The Ghetto Symphony Riddim [True Sounds]
First up this week is a ‘secret weapon’ of sorts that I’ve been sitting on for about almost two months and it’s just set to drop so I thought that I’d FINALLY let you know about it. Truesounds, a young label headed by the one Jah Grasshopper from out of the UK is set to release the very strong and somewhat strange (strong + strange = ’strounge’???) Ghetto Symphony Riddim which features two efforts, from Turbulence and UK deejay YT, respectively. The riddim is vibed very unusually, it kind of goes into some Hip-Hop, which certainly isn’t my favourite style, but it’s either not very far from Reggae, or . . . I don’t even know. There’s something pretty damn addictive about the riddim. It also gives Turbulence one of his stronger tunes in recent memory with ‘Tired’ (which has gotten CONSIDERABLY better almost every time I’ve listened it) and continues a solid streak from YT as well with ‘Stress’. Definitely give this one a listen at the very least.
Releases on February 15
Byron Lee & The Dragonaires - The Man and His Music [VP Records/17 North Parade]
This one is probably going to make me cry. Flat out and simple! About fifteen months ago we lost one of the most treasured musicians anywhere in the world, of all time, the legendary ‘Dragon’, Mr. Byron Lee and fittingly now, his former label home VP Records, are delivering what is almost certain to be the greatest single collection of his and the Dragonaires’ work to date with The Man & His Music. Also, it speaks further to the downright DESTRUCTIVE nature of VP’s outstanding classic/reissue label, 17 N. Parade, and it becomes one of my favourite releases from the sub-label in its very short and WONDERFUL life. From what I can tell, if it’s not one of the FORTY-EIGHT tracks on the two discs on this album, then you just don’t need it. Also included are my own personal favourites, ‘Tiny Winey’ and ‘Give Me Soca’ (back-to-back) no less. Long live The Dragon!
Potential Rating: 1,409/5
Releases on February 16
Ziggy Marley Presents Dancehall Originators Vol. 1 [Tuff Gong]
The second of quite a few HUGE names for this week checks in here as Ziggy Marley brings forth Dancehall Originators Vol. 1. This album strikes me quite a bit like VP’s Dancehall 101 series and it probably features material which has built those compilations over the year (of course, those releases weren’t blessed with a name like Ziggy’s to helm matters, however). Listeners can expect familiar names like the late Dirtsman, King Yellowman, Josey Wales and Charlie Chaplain (and Buju too), but still I have to say that standing out for me PERSONALLY is of course one of my own personal favourites from longtime, General Trees. The album kicks off what is expected to be a HUGE year for Tuff Gong and the Marley family as well.
Potential Rating: 4/5
Releases on February 1
Covers For Reggae Lovers [VP Records]
The first of two such releases from the VP/Greensleeves camp, Covers For Reggae Lovers, unlike a few of the Lover’s Rock compilations you’ll notice has a very nice twist to it because it mixes in some of the TRULY bigger named artists around and doing some big material as well. Of course, as the title suggests, what you’re going to get here is love songs from various genres done by Reggae (or Reggae-ish) artists. I’ll be completely honest, I don’t even recognize some of the names on this album and some of this stuff goes FAR closer to R&B than to Reggae, but it’s made relevant for the Reggae head by the presence of people like Luciano, Jamelody, Tarrus Riley (no way in hell he doesn’t have the best tune on the album) (NONE) and of course, the king of Reggae covers, Sanchez. Still, I think it’s probably more curious fans of other genres who’ll probably eat this one up more (as for me I’ll be busy wishing they moved that HORRIBLY placed graphic out of the way on the cover).
Potential Rating: 3.75/5
Releases on February 9
Songs for Reggae Lovers 3 [Greensleeves Records]
And for Reggae heads, there’s this release. How WONDERFUL is it that there’s an album of Lover’s Rock and instead of just being filled with the usual lights of the subgenre, it is populated by names like Etana (alongside Alborosie), Tarrus Riley, FANTAN MOJAH (WHAT!), ZIGGI and Gappy Ranks (on the Sugar riddim no less)??? To me, that’s a big deal and even if it isn’t for you and you want the tried and true, then the same project has input from the likes of Dennis Brown, Cocoa Tea, Half Pint, Beres Hammond, Freddie McGregor and Frankie Paul. This thirty track monster is all of that and I’m kind of intrigued and I may even slap a review on this potentially LOVELY release as well.
Potential Rating: 4.75/5
Releases on February 9
In Stores Now
Gregory Isaac Meets Roy Francis At The Mixing Lab [Mixing Lab Productions/Zojak Worldwide]
A little very reliable birdie (with a cool ass name) told me about this one a few days ago and she was nearly raving about it and as it turns out, justly so. I’ve maintained for the last few years or so that the legendary Gregory Isaacs just hasn’t been sounding very good and I still maintain that, but it certainly doesn’t mean that he can’t push very good material as evident by Gregory Isaacs Meets Roy Francis At The Mixing Lab. I’m not going to oversell this one none at all, it’s not going to change your life and you’re not going to be totally awed by it, but the nine tunes which appear here are just STRONG. They are very well done and you really shouldn’t expect less from Isaacs and such a venerable and well regarded station as The Mixing Lab and Roy Francis.
Anthony B - Free Up The General [Truckback Records/Zojak Worldwide]
Obviously not wanting to waste any time (AT ALL), the fine people at Truckback Records (biggup Heather), put a rush order on a new Anthony B project and what they’ve come up with is Free Up The General, named after B’s tune trumpeting the cause of incarcerated superstar Buju Banton. The piece is essentially a swollen EP, featuring seven tunes from Anthony B from various Truckback productions (including ‘Put It Pon Har’ across the unforgettable Gearbox riddim). This is some of his better Dancehall work over the last few years to my opinion and while I also felt that much of the music that Anthony B put out in 2009 was frankly substandard for the most part, perhaps a release like this can kick start him into a MUCH stronger 2010.
Honeycomb Riddim [Payday Music]
Although I’m quite familiar with this one, I just got it not too long ago in full (biggup that guy from Payday) so I’m not going to call it just yet. The Honeycomb Riddim is a creation of Payday Music (which is Bounty Killer’s label and you know them on this blog as having recently released his own MASSIVE EP Raise Hell On Hellboy) and pretty much features a ‘who’s-who’ of the Killer’s Alliance camp (not so surprisingly, both Vybz Kartel and Aidonia are NOWHERE to be found). The riddim, which was actually created by Austin ‘Kevin’ Green, isn’t what you might imagine having heard Payday’s previous release as the Honeycomb has a bit more colour in it and is seemingly less concerned with bashing its listener over the head (which I certainly don’t have a problem with). It has a little bit of Hip-Hop/club type of flavour to it as well, which isn’t a bad thing here with names like Bounty himself, Mavado, Demarco (twice), Assailant and the BRUTAL Einstein on board as they simply don’t let things fall too much towards the dim side and brighten this one up very nicely and . . . Yeah, it’s a big deal.
Don Carlos - Changes [Don Carlos Music]
And lastly this week is a new album from a very esteemed artist in Don Carlos who I’ve never really been the biggest fan of honestly, Changes. I wasn’t even going to mention this one, but two things have to be said: The first is that ‘Really & Truly’ is really and truly an AWESOME tune. I LOVE this song and while the album certainly starts strong, by its end, I think it waivers off a bit, that song makes up for it all. It is GORGEOUS! And the other thing I’m sure you’ve already figured out is the fact that the cover is really and truly a beautiful thing and Soca Gold or Reggae Gold will really and truly have to roll out a creature of divinity which I don’t believe I’ve ever seen in my entire life to top it for cover of the year. Still, it should be said that Don Carlos’ throngs and throngs of fans should probably happily eat this one up and not be disappointed either.