Maestro - Greatest Hitz [Charlie’s Records/VP Records]
First up this week is a title which nearly ‘de-chaired’ my Father when I told him about it (I wonder what how he responded when he actually got it), a greatest hits album from the late and great calypsonian Maestro. Maestro is (definitely according to my Father) (and many of others, of course) one of the most well regarded artists from the Calypso dominant era in Trinidad and one whose MAJOR talent was regarded as his incredible writing ability and he was apparently just generally well liked as well. Well, being a great writer and a great human being are two things which tend to help in the music business as evident by the fact that Maestro could, in effect, when his very first Soca Monarch crown more than thirty years after his death. It’s safe to say that because of Bunji Garlin’s redo of one of the Maestro’s most popular efforts, ‘Fiery’, in 2008, with which he took (stole) the Monarch title (from his wife), that Maestro, today, is certainly one of the most popular deceased Calypsonians in the world. Thankfully, Charlie’s Records (distributed by VP) has added a bit of an introductory/refresher course for listeners. Besides the original version of Fiery, listeners can expect quite a few more of Maestro’s favourites including ‘Bionic Man‘, ‘Boom Bam’ and ‘Rampage’. Also, I should mention, if you don’t AT ALL, find the older Calypso appealing, then just grab up Fiery, the vibes, for the most part, are quite HEAVY Calypso and not so much the jump up you’ll find Soca, obviously.
Best Tune: Fiery!
Massive B Records Presents World Domination Riddim [Massive B Records]
Despite the facts that new (and GOOD) Roots Reggae labels all over the globe seem to pop up on a semi-weekly/monthly basis, you’ll notice that the same isn’t at all the case in reference to the Dancehall. Dancheall labels of any type of substance are almost always Caribbean based. The one exception (unless I’m REALLY forgetting someone) has always been the very popular Bobby Konders and crew at the New York, New York USA based Massive B (and they do Roots also). Now bringing their latest release is Konders and co. with they HYPE World Domination Riddim. I wonder if it’s because he has the title track or if Massive B just recognizes the nearly LETHAL beating he lays on the riddim, why they chose to feature Assassin on the cover (and as the first track). What ‘Sassin does to the World Domination is just WRONG AS FUCK! It’s not quite useless after he leaves it (in shambles) but no other artist reaches those scintillating levels. There’s a nice group trying however, lead by the Doctor and also Massive B regulars, Choppa Chop, Red Fox and Burro Banton.
Best Tune: DUH! World Domination by Assassin
Mark Wonder - Battle Axe EP [Special Delivery]
You know me. I’m always trying to be the publicist for the artists who either seem to not have one at all or the artists who may have one, but one who is. . . Just not too good at their job (watch I get an email from Mark Wonder’s publicist tomorrow!). The fact that more people don’t know the name Mark Wonder is really a damn shame! The singer is undoubtedly one of the most talented Roots singers (and artists in general) on the scene today and he’s also ACTIVE. If you just pay a ‘pretty good’ level of attention, however, you might not even know it. Well, besides that virtually invisible album he had out earlier this year, he also has an EP, named after what I believe is his own label, Battle Axe. The music here is done by the find Frenchie label, Special Delivery and is outstanding throughout the four tunes on the piece, which is built via strong previous singles on some of SD’s riddims. It’s interesting, however, that my favourite tune is the one which I’ve never heard before. It’s also worth mentioning that Special Delivery did a similar thing with Queen Omega on Revolution and (at least not yet) an album never came forth so, don’t hold your breath for that here, but definitely if you haven’t been paying much attention to Mark Wonder, the Battle Axe EP is just as good a place to start as any.
Best Tune: Nothing A Gwaan
Blackboard Jungle Vol. 1: Respect The Foundation [Subatomic Sound]
For all of you entirely too cool Dub heads out there, this one is probably some of the biggest and best pieces of news you’ve had all year (there’s also supposedly a Dubbed out version of Yami Bolo’s Rebelution out there, which is ridiculous if true) as the highly regarded and esteemed Subatomic Sound from out of New York and the inimitable Dubblestandart link up to present Blackboard Jungle Vol 1. My readers know I’m not, and probably never will be, as up on Dub as I should be and definitely not Dub from the modern era, however, I still know FLOP when I see FLOP and I still know BORING when I see BORING and the material that you’ll grab here is certainly neither one of those. Within its five tracks, listeners can expect to hear strong contributions from the ‘co-discoverer’ of the Blackboard Jungle, the LEGENDARY Scratch Perry, arguably the biggest name in the genre these days, the aforementioned Dubblestandart and, of course what would any album ANYWHERE be without Jahdan Blakkamoore (I swear the man’s been cloned or something with as much work as he does). And not only that, but also running alongside Blackboard Jungle Vol 1 is a DOCUMENTARY, making it much less of a dub album and much more of a dub experience.
Higher Priest Riddim [No Doubt Records/Zojak Worldwide]
Quickly here is another BEAUTIFUL release from best the world’s strongest Roots Reggae producer, Kemar ‘Flava’ McGregor’s No Doubt Records (ran digitally via the coolest people on the planet, Zojak Worldwide), the Higher Priest riddim. You may recognize this one from the fact that the same tune which gets it going is the same one which serves the exact opposite purpose on Chuck Fenda’s recently released album, the MASSIVE Fulfillment, ‘Our Father’. I’m kind of ‘of two minds’ regarding the origins (and didn’t I say “quickly”???) of the Higher Priest, from a time standpoint as making appearances on the riddim are BOTH Prestige and Nesbeth who once seemed to be favourites of McGregor’s (and I think Nesbeth even was/is an official No Doubt artist), but rarely ever seem to voice for him these days. They’re joined by far more ‘usual’ and current regulars, Fenda, Glen Washington and Ginjah amongst others and like I said, regardless of WHEN it was created, the Nyah THUMPED Higher Priest is top notch and exactly what you would expect from a producer on this level.
Best Tune: Our Father by Chuck Fenda
Truckback EP’s [Truckback Records/Zojak Worldwide]
And finally: Truckback has really been making strides as one of the more active (and BETTER) Jamaican labels going as of late and if you don’t keep your ear to the street and scoop up EVERYTHING there is to find, then certainly what’s going on here is going to be something you’re well going to enjoy. The label (digitally through??? Yep. Zojak), has released four EP’s from two ’here and nowers’ one ’up and comer’ and a legend, in Erup, [Lady] Spice, official Truckback artist Baijie [aka ’The Man With The Hat] (I came up with that) and Beenie Man, respectively. The pieces are simply built with some of the artists’ singles for Truckback’s productions (such as the flawless Gearbox riddim, which is also available) and, they’re all very good. For my opinion, I’d have to go with Erup’s if you forced me to pick one. But the INSANELY talented Spice does excellently as well, Beenie Man pretty much goes without saying and definitely keep your eye on Baijie (who reportedly has an album coming through Truckback early in 2K10, Equilibrium), a future star in the game as well (STRANGELY talented with the word that Baijie is).
Single Best Tune: Click Mi Finger by Erup