Tuesday, July 6, 2010

"Unification Fire": A Review of I-Ternal Fire by Capleton

Capleton. It’s so hard to find things that we, as music fans in general, can agree on. The nature of being such a person, if you are to be ’successful’, somewhat inherently lends itself to being quite fickle so as to be able to identify new music and new artists even if you’ve already found literally hundreds that you enjoy. Certainly we can be loyal, but that loyalty (and the extent to which it goes) is based on so many different things that it almost becomes completely random. In Reggae music, things can be even more random due to the kind of ‘regionalized globalization’ of our music where artists can pop up from almost anywhere at any time, but do so with very little, if any at all, fanfare outside of wherever they’re from. So while YOU maybe looking very much forward to a particular project or a particular artist, you may very well be one of the only ones - I may not even know that particular artist exists or that particular project is on its way. So with that being said, while I certainly pride myself on having the ‘make good music and I’ll find you’ type of an attitude because I listen to such a wide variety of names (and find myself as the “YOU” given in the previous example almost daily), I do so LOVE the moments that we’re afforded which can almost supersede someone’s taste (meaning that it doesn’t matter if you like it or not) and skepticisms and become a unanimously HUGE moment in Reggae music. Trying to think of something in recent memory and the best that I can probably come up with would be Buju Banton’s 2008 album ”Rasta Got Soul”, but despite the fact that Buju is more well known than he is (he‘s also more polarizing), I think that Capleton returning after six years with a brand new album, ”I-Ternal Fire”, becomes an even bigger deal amongst the at least somewhat educated Reggae fans across the globe. It’s because of that, that the ridiculously overused tag of ‘most anticipated album of the year’, which you’ll see on at least one new album each and every month, is probably most applicable in this case as, like I said, it’s been a woefully absurd three-fifths of a decade since ‘The Prophet’ dropped ”Reign of Fire” back in 2004 and if you would have told me when I picked up that album, that it would be 2010 (for reference, I was 23 then and am now a month and a eight days away from 29 years old), I would’ve been completely disappointed, but now having waited the time, the planets and stars have seemingly once again properly for The King of Fire to reassume his never ending burning of everything wicked.

So much has changed in the six years hasn’t it? There’re so many new faces - There’s an entire new ‘class’ in fact (hell, there’re probably two of them by now) of big artists now shining on the same VP Records where Capleton has done the lion’s share of his business as far as albums and continues to. Back in 2004, artists like Gyptian, Busy Signal, Mavado and of course the Etana’s, Queen Ifrica’s and Romain Virgo’s of the world had yet to make their debuts (and Virgo would have been all of about 14 at the time). Capleton himself has changed also. The first thing that caught my eye on ”I-Ternal Fire” was the cover which rather prominently features Capleton with more than a few grey hairs in his now signature beard. That right there was a signal to me that perhaps we could expect something different than was present on his previous three comparable VP efforts (within the ‘fire series‘) the classic ”More Fire”, ”Still Blazing” and the aforementioned ”Reign of Fire”. Also, should you actually pick up the album and comb it over (it is, as typically, presented very nice), you’ll also notice for the first time a logo for a ‘Capleton Music Inc. Ltd.’ on it as well which should show that he’s getting more and more into the business side of things as well. But of course, we don’t sign up and listen for business, we do it for vibes and what you’re going to hear on the album is a bit of surprise, as I alluded to, as the album is a bit toned down actually and it even has that kind of a vibes to it just on the surface. Checking in at just fifteen tracks, ”I-Ternal Fire” is scaled back considerably from the previous three albums, all of which were either nineteen or twenty tracks full (and even seem bigger in retrospect - I swear ”More Fire” STILL feels like it was a double) and the music itself doesn’t seem bent on hyping up things inasmuch as Capleton seems to really want to get his point across. The result of that, in my opinion, is an album which shows off a quality which I feel that The Prophet hasn’t received his fair amount of praise for throughout his career and particularly as of late - His lyricism. So many times we look at calls of ‘More Fire’ and ‘That Day Will Come’ and ‘Cooyah’ and I think that people get mislead with those and the general hype and figurative fire that he burns and just completely miss that not only does Capleton EASILY have one of the greatest deliveries Reggae music has ever heard (and on more than one style), but LYRICALLY this man is doing things that are simply superior to the vast majority of his peers. With the style now slowed down and ‘settled’ a bit, it is definitely my hope that this can be conveyed in the clearest sense in quite some time. On top of that, besides being potentially wicked for so many reasons and pretty much certain to be the most eagerly awaited drop of 2010, ”I-Ternal Fire” is just consuming! It is a BIG DEAL and if you’re like me and such a big fan that things like this take your attentions and just . . . Goes to work on them, an album like this is just an ‘event’ of sorts. It’s like the WORLD CUP FINALS of Reggae albums for me and as I said, if you’re also a pretty deep fan of this music, I’m sure it’s registering for you like such as well. The most crucial question remains, however, is it any good? Capleton album? Good? Do you really have to ask that question?

As is seemingly the case more and more these days, the album’s executive producer is Chris Chin who also is the big man at VP Records. The music itself comes from a wide variety of different producers and features some of Capleton’s most flame worthy releases as of late and also some tunes which may be completely new to most listeners, myself included, which makes for a very healthy mix of big vibes and big tunes on Capleton’s six years in the making new album, ”I-Ternal Fire”. Such as our opener, ‘Some Day’ which begins to shine, but does so (at least it did for me) after more than a few listens. The acoustic guitar dominated set is very laid back and it’s only when you get into the tune’s lyrics that it really grabs your attention as a big inspirational vibes and one which I don’t think I heard before the album jumped out. I certainly can’t say the same thing about the next tune on the album, its first undeniably strong piece, ’Acres’, Capleton’s cut of Shane Brown and Juke Box’s Indiscretion Riddim which was WELL popular. The tune is the album’s obligatory herbalist number and it is BIG (still, should you find yourself able to rile through it without singing Assassin’s WICKED ‘Stay Like Bees’ tune, consider yourself far more focused than me).

“So mi tell babylon seh nuh fi touch mi ground
And mi tell di wicked man seh nah fi cut it down
Mi neva come up ah yah place and try fi shut it down
I neva use mi bulldozer and try fi buck it down”

Madness! Of course the tune centers around those trying to fight against the herb and Capleton has no reservations in defending it by any means necessary and creates one of the biggest vibes on the whole of the album in the process. ‘Acres’ is, however, topped by the tune which follows it, one which I’m calling the ‘game changer’ (as they say in Hip-Hop circles), the MASSIVE ‘When I Come To Town’. This one is getting my vote as the album’s finest moment altogether and on Capleton just speaks of spreading knowledge and righteousness to the people but does so in away which is downright DOMINANT lyrically.

“Dem used to say Rasta antisocial
Dem even fight against Bob Marley vocal
But Fyahman a dun di whole ah dem total
An bun out di leaders dem weh so called
False promises a weh dem couldn’t navigate
Rastafari works, di youths dem haffi agitate
To consciousness, di ghetto youths dem gravitate
And hail King Selassie I straight!”

The ENTIRE second verse of the tune may very well be some of Capleton’s best work ever lyrically and hopefully the masses pay attention to this musical peace of gold.

And that’s just three tunes in. As I said, I fully expect (as has already been the case on a couple of the other reviews that I’ve read through) that the big ‘story’ surrounding the actual music on ”I-Ternal Fire” is just how laid back the vibes are and such tunes definitely shine throughout the album, to say the least. To my opinion, perhaps THE most interesting is the somewhat strange, but fairly popular, ‘Mama You Strong’. The ‘mama tune’ on the album - I remember from a year or two ago (never heard it on this riddim, however, actually). The vibes here are . . . Kind of weird, but intoxicating at the same time to some degree and I’m going to, with a bit of trepidation, call it one of the album’s best tunes because - again - the lyrics are just so powerful and about two minutes deep into the 4:14 long song, that riddim absolutely melds itself to my mind. So definitely check it and give thanks to my Mother and your’s too. That tune is sandwiched between two other similarly vibed tunes, ‘Same Old Story’ and ‘I’m In Love’. The former you should know as being Capleton’s cut of the best riddim of the year 2008, Kemar ‘Flava’ McGregor’s Rub-A-Dub and it’s just as big today as it was back then. It’s a big social commentary and you should already know it, but if you don’t it’s time to become acquainted definitely. As for the latter, the Bulpuss produced tune is pretty much a very straight forward love tune from Capleton and it’s somewhat reminiscent (at least to me) of ‘Remember the Days’ from the ”RoF” album - It’s very strong also and the chanter has had a remarkable good streak with tunes like this doing a major damage throughout the second phase of his career. Later on there’s a somewhat melancholy piece in ‘It’s On’ which, ostensibly, sounds like a love song also (that’s how it’s vibed), but to my ears it’s a big knowledge track instead. There’s something really interesting about the ‘feel’ of this song - The word I think is ‘enchanting’ - It just sounds amazing and the lyrics are definitely on point (he even references the tune ‘Search Fi A Find’ from ”Still Blazing”) and a big respect goes to Chantelle who sings an OUTSTANDING featured backing on the song as well. I’ll also mention the midtempo WICKED effort, ‘Long Way’. This one definitely has a bit of spice to it (and that one-drop is ANGRY AS HELL), but it seems to restrain itself from hitting critical mass and a later verse on the tune is a prime example of that as it breaks down the journey so many people have taken to get where they are.

“So dem coming from so far
Tru so many tribal
Tru so many war
So many suicidal
So many bars
So many revival
So many jar
So many idol
So many stars
So many reprisal
So many scars
Rastafari is the ultimate, whether near or far
Tell di ghetto dem youth yah star”

The verse following it doesn’t rail back the levels either (“Don’t worry about dem obstacle, cause sooner or later dem ahgo melt like a popsicle”) on the tune that is probably my second favourite on the album. Also check Capleton’s tune on Cutstone’s beautiful Joe Keyz riddim, 'Blessing' - A nearly magical praising tune, which also may be one of the strongest on the album. And the closer, another acoustically vibed number, ‘400 Years’, is another impressive piece discussing, essentially, the Afrikan Diaspora and it goes in so many ways to get there. I’m left almost paused (but wonderfully so) with the lasting thought as Capleton RIDICULOUSLY INTERESTINGLY says “hatred is the war that we get for love”, it places a stamp on an album which seems so much bent on expressing that love and succeeds and then some.

Of course that isn’t to say that I can’t love you and flame you from every conceivable angle at the same time - It is a Capleton album after all, so flammable substances do abound even in the face of the aforementioned predominately less combustible material on ”I-Ternal Fire”. While Capleton never quite reaches the levels of tunes like ‘Slew Dem’ or ‘Cooyah’ in terms of intensity on the album, The Prophet definitely strikes lightening on a tune such as ‘Babylon Go Down’. Of course you probably can figure out the nature of the tune without even hearing it, but you’ll REALLY need to sink your teeth into this one to get a big proper feel for it. It’s all about burning out corruption wherever it hides and in my opinion, while the actual phrase is never uttered, it’s pretty much the title track for the album as well as, lyrically, it’s definitely the fiery King Shango we’ve come to expect on one of the album’s finest. The same goes for the very familiar Bobby Digital produced ‘Global War’, on which Capleton outlines the various factions around the world who seem to be pushing for war and against peace and of course he applies the necessary amount of scalding flames for their cleansing. The vibes of the tune are also very strong (I did say Bobby Digital, after all) and it sounds like another one of those SPECTACULAR anthem-like tunes from Capleton, which is exactly what it is (definitely sounds like something which would have fit in so nicely on ”Still Blazing”). If you just jump in on ‘Call I’ you might think it another more laidback type of a vibes, but when you get into the body of the tune, you’ll see that it may very well be the single most intense tune on the whole of the album. This one comes in like a call to action as Capleton takes burning out oppression to a biblical level in the name of His Imperial Majesty on another RIDICULOUSLY impressive tune lyrically. Check the gorgeous midtempo ‘All Is Well’ also. Again - You’ll listen to it and not initially recognize it as having much spice to it, but throughout the tune the levels turn up higher and higher and while never quite reaching the boiling point, they come damn close on the slight ode to the man himself, Bob Marley. And lastly, I’ll mention another very familiar tune, ‘Them Get Correl’ from House of Hits’ St. Jago De La Vega Riddim. For me, this song is just about righteousness, plain and simple. It’s about trying to be as uplifting and upstanding as possible and if you don’t and you aren’t, you know full well that Capleton has the remedy for you as he has had throughout this excellent album.

Overall, you really shouldn’t need my (or anyone else’s) recommendation to pick up a Capleton album, particularly because you, Reggae head, have been (like me and everyone else reading this most likely) waiting for this for full on six years now. And while the results of the project may not be as incendiary as most may’ve expected, again I’d just like to stress the point that a very strong case could be made that ”I-Ternal Fire” (which I have now just typed as “I-Ternal Flame” for the seven hundredth time) (at least) may be Capleton’s greatest lyrical creation to date which, if you know anything about the artist (and you do), is certainly saying something HUGE. So while it may not be as spectacular and as immediately gratifying as the others, make no mistake about - This is album is HUGE and it does live up to its rather lofty and just strange expectations. It’s so interesting that it is an artist like Capleton who provides a moment in 2010 which will go unquestioned as one of the year’s biggest. Amid some controversies (which is always the case) and some people who have even began to speculate that the chanter’s best days, musically, were well behind him at this point, Capleton pulls yet another winner for not only himself, but for the vast majority of the heavy Reggae listening community. However, should I have to wait until I’m almost 35 for him to do it again - I may just have a fire to start of my own and I'm sure you'll join me in that. Well done.

Rated 4.5/5
VP Records
CD & Digital



  1. We need we ancestry pension
    That the youth them a depend pon
    Weh de money spend pon
    Them diss Marcus Garvey from Saint Ann
    We get the vision fi redemption
    Too much Middle East tension
    Biological intervention
    Waan fi turn the people them inna skeleton

    Apple field go turn to battlefield
    Cane field go turn to blood stained field
    And ask them how they feel
    To see seh them no real
    Oh bigga judgment again ya see it
    Now them ship sinking and the straws see them catchin'
    Hear them chattin' yow
    See them blast off inna them spaceship
    Now I see them crashin'


  2. We will forgive but we'll never forget yes
    North South East and West
    Rastafari is the ultimate
    The youths them bless bless yes
    Alright again you see it so
    Nah forget how you tek
    What is rightfully mine yeah
    But still I seek and search
    One day I know I'll find
    What is for me could never be for you, it's true yeah
    And the evil that you do shall turn back to you

    Hatred is the war that we get for love [WHAT?]
    Give thanks for the blessing that's come from above
    Yo bigga judgment again
    Them never hear when me ah tell them say yow
    Tell them they sitting on a time bomb
    But them never know the time span
    Never know they woulda find one...