future classic remake of a classic, 'High & Windy'. 

"Yes I love it, when you hit me with music, hit me with music, hit me with music"

So, while I know you've picked up ALL of these and I don't have to remind you, just in case you... were incarcerated or something happened and you missed out, definitely check out the work coming from Oneness Records in 2014. Consistently one of the best in the genre over the past few years got even bigger this year and... it's only November, maybe they're not done! 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

"Healing Of The Nation" by Cali P!

"Healing Of The Nation" by Cali P [Hemp Higher]
Still unstoppable. It seems as if, these days, every piece of musical news which reaches makes me smile. 2014 has been a SPECTACULAR year for Reggae in my opinion and, even as it enters its final couple of months and people like You and I begin to attempt to place it in some type of historical context, it continues to serve up downright delicious moments. The latest? I was under the impression that the next time we were to hear from Achis Reggae favourite, Cali P, in any full capacity it would be in the form of an album directed by the legendary Bobby Digital and while that set figures to still be in the works, until then the richly gifted chanter has given his fans something very special for 2014, "Healing Of The Nation". Cali P becomes the latest in an increasingly long line of talented names to do a very extensive EP -- and with NINE tracks, it almost seems like an album of its own -- and he does so on very familiar terrain, once again reuniting with Riga and company at Hemp Higher. Unlike much of their high-tech and high-powered work together, "Healing Of The Nation" is sublime modern Roots Reggae which is might from beginning to end. So, we thought that we'd give you the full breakdown and today take a look at a release which is going to lay a significant claim as the best EP that Reggae music has produced in 2014, "Healing Of The Nation" by Cali P. 

#1. 'My Home'

Before he takes you on the journey of "Healing Of The Nation", Cali P takes you directly to his doorstep and introduces you to Mother and makes you feel at home on the GORGEOUS 'My Home'. This song is one just giving a hefty praise to Mama Africa and, though you've heard quite a few tunes like this in Reggae music (it is one of the most prevailing topics in the genre), I like to think that this one is unique, not only in its sound but in its direction as well. This isn't a song about packing up and picking up everything heading HOME - it is one about taking HOME with you wherever you go and representing Her to the best of your ability. Going further, Cali P does some really interesting things lyrically in the song, such as allowing for mistakes that people may make in their life but ultimately he presents Africa as a wonderful place and one which serves as a never-ending source of pride and honour for all of Her children.

"What a joy when I walk and see, whoa Mama
Africa is my place and that is where I want to be
Love and miss Africa, wherever I may be
SOME CARE ZERO, STILL THERE IS EVERYTHING TO ME"

#2. 'Wha Gwaan'

Grrrr! On 'Wha Gwaan' Cali P brings forth a bit of FIRE and BITE on the tune which is, essentially, an autobiography of how he came to be who he is in the music, going from his childhood to his current stages and all the things that he has accomplished in his career. What I most like about this one, along with the vibes, is how he addresses pretty much everything that you can think of. He goes to tracing his beginnings and his inspirations ["The day mi light mi first spliff, Babylon get bun"], through all the people who tried to take him off course and those, like Half Pint, who gave him encouragement throughout the years as well. You might not think so if you were to only give it a cursory listen, but digging any deeper into 'Wha Gwaan' reveals it as a very personal track and one on which Cali P absolutely blazes! 

#3. 'Bed of Roses'

I suppose we can call 'Bed of Roses' a "life commentary" because I think that, at its core, it is really a piece about treating people better than we do now and attempting to make more of effort in helping each and everyone through life as best as we can. He goes through different things such as being thankful and APPRECIATING WHAT YOU HAVE IN LIFE [!] as well as setting a proper example for the younger generations as well. This is a very fascinating tune and it is also carried by a more than solid backdrop (there's a guitar in there somewhere which is subtle but fully intoxicating to my ears) so be sure to lay down fully in this bed (don't just sit down and take your shoes off!). 

#4. 'Solution'

Given its title, 'Solution' was a track which well had my attention even before I heard it and it kind of loosely relates to the song before it in my opinion as it also deals with finding a better way to treat people, particularly those who don't have it as well as you might. The first verse on this song may just be one of the best that I've heard… from anyone in 2014:

"You just a little part inna creation 
Even the wind can blow you away!
Sorry, but you can't bring your riches inna Zion
WHILE YOU'RE LOST, YOU BETTER FIND A WAY
TELL ME, WHY NOT MAKE SOMEONE HAPPY?
CAUSE THEY MIGHT JUST HAVE THE WORST DAY
When there's no food inna their belly, there coulda be sunshine, but they still see it grey
Some get a little money, big house dem go build
Get a little money and dem all start chill
From dem get a little money nuff girl start breed
Now, times get rough cause baby waan feed
And some get a little money and a guns dem go buy -
Fi protect dem greed
Some get a little money and a girl dem go buy -
JUST BECAUSE A LOVE DEM NEED!"

BOOM! The entire song stays at a similar lyrically prodigious level and it makes, ultimately, for one of the best songs on the whole of "Healing Of The Nation" and one of my recent favourites, altogether, from Cali P. 

#5. 'I Am Bless'

TEARS! I do love the 'Solution', big tune, big lyrics and big vibes but it, like everything else on "Healing Of The Nation" is going for second place on the EP because the single best selection I hear here, without a doubt, is the MAMMOTH 'I Am Bless'. This song brought an even bigger smile to my face the first time I heard it and I've now listened well over forty times and I'm still smiling! On this composition Cali P speaks about being goal-oriented and receiving your blessings in life and not allowing anyone to step in front of either path. He wraps the crucial message in a GIANT package and pushes straight into the minds of the listeners - the rest of whom, hopefully, love it as much as I do because I think the song could be a definite hit if it got the opportunity to shine. 

"So mi tell di negative people fi low mi
NONE A UNUH GROW MI
NONE A UNUH KNOW MI
All unuh do is telling people stories
GWAN LIKE UNUH HOLY
AND PLASTIC LIVITY YOU SHOW MI!
A so mi know some seh dem love but dem no real
Through time, everything reveal
And through wi strong like lion and tougher than steel
WI AND DEM NO DEH PON DI SAME BATTLEFIELD!

Jah Jah give me health and protection
So, mi no fraid of no Pagan
No dutty heart can take weh mi life cause I'm blessed by The Most High

That's why you have to know your purpose and keep focused
Stay far away from di hypocrite and bogus
Everyday you just give thanks fi life first
AND STEP CONSCIOUS, MEK DEM GET NERVOUS
Cause we just give dem something, something weh dem never seen before
AND THE LIGHT WEH WI SHINE PON DEM MEK DEM RUN AWAY FI SURE!
Cause we just give dem something, something weh dem never seen before
AND THE LIGHT WEH WI SHINE PON DEM MEK DEM RUN AWAY FOR SURE!"

... damn.

#6. 'One Step'

I had to spend a little more time on 'One Step' because it really requires a little more attention in my opinion. My reward for doing that was another incredible effort for "Healing Of The Nation". In Reggae music we hear people giving thanks and giving praises to so many different entities and things in general and that's what happens on 'One Step' as well but in this case, Cali P is really just giving thanks for all of the wonderful and NICE people in the world (and even those who're no longer with us). That's a subtle but very unique spin on another very often visited topic in the genre and it is also something which, hopefully, everyone can relate to as well because everybody has SOMEBODY they can depend on (even if your "SOMEBODY" is a dog or a cat, SOMEONE loves you and is nice to you!). Also have to give a big credit to the musicians here, especially a saxophone player (I think that's a saxophone) who dazzles. 

#7. 'Carry The Load'

In next is 'Carry The Load' from Kheilstone which is an all-encompassing social commentary with a prevailing spiritual and it is CANDY for your ears. This is another highlight on the project to my opinion and while it, like with its predecessor, took me a minute to arrive at that conclusion, it is no less true. Cali P talks about so many of the ills of the world and society and how many of those negative forces can keep people from enjoying their lives and achieving their goals. But he also goes on to offer a constant relief and aid in the tough times, The Almighty, which is very interesting because later on in the song he even starts to incorporate 'extensions' of His Majesty and how useful they can also be, such as the music.

"Righteous music make di whole a wi ah gather
Catch di heartbeat straight from di Nyahbinghi order
Representing di Red, Gold and Green banner!
Live life full of love and honour"

A golden song which ends with a bit of instrumental which… I would have had no problem at all with if they just let play on!  

#8. 'United We Stand'

Cali P seeks strength in numbers on 'United We Stand' to fight against the wicked and he finds it with a big offering. The first thing here which is going to get your attention is the riddim. It sounds like something from an era gone by for the most part but it later develops into this lovely digital track which may be the single best on this release. For his part, Cali P pushes a message outlining not only so many of the horrible things that occur but he also seeks a common ground with his listeners by outlining just as many different things that we can all do to stand up against the atrocities. And, again, this song is a JOY to listen to and it appears that the chanter welcomed the moment with much of the vibes of the song being loose, free-flowing and well fitting. BOOM! 

#9. 'Healing of The Nation'

Ending matters on "Healing Of The Nation" the EP is the eponymous selection which places a beautiful bow on the project named after it. What is Cali P's notion of the healing? You just heard it. This is a song about celebrating all of the wonderful music in the world. The song has a very BIG feel to it but it is on a level which firmly has both feet planted on the ground. It's all about how music can affect your life and MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD and really just put you in a nice frame of mind. And, for me, obviously I use music for a variety of different things (I used to play music for my Wife's plants) (and you can laugh at me if you want, I don't care! I know they liked it!) because it is one of the most powerful forces on Earth. "So”:

"LET THEIR BE VIBES!"

In general, I think that one of the main points which is ever-present on the EP is the notion that the 'healing of the nation' first and foremost, is AVAILABLE. You do not have to go to another planet to find it and you don’t have wait for it to fall out of the sky. All you need to do is receive it and, most importantly, when you do receive it DO NOT TAKE IT FOR GRANTED AND APPRECIATE IT! You, YOU SITTING RIGHT THERE can also show some love and appreciation when you pick up one of the best Reggae EP’s of the year, "Healing Of The Nation" by Cali P, which is in stores now. WHAT! BOOM!