BEHOLD! A Dancehall album. A 100% Dancehall album! Unfortunately, outside of riddim albums (sometimes), such a thing has become the dinosaur of the Reggae world, which is extremely fucked up. So, in order to cope, I’m often driven back to that era just around the turn of the century which I feel is one of the most overlooked in recent Reggae memory. In looking back, I often draw for one of my absolute favourite artists of all time, [General] Degree, and these days, you’re going to have a very hard time keeping his ”Yeah Man” off of my players. Why? It didn’t have the biggest hits like some of Degree’s earlier albums, but it might’ve just been his most COMPLETE set to dat, which, given his consistency, is DEFINITELY saying something. Tunes like the title track, ‘Summer Flow’, ‘Better Jamaica’, ‘U Hear Datt’ and especially ‘Stamina’ highlighted this twenty-one track set as did riddims from the likes of Sly & Robbie, Dave Kelly, Ward 21 and Degree himself and helped to make it one of the more colourful and damn FUN Dancehall albums that you’re going to hear anywhere. Damn - The good old days . . .
Doesn’t seem like that long ago when this near masterpiece dropped, finally giving young superstar Assassin his debut album and doing so in the biggest league of the game, VP Records. Of course, such situations put the artist under a great deal of pressure and, in retrospect, ‘Sassin dealt with it with no problem. These days, I think he’s noticeably even stronger, but when ”Infiltration” dropped, it still showed an artist VERY far along in his developmental stage on tunes like ‘Youths Well Cold’ (with Freddie McGregor), ‘Free At Last‘, ‘Respect Due’ and particularly the SCATHING ‘Wandering Mind’. And for those wanting something strictly for the Dancehall big hits like ‘As A Man’, ‘Idiot Thing That’, ‘Don’t Like You’ and ‘Step Pon Dem’ were on board as well. It’s so interesting now, looking back, when you see the absolute MONSTER Assassin has become, it was all present on his debut (and even before) and looking at this, it’s the debut album of someone who now has to be regarded as one of the most talented Dancehall artists EVER, which makes this project a truly big deal.
Remember me? Chances are good that if you’ve picked up the “Cool Nuh Black” album from Guyanese chanter Natural Black, within the last year or so, dusted it off and taken it out for a spin, that you’re an EXTREMELY attentive and educated head and probably are too damn smart to be reading my stuff . . . Or, you just have a really nice ear (in which case, do stick around). In retrospect, a very good case could be made for this all but for gotten release actually being Black’s greatest album to date. And it’s also one of his lesser known as well, which is unfortunate. Produced by Walter Fraser from Vizion Sounds, Guyana’s premier Reggae label (if they’re still around) (the last I heard they were working with Achis Reggae favourite, Shelly G on a Reggae album), “Cool Nuh Black” was literally soaking in big tunes . . . Which hardly anyone heard. Be it the opener, ‘High Grade’, ‘Gideon Soldier’, ‘Exalt His Name’, ‘Computer War’, the rather timely and GORGEOUS ‘Found My Roots’, or ‘Jah Blessings’ alongside First Born’, this one was NICE and it’s so unfortunate what’s become of it, but I’m still listening. You should too.
I’ve actually been meaning to slap a vault review on this most wonderful of releases for quite some time and I did FINALLY dig it out for that very purpose, but when I did I realized something . . . It’s not very good. ”Red White Black” will always hold a special place in my collection, for the fact that it is one of my favourite artist’s, Destra, very first album, but much like “Burning Up” (Sizzla’s first album) and more than a few others, I’m sure, it wasn’t her at the height of her powers and that comes through in the fact that there’re twelve tracks on the album, the first is a prayer/intro (and just a minute long), the first tune ‘My Tribute’ is Destra going Gospel (not my thing) and the next two ‘Can We Make It Last’ and ‘Ain’t Down With Dat’ are R&B styled songs, circa 1995 (thinking SWV-ish). There’re also two other interludes and a remix. Do that math, that’s twelve tracks minus three interludes/intros, three tunes I’m not interested in at all and a remix (for ‘Tremble It’, which isn’t on the album and the remix is this crazy Euro-mix thing) and you have only five tunes left which I MIGHT like. . . Of course those five tunes, ‘Weh Yuh Want’, ‘Boodie’, ‘Choo Choo’, ‘Savage’ and ‘Carnival’ are absolute MAGIC and some of the best material she’s done even almost a decade on. ‘Carnival’, of course, was the magic as it featured Machel Montano, but I also LOVED ‘Savage’ and it may be my favourite tune altogether and the others were MAD as well. The way I write, stretching a big ass review on five tunes would be tricky (although I might still do it someday), but those five songs are classics and will always keep this one not too far from my players (oh and the fact that Destra is completely nude in the liners doesn’t hurt either).
The French Vanilla will probably ALWAYS be one of my personal favourites from the early 2000’s. That COOL guitar helmed a riddim which was very dark and COLD, but served as one of the best underpinnings for some downright outstanding efforts from more than a few big names. Artists like Assassin, Kartel (especially those two), Ward 21, Tanya Stephens, Spragga Benz, Lady Saw, Tanya Stephens and even Bounty Killer mined absolute gold on the French Vanilla Riddim. Of course there were names like Zumjay, Earthworm, Alozade and Predator, who kept things from getting ‘too good’ (anti-quality control) but what was good on this thing was EXCELLENT and a few years on, it still is excellent!