Wow! You know in today’s market economy and state of the times, things can be really hard and especially for our artists and musicians. Music sales are down, I recently read an article which remarked on the remarkably bad sales for Reggae music in 2009 from releases from some of our biggest artists (including Vybz Kartel’s LETHAL Pon Di Gaza, (and I do mean lethal) which reportedly sold a whopping EIGHT copies in its first week) and the music business, in general is just becoming a harder industry in which to make a buck, definitely. Therefore, it should be to no one’s surprise that there’re so many of our artists who aren’t able to consistently make album releases, even some of them at the highest level at well. For example, I recently just lost count how many years it’s been since the last time we’ve seen a (legitimate) release from Capleton and as one of the biggest names in the genre altogether and someone who, last time I checked at least, had a viable contract with THE biggest label in the genre, you really move into something curiously strange with his lack of substantial output through the years, even though he’s been steadily plugging away making singles, some of which have been hits, but like I said, I guess times really are that bad. On a far less scale, but arguably just as odd is what has happened in the case of Turbulence who hasn’t had a new studio album in how long. Once known for following in the line of the artists who seemingly don’t like their houses and have to run to the studio day after day to make something for the people, the end of 2009, in about three weeks ago will mark nearly two and a half years since the last new Turbulence album was released. You can even back a couple of years or so with Lady Saw and Sasha (apparently still going on) and others (biggup Rupee) (wherever you may be) (probably resting in Cryostasis until Crop Over), with relatively recent Reggae and Caribbean albums in general which have been terribly delayed. Getting things done on that front is apparently quite difficult and we’re still seeing it today with the delays of expected albums from the likes of NiyoRah, Jahdan Blakkamoore and who knows who in the hell us who are currently experiencing that very same struggle as we speak and as a fan, it’s certainly damn frustrating and while it makes the potential of 2010 even that much more alluring, it would be so much better if we could have it now, wouldn’t it?
That being said, by far THE artist who DEFINITELY knows about the struggles of getting an album out to the masses, especially in 2009, is Lutan Fyah. The incredibly talented chanter from out of Spanish Town has seen his career come to a virtual standstill on the album side internationally as he just can’t seem to get a project out for ANYTHING. This is so despite the fact that he has remained quite active with single releases for producers all across the board and has also reportedly had several projects in the work, but seemingly hasn’t had the associations (or perhaps more likely, the funds) to get much off the ground and onto shelves. Still, we hope (although it’s unlikely) (as hell) that Fyah’s 2010 will prove to be much more plentiful in terms of releases. So with situation after situation falling through consistently, it seemed as if the year would go out without being much more than it already was (and again, with the singles that he’s done, it has been an otherwise decent year for him), but apparently things have changed. If you want something done, you can do them yourself, or you can go to the man with the Midas touch and after struggling to do the former, Lutan Fyah has broken down and gone with the latter as he now releases his very first album in what seems like an eternity and does so with the possessors of said touch. Kemar ‘Flava’ McGregor, the greatest Reggae producer on earth, is apparently set on cracking open his vault of tunes as wide as possible and pushing not only riddim albums, which is his norm (and now he’s going the way of acoustic riddim albums, which is just a BRILLIANT idea) (you really need to hear that stuff), but albums for actual artists and after having worked on pretty much countless albums for countless artists (including at least one for Fyah, the MASSIVE Phantom War from 2006), recently McGregor has taken matters into his own hands. Besides working the vast majority of the near masterpiece that was Chuck Fenda’s recent album Fulfillment, he also released Vibes, from veteran singer Glen Washington on his own coin (although apparently Cousins has now picked it up) and is releasing, virtually simultaneously Let Jah Be Praised from Teflon and this wonderful piece, Music from Lutan Fyah (glad to see that they didn’t waste too much time in naming the album. Of course, were it just up to McGregor, things may have still moved slowly, but he has enlisted the ridiculously capable services of Zojak Worldwide, to provide the world with wonderful Music and thus, Lutan Fyah now has his much sought after album release! Like most of the albums being released on McGregor‘s No Doubt imprint, this project is one largely built on previous singles which have appeared on the labels LOVELY compositions and thus, it probably won’t strike with hardcore fans, but in the digital aspect of things, you can kind of pick and choose and it’s probably quite likely that there is SOMETHING here which you don’t have yet and it also stands well as a unit and comes through really nicely, as does all of Lutan Fyah’s music to me (read - PARTIAL AS HELL). What I found surprising with Music is that, despite the obvious way in which it was ‘collected’, there’s still a kind of a prevailing vibes and a nice sense of cohesion to the vibes as well, which to me, either means that it is the actual music which dominates on Music and what I hear and call ‘cohesion’ is actually McGregor’s cohesion with himself OR, perhaps less likely, the two worked through the past few years with an ear towards someday releasing an album. In either case, I’m not complaining and I like what I hear.
What I hear on the album, mainly, are two things which you almost KNOW are going to be present just going in: The first is, of course, Fyah himself and his ridiculously high level of lyrical abilities which is his calling card to my opinion. And then there’s the fact that when you voice No Doubt riddims, you voice the BEST modern Roots Reggae riddims available in the world right now, so you know the ‘music’ is top notch throughout. it would only seem to make pretty good sense that we start with the most recent work and thus, the first bit of music you’ll here on Lutan Fyah’s loooooooong awaited new album Music is the latest creation from No Doubt, the Ghetto Riddim, which backs the opening social commentary ‘Gangsta Living’. This tune has been on a very nice streak with my own personal tastes and I now rate it just about as big as ANYTHING on the Ghetto and it was so fitting on that riddim as well as on this album (or any other on which it may appear). Big start. We ‘kind of’ go even more recent in terms of release dates on the next tune up ‘Girl Don’t Cry No More’, which is from the Rocksteady Riddim, but is actually the aforementioned alluded to Acoustic cut of the riddim. Having been listening to quite a few of these as of late, it’s very interesting to see which tunes actually seem to IMPROVE over the simplified and stripped down version of the riddim and despite the fact that this riddim is GORGEOUS, I do have to say that I favour this version of the very comfortable sounding love song. Wonderfully, on some level I suppose, I’m given an example of the opposite on the next tune ‘Eden’ on the acoustic set of the Drop It Riddim. See, although I prefer the Rocksteady to the Drop It, Eden is a song, on the other hand, which I prefer hearing across the complete FULL version of that dynamic riddim. Thankfully, however, just as in the case of the tune before it, the original version is included on Music as well.
It is definitely well worth mentioning that despite the fact that the album only checks in at twelve tracks, there are four different ones reserved between two different actual tunes, but I appreciated the contrast and in that same comparison, I find myself not only reopening to Eden, but the Drop It as a whole (which I’ve never been ecstatic about outside of Beres Hammond’s DIVINE ‘I Surrender’) because both are lovely and, of course, the same goes for Girl Don’t Cry No More and the Rocksteady in its original form. Music ended up being a very pleasant short trip down the not too wide musical road and I literally found myself reacting to some of this material as if I hadn’t heard it in YEARS (you see! That’s how long it has been since Fyah dropped a last album). Such was the case (ridiculously) on the album’s title track which flows in over the 83 Riddim from a couple of years back and I don’t know why, but the tune nearly brought tears to my eyes. I’ve always thought very highly of it because of the kind of casual and matter of fact way that Fyah vibes the tune, in a way where it’s almost like he’s a doctor prescribing the music to an ill patient. It is BEAUTIFUL and one of the best tunes on the album named after it. The Trumpet Riddim plays backdrop to the equally lovely ‘Is This Love’ tune which happens to be one of the most lyrically powerful on the album as well, which is saying quite a lot. Definitely tune in specifically to the lyrics on this one and I’ll go further to make the point that between Is This Love and Music (the song), is where I felt that maybe it was all by design to make an album after all, because they play so well together, definitely. My personal favourite single tune from the album comes in next, ‘Screaming For The Poor’ on what is probably STILL my choice as Flava’s biggest riddim to date, the Triumphant. This one gets better and has gotten better for the past few years since it popped up on Phantom War. It is both movingly poignant and just a joy to listen to and you know it hardly gets better than that (if ever) and the tune for me actually is basically to the classic level on its own. HUGE song (which you should know already). And I’ll leap ahead a bit to Music’s closer, ‘Suffering Us’, which actually took me a minute or two to recognize because it comes on the relatively overlooked Flute Riddim (for which my mental point of reference is apparently so CLEARLY a Chezidek tune by the name of ‘Food’). This tune has never struck me as being top notch from Fyah, but it goes to show his levels when he can be not at his best, but still drop what is undeniably a powerful tune and was actually one of the better efforts from that riddim (which you really need to go check out).
Very nicely, there’re three tunes on Music which, for one reason or another, manage to stand out from the rest of the pack and they all come in succession on the album as well. The first is ‘Laugh’ which kind of frustrated me because I recognized it and I didn’t know it because I had NEVER heard it. This, despite the fact that it’s voiced over the very recent Sweet Riddim, and wasn’t on the album and I’ve just never heard it playing either (and after researching it, apparently no one has either). Lutan Fyah’s take on the romantic vibes aren’t what you might think and you definitely want to hear what direction he takes the piece in (“I don’t need a donkey jawbone to laugh”) and as another sign that perhaps this was all planned, maybe it was saved for this album. In any respect, it’s a big tune. Far less frustrating, although equally surprising was the second of the three, ‘Gun’, which actually is a HUGE anti-violence combination which features none other than Roots princess, Etana. I’ve been vibing this SWEET tune for more than a year at this point and have LOVED it from that time and I was surprised it didn’t receive more attention actually. The Tad’s produced tune stands as my choice as the album’s second best tune (at least) and a BIG and significant combination between two of Reggae’s currently most talented. And lastly is ‘Life’, a pretty new tune which flows in through the same recent riddim which backs Glen Washington’s tune ‘Vibes’ . . . oh and it also happens to feature both Gyptian and Perfect alongside Lutan Fyah. I do really like this tune and I’m hoping to maybe see a riddim album for this very ‘showy’ riddim in the future (and I’m almost sure that there will be one) as well. So, like I said, you may go into it expecting a one thing, but Music definitely does have its fair share of very well done twists and turns.
Overall, it’s going to be hard for me to sit up and recommend tunes to people who already have them despite how much of a fan of Lutan Fyah’s I am, but in retrospect, there is a fan who I think this album is quite perfect for and that’s new Lutan Fyah fans. This album is quite ‘new’ in terms of being built presumably exclusively within the past few two to three years or so, so what you have is a version of Lutan Fyah who is, for the most part, a bit more melodically gifted, as opposed to the earlier versions of himself when he was criticized for not being so. There’s no such problem here, ESPECIALLY given the sublimely material he is given with which to work, so new fans who haven’t been paying a close attention, but want something a bit more flashy to sink their teeth into, you may do very well with Music. As for older heads: Hey, believe me, I know your situation (because I’m one of you), and I know you were scratching your head wondering when or even IF a next Lutan Fyah album was going to be coming down, but unfortunately you’ll just have to remain a bit more patient. I’m sure he has something in the works (maybe even before the end of the year) (I wouldn’t put it past him at this point) and who knows, maybe we won’t have to wait the incredibly long . . . ONE FUCKING DAY . . . To get it. Well done.
No Doubt Records/Zojak Worldwide