Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"Well Hello Again": A Review of Yami Bolo's Rebelution In Dub

I think that there’s like some record player in the sky where great old albums go, as sort of waiting room and a waiting period, between first releasing and becoming eventually heralded as classics. It’s just so interesting to me that you can surf around online and literally find TONS more information about a thirty year old album than you can find for one that’s in that downright purgatory-ish five to eight year old range, save for the absolute most popular ones. In Reggae music, this is even a more unfortunate case because of the nature of our music, still being somewhat ‘obscure’ (although I hate that word in that context, you look around this blog and tell me how obscure this is) and it’s often difficult to find information on brand new releases, when you get more hard to find than that, albums can literally VANISH. Keeping them alive is another issue in and of itself and one which is quickly becoming more and more interesting by the day and most certainly by the year with the development of the digital market. Albums (and even artists to a degree) can figuratively ‘survive’ in cyberspace seemingly into perpetuity and although they may never again gain the type of exposure they did at first (or they may), fans like you and me can retrieve them with just the push of a few keys. And as an extension to that, hopefully all of those very hard to find late 1990’s/early 2000’s albums are either already available digitally or on their way. You also STILL have the more traditional method of re-issuing albums, the old fashion way, through CD’s and such and over the past few years, we’ve seen industry leader, VP Records, take this route quite consistently with albums from some of their mainstay artists including Richie Spice (Spice In Your Life album), Tarrus Riley (Challenges) and even Buju Banton (Inna Heights), so that tool of keeping pieces alive has certainly proven valuable in Reggae also. AND then there’s the MOST interesting of the bunch which is taking a project and doing something just very interesting with it in general. In R & B and Pop and even Hip-Hop to a degree, some of the more mainstream genres, when there’s a big album release, a lot of times now, you’ll see it released as a normal piece and then (simultaneously) with a ‘deluxe edition’. That deluxe version may have an entire other disc worth of music or a DVD or something like such, or a remix piece - something like that to gain attention. You’ll also see the same thing done with complete remix albums as well, which is also just so remarkable to me and definitely it helps to keep an album alive.

Well, in Reggae things are also kind of similar, but we don’t have ‘remix albums’ for the most part . . . We do have DUB, however. When I saw this release up (which was awhile ago by this point) I found it to be so PERFECTLY RANDOM that I had decided to check it out despite the fact that I’ve never been the biggest Dub head and in terms of what I like to do (I.e. write reviews), it is HARD AS HELL to write for a Dub/instrumental album, I’d resolved that I simply had to check it out to satisfy my curiosity. Zion High Productions, the maestros behind some of the most beautiful and HEAVY Roots Reggae albums that you’ll find over the past decade or so has decided to take one of their finest releases EVER and dub it out and release it again as Yami Bolo’s Rebelution In Dub. And not only that, but if you go back and take a look at the steps I outlined that record companies generally take to keep their albums up and running, you’ll see one of the most UNUSUAL occurrences with the history of this album as it was originally released (as a CD) back in 2003 - it would be re-released with a new cover for the digital side (for the very first time I believe) in 2009 and ultimately here we stand with the same album (ostensibly) now in its third form. That says a few things to me immediately. The first is that Rebelution probably sold pretty well. Zion High hasn’t exactly been the most active of labels over the years (unfortunately), but one would assume that their dedication to the album has been at least somewhat consistently rewarded and hasn’t just been a result of their own thoughts, but has come at the behest of the album’s fans. The other thing that it would tell me is that the label itself is VERY confident and even more pleased with the QUALITY of the album and it is because of the piece’s ‘durability’ that, despite the fact that they’ve also done albums for the likes of Ras Attitude and our good friend Messenjah Selah, you’re going to have to make a GREAT argument if you believe that something other than Rebelution is ZHP’s signature release to date (even if you don‘t think it‘s their greatest, that’s certainly debatable). So was it that good? Absolutely! The original album was one for me that pretty much called to my attention that I was becoming an old ass man, because it wasn’t something which I would have enjoyed very much just a few years earlier. That being said, however, I would have NEVER expected to see the album back again and this time chopped up and dubbed out and sparkling new and going out to collect new fans. I have to say that one of the first things that came to mind is just how wonderful it might be if my other two favourite ZHP releases, Attitude’s Holding Firm and Selah’s Breaking Babylon Curse might also receive the same type of treatment and that was just first. Because of how random this piece was for me, I went onward and started thinking about other favourites of mine from the same time frame getting in on the act and being dubbed out and released digitally to the people. Well, a man can always hope, but on to the business at hand. This dub version made me appreciate yet another side of this wonderful album even more, which I’m SURE had to be a part of ZHP’s thought process in doing it. Yami Bolo has a VERY interesting style of singing and it can take away sometimes from his backdrops. However, listening here, you come to realize that what he was dealing with on the original album was GOLDEN, even before he sang a single note.

The first thing that I noticed, as a fan of the original, is that the dub version of the album only has eleven tracks as opposed to the fourteen you’ll find on the first album (of course now you know I want my three other tracks, although two of them ‘Y Mas Gan’ (acoustic) and ‘Binghi’ (drum) probably wouldn’t have done well here). Also (more importantly), the album was mixed by esteemed engineering/producing veteran Lynford ‘Fatta’ Marshall and the names of the tracks (frustratingly) have also been renamed, albeit with fairly clever ones (usually). So, getting the sweet playing easy vibes going on Yami Bolo’s Rebelution In Dub from Zion High Productions one of the coolest sounding guitars (I THINK) I’ve ever heard on ‘Ancient Trod Dub’ which I didn’t have to look up to match-up with the original tune, because I immediately began singing “there’s a place called Afrikaaaaaa, the land of the Ancient Fathers”. The original tune was ‘Ithiopia’ and it sounds SO GOOD with just the instrumental, not quite as good with the words, but definitely as I said, this type of vibes allows you to appreciate another side of this HUGE tune. Next in is the ‘No Captivity Dub’ which was originally ‘Talk Bout Slavery’ (you see how the names match kind of?). This one I like at times, but the prevailing sound here is this kind of whining and LOUD sound which gets a little overbearing at times to be honest, but it doesn’t remain throughout and when the piece ‘settles down’ a bit, it’s a BEAUTIFUL thing, so much so that, later on, when that whining sound comes back, I barely even noticed it (especially when some of the more traditionally dub effects come in, like the over-echoed voicing and stuff like that, which I love). And last up on the opening lot is a loud one which impressed me immediately and then got more impressive once it settled, ‘Clean Up Dub’ which is the instrumental of ‘Sanctify Yourself’ on the original album. This one is just HEAVY and although not my favourite (definitely not far from it though) on the album, you start to get the vision of sitting in some tiny and smoky Reggae club with a band that looks like it’s almost falling asleep BRILLIANTLY strumming through this one and it is BEAUTIFUL! This one is a can’t-miss and the way it slows down to an almost crawl at times, even sweetens the vibes and locks off a full on impressive start to the album.

The ‘Break Free Dub’ [originally ‘Liberation’] is probably my favourite composition on the album although certainly by no means is it the BEST. The tune, I’m pretty sure, is a riddim from the Lustre Kings camp (the two work together quite closely to my knowledge) and I recognize it as one the backing from one of my favourite LK tunes ‘We Need Liberation’ from Turbulence alongside Digital Ancient. I LOVE this thing. Again, there’re finer done pieces on Rebelution In Dub, but this strikes and has always struck me as just being so STRONG as hell and it and I go back! Of the more (terrestrially speaking) well done efforts on the album, I’m sure the hardcore dub heads will appreciate pieces like ‘More Ises Dub’ [‘Pray’], which had me singing “Pray! Pray! Pray! Teach the children how to pray” as soon as it dropped in. The one-drop on that thing is downright ANGRY at times. The next tune in, the ’Upful King Dub’ [’Hail The Conquering Lion’] is a bit more ‘spectacular’ sounding and here, in a good way (isn’t that interesting, you but a very colourful riddim behind a singer and I love it. Put it by itself and I like ‘less is more’). This is definitely one of the more impressive pieces altogether on Rebelution In Dub and I think it even has a bit of lasting vibes to it, much like the original tune for the album (kind of a mid-Eastern sound to it, in my opinion). When I heard ‘Righteousness Prevails Dub’, I was kind of surprised because I don’t know if I ever made the connection before, but I’m also very familiar with it as well. Not only was it the riddim for Yami Bolo’s ‘Good Must Conquer Evil’ (which took me entirely too long to figure out), but the lovely piece also back NiyoRah’s MAMMOTH ‘Nothing To Prove’ tune from the Purification Session album a few years back. This thing is absolutely VAST! I can literally hear dozens of melodies of singing in my head which could match this riddim perfectly and if they haven’t already (and I don’t think they have), I’d like them to turn it over to a few more artists as well. It is beautiful! The very joyful ‘Night To Day Dub’ sticks out here, just as it did on the original album, where it served ‘Empress I Love You’. It’s one of two big changeups for Rebelution In Dub. This one kind of almost NEEDS Yami Bolo’s vocals on it to make it sound ‘right’ I think, but it just pulls such a joyous and happy vibes that I didn’t run off and grab the original (at least too much) before it ran its course. That other changeup I alluded to follows the joyful ‘Night To Day’ - ‘Joyful Dub’. It isn’t quite as joyful as its immediate predecessor sequentially on the album, but it is BETTER. This delightful piece is also quite addictive, just as it was in its original form for ‘Do No Evil’ on Rebelution. And going back, there was also ’Independence Dub’ [‘Safeguard’], which is VERY laid back and beautiful. This one is definitely one of my favourites from the dub album and I had to go back and listen to the original tune, if for no other reason than to remember and relive Bolo’s usage of the phrase “trying to destroy humanity”. And ending matters on Yami Bolo’s Rebelution In Dub is ‘November 2nd Dub’ which of course is ‘Crownation Glory’ and it does end things on a high note quality wise and spiritually-wise, to say the least . I LOVE this tune in its original form and fittingly the final selection here reinforces the thought that this album can well turn a listener onto yet another wonderful side to this wonderful album.

Overall, like I said, I’m not the biggest Dub fan in the world, so maybe I don’t exactly know what I’m talking about altogether, but Yami Bolo’s Rebelution In Dub works for me. So, I’ll try to put that on a scale. It’s not TOO heavy so, the heaviest of Dub heads may look at it merely as an instrumental (or they may love it, I’m sure they’ll let me know), but for YOU, very deep Reggae head who isn’t necessarily the first one to make the move to pick up a Dub project, this may very well be the prerequisite one you pick up every six months or so. Better still (and more likely) YOU, big fan of this album should definitely pick it up, if for no other reason than as a very nice ‘companion pack’ to the original Rebelution album. As I said, it well opens up the senses to another dimension of this beautiful creation and who knows, given Zion High Productions’ obvious love of it, I wouldn’t be surprised if this WASN’T the final stop for Rebelution (maybe a ten year anniversary is in order, who knows). But as for this one, it was well worth doing and is well worth the spot in the collection of almost any big fan of modern Reggae music.

Rated 4/5
Zion High Productions

No comments:

Post a Comment