Friday, September 4, 2009

Colours. Colours Forever.: Ranking Soca Gold

While the question of if/when Soca music can take itself to the proverbial 'next level' or the even more proverbial 'mainstream', for those of us who actually follow the music, there is increasingly becoming no room for improvement on what is BY FAR the most intense type of music in the world. The greatest strides towards the 'mainstream' remains (consistently) the Soca Gold album series from the industry's leader, VP Records, who puts the music in position and on a stage where you simply cannot overlook it if you pay any attention at all to Caribbean music. Started way back in 1997, Soca Gold now stands at thirteen editions deep and memories on top of colourful memories to be had. Thus, I submit for your approval, how they match up against each other: Soca Gold from good, to BEST.

#13. Soca Gold 2003

Don’t make the mistake AT ALL of assuming that this album, just because it comes in last, was BAD because it most certainly wasn’t and the very fact that it ranks this low on the list speaks to the relative consistency of the Soca Gold series. SG 2003 was colourful indeed with Bunji Garlin alongside the late and great Onika Bostic on the albums opener Get On Bad and two songs which I still LOVE to this day - Dawg E Slaughter’s Trample and 3Suns We Eh Leaving. Solid efforts form the likes of Edwin Yearwood (DUH), Blazer and Adesh Samaroo rounded things out.

Maddest Moment: Trample by Dawg-E-Slaughter

#12. Soca Gold 1998

As just the second installment of the series, Soca Gold 1998 was somewhat ‘stuck’ in terms of what it was and what it was doing. The album lacked the ‘newness’ of the first edition and as just the second installment in the series, it wasn’t exactly in a position to be already considered ‘groundbreaking’ or such. So what did it do? Soca Gold 1998 called on Onyan’s Crazy Man, Antigua’s Road March winner from the previous year; both Alison Hinds’ In The Meantime & Edwin Yearwood’s Highway Robbery, Barbados’ tied Road March champions from ‘97, Super Blue’s Ato Party which took TnT Soca Monarch in 1998 and (as if that weren’t enough) (and it was) Square One’s MASSIVE Turn It Around and Beenie Man of all people to save the day. Mission accomplished.

Maddest Moment: Turn It Around by Square One

#11. Soca Gold 2009

There is NO CHANCE IN HELL that I’m not underrating SG09 because I most certainly am as it was (until next year rolls around, then the distinction will belong to SG2K10) definitely the album where I most knew the music before the actual album was release. I had been listening to some of the tunes, in some cases since the New Year and, in some cases, was already TIRED of them. Still, the three headed monster of top tunes: Destra’s Bacchanal, Blaxx’ Tusty and Skinny Fabulous’ EPIC 2008 Vincy Soca Monarch winning Head Bad [On De Spot] were top notch. Not far behind was a nice cache of ‘supporting characters’ including Handle Ya Bizniz from Edwin Yearwood, Patrice Roberts on Lookin Hott, Zoelah’s Wine Up On Me and Plenty Gal, a combination between Bunji Garlin and The Doctor.

Maddest Moment: Bacchanal by Destra Garcia

#10. Soca Gold 1997

The granddaddy of them all. It only took VP Records four years or so to begin to attempt to duplicate the type of successes it registered with Reggae Gold with its ‘neighbour’ Soca. Looking back at it now, it’s almost hilarious that VP would have went as far as to take Beenie Man and Lady Saw to combine on a track which had already been popular in the Dancehall and give it a Soca rinsing for the album. Of course SG97 also featured Soca royalty also and most notably in the form of both Ent from Ronnie McIntosh and the immortal Super Blue’s Barbara, both tunes had tied in TnT Soca Monarch earlier that year. Excellent efforts from Krosfyah (DUH), Iwer George, Denise Belfon and Rupee (as part of his former band Coalishun) were also on hand.

Maddest Moment: Barbara by Super Blue

#9. Soca Gold 2000

Soca Gold 2000 didn’t waste very much time at all showing off the ‘secret weapon’ as it was the first album in the series to feature future SUPERSTAR Bunji Garlin. The Fireman would make the most of his appearance as he delivered one of his biggest hits to date still, Gimme Di Brass, and he wasn’t the only one doing big things at the turn of the century. Soca Gold 2000 also featured a BIG combination from Lil Rick & Alison Hinds (still sparring almost a decade later) in Ruff Winers, KMC’s Boat Ride and big tunes from Square One (the MADNESS that was Roller Coaster) and Ronnie McIntosh. And Grenada’s finest, taking best tune honours.

Maddest Moment: Old Woman Alone by Tallpree

#8. Soca Gold 2003

The fact that Camille Marshall in all of her BEAUTIFUL GLORY covered the 2003 installment of the series certainly didn’t hurt (neither did the fact that the inside over features her in various forms of undress) its standing on this list nor did the fact that it was EASILY one of the most ENTERTAINING moments in the series’ thirteen year history. Interesting is the arrangements of the tracks which begin with the future Mr. & Mrs. Ian Avarez with Faye-Ann Lyons, still a part of Invazion Band, checking in first with her first Road March winner, Display from the previous year and Bunji, himself, alongside Shammi on the Chutney infused hybrid Soca Bhangra. More still (and maybe even better) were efforts from Dawg-E-Slaughter (BOUNCE), Ghetto Flex & Denise Belfon (Wine & Bend Over), FLO P.G.’s HYPE 2 Nasty, KMC’s HILARIOUS Doh Want To Know, Iwer George’s EPIC Ah Home and, of course, Rupee’s boomshot, Tempted 2 Touch.

Maddest Moment: Tempted To Touch by Rupee

#7. Soca Gold 2002

This was the first piece of the series that I actually bought (and I think I started listening to 2003’s version before it) and, by those standards, some of this stuff is CLASSIC material for me. The album definitely sets the stage for ‘03 as it was DAMN entertaining throughout and features quite a few big names with some others also playing a big part. It also marked, I THINK, the debut in the series of Shurwayne Winchester. Highlights included Invazion’s Trinidad (’02‘s TnT Road March), The Blue Ventures’ Chances, South South West’s ADDICTIVE Wave Wide Me, Rupee’s Blame It On De Music and the hilarious Bitein Incex. And it wasn’t until you got to the second half of the album when the best song here revealed itself in all of its ENCHANTING character.

Maddest Moment: My Love by Da Bhann

#6. Soca Gold 2008

Simply musically speaking, the 2008 season was my own personal choice for the BEST that I’ve ever experienced and it’s well reflected in some of the selections on SG08 although, in retrospect, maybe the album wasn’t as strong as it could’ve been. The album marked the series debuts of both Patrice Roberts (Wukkin Up) and Ricky T (Pressure Boom) and they didn’t even reach the heights of the toppers of the piece which consisted of Faye-Ann Lyons’ Get On which earned her another Road March title (and a Soca Monarch crown also. . .but that’s another discussion) and Blaxx’ MESS Breathless! Mr. Dale’s Soka Junkie Crop Over Road March from the previous year, the MASSIVE Soka Junkie as well as El-A-Kru’s (Tizzy) Kick It Off, also didn’t go unnoticed.

Maddest Moment: Breathless by Blaxx

#5. Soca Gold 2006

Soca Gold 2006 was an album which showed just how DEVASTATINGLY effective Soca music could be presented as it was one of the best looking packaged albums I have EVER seen. It definitely looked as if VP had taken a great deal of care in piecing it together and it was also the first album here which featured a DVD (instead of the second mix CD which had become customary). Oh, and the music wasn’t bad either. It was the ladies dominating with Faye-Ann taking two of the top tunes, the WICKED Party alongside lady lyrics machine Miss Alysha and her very own That Is Carnival. She was joined by Nadia Batson’s infectious One Island and Roy Cape’s latest find Rita Jones’ EXCELLENT Carnival Feeling. The boys are did well, headlined by Bunji, KMC, Explainer and Iwer although their ‘case’ would have been better had EITHER of Shurwayne Winchester’s big hits from the season, Open The Gate and Alequa, been included.

Maddest Moment: That Is Carnival by Faye-Ann Lyons

#4. Soca Gold 2001

After introducing Bunji Garlin to the series on 2000’s edition, Soca Gold 2001 gave an even bigger reason why the young artist was one to keep an eye on as they handed over to him no less than two different tracks. One of the tunes, Licks, was an INSANE lyrical display against those men who like to take things which are not theirs. Bunji, definitely the highlight had help from Barbados’ 2000 Road March winner, Jump by Rupee, Traffik’s EXCELLENT Bounce Me, Grenada’s 2000 Road March, The Grave The Jail The Hospital by Tallpree, Miss TC’s pan heavy J’Ouvert Morning and Garlin’s future Father-In-Law on Spirit To Wave.

Maddest Moment: Fete Is Fete by Bunji Garlin

#3. Soca Gold 2007

SG07 was a literal combination of vibes from 2003 and the look and feel of 2006 and it was downright EXPLOSIVE! I can honestly say that I don’t dislike ANY tune on the album (a quality I may not even be able to say about the two albums that I have ranked over it) and I damn near love them all. Kimberley Iniss got a wicked vibe started with her Carnival Symphony, Blaxx made his series debut, Faye-Ann had a HUGE tune with Make A Stage [M.A.S.], Peter Ram’s LOVELY Woman By My Side was here, Olatunji’s crazy Get Wild, Mr. Dale with Born Fa Dis, Slaughter was back in fine form with Spread The Love, Bunji Garlin took the year off from Soca Monarch but had a big tune with Blaze It Up anyway and they even put the Expose remix here. What else could I ask for??? Oh yeah **SHE** was here for the first time too!

Maddest Moment: I Dare You by Destra Garcia

#2. Soca Gold 1999

Soca Gold 1999 was the very first installment in this series, to my opinion, which made no reservations about the fact that it wanted to hit the listener over the head with the heaviest vibes that it could find and then hit you again (and Super Blue wasn’t even on the album)! Most of the big tunes here were of a pretty hard nature and the ‘cooler’ pieces were EXCELLENT and I absolutely love(d) it in all of its ridiculousness including the most ridiculous of them all, Rupee’s Titanic, El-A-Kru’s (sans Tizzy) Lethal Batty, I Run De Party from De Boss, Ronnie McIntosh’s Release It and Dust Dem, which earned Kurt Allen his first and only TnT Soca Monarch title.

Maddest Moment: De River by Blue Ventures

#1. Soca Gold 2005

The total package. If you like Soca, however you like it, Soca Gold 2005 is for you. It had songs of all varieties in its eighteen tracks (GOOD SONGS) and, of course, the big names were present too, including arguably the biggest of them all for the first time in the series (TWICE), I believe. Like Groovy? Check Body Water by Mini Priest (you have no idea how many times I typed that to make it sound halfway decent), the even bigger Turn ‘Round by Hot Sand [Bomani] and even bigger still was Sleeping In Your Bed by Michelle Sylvester which won her TnT’s first Groovy Monarch crown ever awarded. Like the heavy stuff? Bunji Garlin was on SG05 THREE times, including his own HUGE tune Right Now and the big combination alongside Edwin Yearwood, All Aboard 2k5 and never mind Machel Montano’s Madder Dan Dat (or that other thing he does here. Hope you like Chutney). Explainer (and Bunji Garlin), Scrunter and Blackie also had you covered if you like it old school also. Donella Weeks, Sanell Dempster (with the moving Recurrence), Sexy Tricia & Ravi Band Blazer also were in fine form. It had everything and it also has my vote as the best edition of Soca Gold, period.

Maddest Moment: Mor Tor by Rikki Jai & Machel Montano

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