Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Review Of Trinidad Stories by David Rudder

If you’re at all like me right now (and chances are that if you’re going to read this after seeing that picture and that headline) then you’re probably waiting to see what and who comes out of Trinidad’s recently ended Soca season 2009 and what exactly they come out with. Like pretty much each and every other year, its right after (and sometimes during) the season where many of the biggest names in Soca and Calypso go on the international road and with them, they take copies of they’re new albums! These albums can serve as almost anything as, usually, if you’ve been paying attention at all, an album will be generally no more than thirteen tracks or so and it will be complete with remixes and such and will virtually be a compilation of that particular artists work for that season. Thus, pending on the artist and just how much exactly you’ve been paying attention to them (and how much of a fruitful year they’ve had), besides a road mix or two there is a VERY good chance that you can get an album which is little more than a collector’s item as you know, word-for-word each and every tune on the album. Which means that they’re generally made for the somewhat ‘fair-weathered’ or ‘casual’ Soca/Calypso fans or those who just happen to be REALLY into the music (like your’s truly). These albums are also VERY easy to produce and compile for the one or two labels which put them out (because the work is already done) and, as I said, pretty good ideas for the artists and labels alike (especially for the labels because MOST people have no other way of getting these tunes). Just looking at this year alone, and I’m sure I’m probably overlooking someone already but two big names in Soca have already dropped albums, KMC and Destra. KMC’s album, I Am Who I Am is pretty solid and I do confess that I’m not a very large fan of his, but, seemingly I always enjoy his albums (which I guess that does, technically, make me a fan of his???), such as last year’s edition, Born As A Winner. And Destra’s album, HOTT, is a wonderful example as even before physically receiving (my copy will be home when I get there) I’ve already heard like eight of the ten tracks on the album). And being a BIG fan of hers I definitely look forward to it still. There are also albums around from the likes of 3Canal, Kes The Band, who aren’t usually annual players in terms of albums, at least not to my knowledge, with artists like Machel Montano, Bunji Garlin and perhaps even Patrice Roberts yet to come. Like I said, its usually for the uninitiated and the fans WAY in overdrive but sometimes, its REALLY REALLY helpful.

Welcome to sometime! There are but a few artists from out of the Caribbean who have genuinely made a powerful impact in the music who I would say that I don’t know a great deal about. The first that comes to mind would probably be Eddy Grant. The Guyana born music superstar might be the most embarrassingly glaring ’gap’ in my musical knowledge and even though I downright SWEAR someday I’m just going to start taking a heavy look into it, I never do (this despite having a Trinidadian Grandmother who grew in Guyana and plays Grant’s music in her house (where I am RIGHT NOW) pretty much endlessly). And another would be David Rudder. This perhaps is even more embarrassing as my own father (another Trini, born and grew) is one of David Rudder’s biggest fans and played his music in his house sometimes. David Rudder is quite easily one of the most respected names in Trinidad altogether, especially musically speaking and worldwide as far as their musical exports as you can literally see him playing in shows at ANYTIME in ANY corner of the globe to packed crowds. I actually, long before I was really paying attention to his more current productions was pretty much DRAGGED to a show of his by my father in (I THINK IT WAS) New York on the weekend of my 20th birthday (I THINK) and back then even though I hadn’t fully opened to Soca music (I was born and primarily raised in Jamaica until I was fifteen and Soca was, more or less, a bad word in my house. So obviously having since then becoming more and more into my Trinidadian side (and LOVING IT) and definitely being bitten by the Soca bug more than a few times over, its probably time I start to get to know about David Rudder. Being an album specialist and seeing as Rudder is still pretty active these days in doing just that, tracking down albums is an EXCELLENT way to catch up. Rudder also gave me quite a ’help’ as he has released tunes now in two seasons consecutively with some of my favourite modern Soca artists and both of them are now released on Trinidad Stories, David Rudder’s new 2009 album and, by my count, his first full studio effort since 2006’s The Cricket Chronicles (which I also now own) and he has released quite a few since the turn of the century, despite missing 2008 and ‘07. Trinidad Stories comes via one of the most frustratingly important labels in all of the world, J&W Records. J&W has some of the WORSE distribution from any label that I’ve come into contact with as they seem to almost REVEL (no pun intended) in the fact that they’re music isn’t at many of the majors distributors. This, despite the fact that they have released albums from ANYBODY who is prominent in Soca, Destra Garcia, Bunji Garlin, Machel Montano (even last year) KMC, Shurwayne Winchester and David Rudder (and if you happen to be from that label, Amazon! Itunes! Etc. . .???) they definitely have a large impact in the business and there are other labels like Faluma (who has done a VERY good job in the past few years or so and happen to be the international home for another of my favourites, Tizzy and El-A-Kru) as well but, generally, my first point of reference for a STRICTLY Soca label (which excludes VP) is J&W Records. Trinidad Stories is a bit more fun and up-tempo and ‘current’ release from Rudder and is a very good time throughout for new fans and old alike.

As I said, the real attraction for me on Trinidad Stories, tangibly, was the fact that over the past two years or so, Rudder has made himself more available to the youthful fans (of which I am) by doing combinations with some of the current Soca royalty and the Soca/Calypso MASTER definitely meshes well with them, some of my favourites. Getting things started on David Rudder’s Trinidad Stories is exactly such a tune and in this year in particular, you couldn’t get any bigger than this one. 3 Colours is a song just generally about Trinidadian pride for this season (which is generally a WONDERFUL theme throughout the album) and joining him are two of DEFINITELY the biggest and brightest lights to be a proud Trini (or half Trini) this year musically, Soca power couple Faye-Ann Lyons (who just officially took Trinidad Road March 2009) and Bunji Garlin. 3 Colours is MASSIVE! The tune is more on a lyrical level as opposed to the jump up and wave variety which Bunji and especially Faye-Ann tend to specialize in. What I thought when I first heard it was that he was attempting to do something on a more current level similar to one of the greatest songs I’ve ever heard which took me FOREVER to figure out that Rudder had actually made, Trini 2 De Bone. 3 Colours isn’t quite on that level (that song is somewhat out in the stratosphere, one of the greatest ever made really) but its GREAT in its own right and definitely the star of Trinidad Stories. Holding the unenviable task of following 3 Colours is a tune which I THINK was on a promo that I had gotten actually with the opener (or it may have just had its own) the very well done Children Of The Flag. Again, as is the majority of the class of Trinidad Stories, this one is basically about Trini pride and also very lyrical as well. Children Of The Flag also has a ’bigger’ vibe to it in terms of the melody and I love how he talks about the diversity of the people on the second verse (I THINK) and it just generally pills a very nice feeling and is an excellent tune definitely. Completing the opening of Trinidad Stories is the other tune which finds Rudder coming through alongside current Soca royalty, Oil & Music from last year which features the legend alongside the soon to be legendary Machel Montano HD. This tune was also featured on Machel’s last album, Flame On (aka Wining Season) and is another very strong piece about loving Trinidad. It has a bit more flare and twists in it than either of the two previous tunes (such is Montano’s style) but really, at it’s core it’s a nice vibe and was quite popular last year (Machel also combined with The Sparrow last year for Conga Man). Very very well done opening for the album.

As someone who is still getting to the point of REALLY learning Soca/Calypso I always find it interesting to look back at the elder artists, because a great deal of them typically don’t really vibe the way the ‘jump up’ artists do today but they tend to specialize more in the finesse than the strength style. Such a downright GLORIOUS display does Rudder put on when giving respect to his hometown and Belmont. This one is just BEAUTIFUL from start to finish and it’s very accessible (I would definitely recommend it to R&B and Pop heads). One of the album’s finest. Things pick up (in terms of tempo) when Down Time rolls through with a slightly more Soca-ish techno style. I do have complaints about this one because of the odd vocals which I can’t tell if they are intentional or by accident but they don’t quite seem to be right. The lyrics are quite nice though and border on funny at times, definitely check out that one, one of the stranger offerings on Trinidad Stories. Speaking of Soca and ODD, check the damn near addictive Carnival Tuesday. I don’t think there is actually ANY music on the tune, instead the ‘riddim’ is composed of 100% mouth noises (dare I even say beat-boxing!???) which provides the backing for a tune which went from annoying as hell, to one of my favourites on the album in a matter of about 5 spins or so. DEFINITELY check out Carnival Tuesday (which was yesterday actually). Trini Prance is a tune with a live feel, I don’t actually know if the entire tune was recorded in Germany or if they just used that intro, although the entire tune does have that feel. This one is a dance song (DUH) with a sweet Calypso vibes for the older heads, I think I like my Calypso (at least sounding) with a more live feel as well (biggup Chalkdust) so at least for me Trini Prance is one of the best tunes on TS. Speaking of SWEET, while I think Lullaby kind of misses the boat on that one, Burma certainly doesn’t have a similar problem with just an EXOTIC sound to it and I don’t know if I want to call it an R&B or maybe even a Gospel type of vibes as Rudder delivers a tune obviously inspired by a recent trip he must’ve had to the Southern Asian country (you literally hear chimes and birds going behind the riddim on the tune). The tune itself is definitely of a social/political nature but that sound (ESPECIALLY! The beginning) is divine. Zimbabwe Mash Up is a similar political vibes on the tune (instead of the other type of mash up, I was hoping for) and definitely not as strong to my ears as Burma, but its still something to check out as well. Trinidad Stories comes to its end at an Oil & Music remix called In De Coil which is essentially a stripped down road mix of the original. It’s okay (as is the Belmot Remix) and a decent, yet expected, end to the album.

Overall, I think I’d go into the fans who I’ve heard quite a bit of saying that when Rudder moves into more of the political and social commentaries music isn’t quite what it is when he goes into the more fun vibes. I like the tunes here which have somewhat of that vibes but does it where its about Trinidad, of course you can’t just tell the man to do songs like that (because he’s a grown ass man and can do whatever he wants) but his history (or just the bit of it that I know) would suggest that. That being said, Trinidad Stories is still a very solid album. Its not just some Soca album so if you’re looking for the jump up and you’re not too familiar with David Rudder’s music then you may want to stay away for this one if that‘s what you‘re looking for. Trinidad Stories is one for the more mature crowds. Its often said that Soca music isn’t a style which exactly lends itself to be very politically structured unlike its sibling Dancehall and Reggae. If you’re looking for something to bridge the gap then Trinidad Stories is for you and join me in digging for the rest and learning the legend that is David Rudder.

JW Records

No comments:

Post a Comment