Friday, February 11, 2011

'Much Ado About Something': A Review of "From Creation" by Alpheus

Isn’t the Internet a wonderful place? Besides being a seemingly endless reservoir of knowledge and most random information, it can also be quite helpful to interests such as ours - wonderful music. There’re places like this truly ridiculous corner of the web which you find yourself faced with now which make a relatively decent attempt at keeping current as to what is going on and, thankfully, there’re others which do an infinitely better job and both of those types of areas, in the bigger scheme of things, definitely do a great deal of work to help things along. Still, I have to say that one of the most remarkable things the Internet can do, specifically in terms of Reggae music, is to, very randomly, begin to push an artist or an album or a tune and genuinely have much to do with the ultimate success of that something or someone. Of course, when it’s someone like a Sean Paul or a Shaggy or someone or something which . . . doesn’t really need much help in terms of promotion or general ‘word-of-mouth’ stirring about it in order to thrive - It’s much less noticeable, but every once in a while, something or someone which certainly doesn’t rise to those international levels will arise and the online community will obviously be one of the significant driving forces behind what it ends up doing. I look at different entities which have taken much advantage of the Internet and its never ending resources for particular examples and, somewhat surprisingly, I’m lead to the UK. Achis Reggae favourite Necessary Mayhem is a label which has closed the gap between itself and better known UK/European labels largely based on its digital work. Besides the fact that, almost surely without exception, you can pick up 100% of their catalog with but a few strokes of keys, Necessary Mayhem goes the proverbial extra distance in promoting their material and their artists as well and just commonly making them a part of ‘common’ Reggae discourse. Also, there’s the curious case of sweet singing UK veteran (and another Achis Reggae favourite), Lloyd Brown, whose online presence over the past few years or so has been impressive to say the least. His most recent batch of (yearly) albums has been largely supported by the work he has done online and as he shifts his audience base more and more international, seemingly it’s something which will continue to grow. Furthermore, the work of acts such as Gappy Ranks, Mr. Williamz and others (like Adele Harley) have all benefited from the Internet greatly. HOWEVER, I can honestly say that no one single thing that I’ve seen come from out of the UK has generated as much online buzz as the album in question today.

Alpheus is a singer who belongs to a group of names who I always find myself wanting to get to know of much better but I almost never get around to doing it. The London born singer has been on the scene for quite some time now and even as I began to take a listen and more involved looked at some of his more well known peers such as the aforementioned Brown, Peter Spence and Peter Hunnigale, the leap towards him was just one which I wasn’t prepared to make, because unlike those names, Alpheus didn’t seem to have much going on, save for an album, 2007’s “Everything For A Reason” which I really should have checked out (and may still) because it came from one of my absolute favourite labels at the time, Special Delivery. Apparently he had something really big brewing, however. It was late last year (maybe even as far back as November when I first heard that the wonderfully name singer was going to soon be releasing a project and doing so through the same A-Lone Productions with Roberto Sanchez from out of Spain, of whom I knew virtually nothing about with the exception of the fact that earlier in the year, the same label had worked on another very celebrated release, ”And God Said To Man“ from veteran singer, Earl Zero (an album which I managed to ‘elude’, predominately based on the knowledge that it only contained six or seven vocal tracks) (apparently that wasn’t a wise idea on my part). What Alpheus and Sanchez came up with in Spain would ultimately lead to one of the most discussed albums of the second half of 2010 and one which would arrive in early 2011, ”From Creation”. News story after news story and article and review after article and review - I have read SO MUCH about this album prior to receiving it that I felt that I would be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t pick it up at that point and I thought that it would be a pretty good opportunity for me to really dive in and vibe Alpheus’ music. I even had readers recommending it to me (as recently as earlier this week actually) who, presumably, know that I’m not much of an old school head and my interest in such a release, at least ostensibly, wouldn’t be too great, but like I said, after all of that, I felt very compelled to have a listen. While ”From Creation” certainly did not surprise AT ALL in terms of what it turned out to be, what it does for me on a personal level, is offer an opportunity to really musically ‘meet’ Alpheus. It’s so interesting in doing research for this album I ‘found out’ that an album of his that I already knew of, ”Quality Time”, which was Alpheus’ debut set back in 1999, was actually produced by the immortal Sir Coxsone Dodd and Studio One and this new album features Sanchez’ relicks of old compositions from Studio One and material from Phil Pratt as well (who also served his apprenticeship at Studio One). So you would think that the singer would feel completely comfortable over what he was presented with for ”From Creation” and it well shows on the album which takes the listener on a very colourful trip from Reggae to MAMMOTH doses of Rocksteady and Ska. And the old school fans have been eating it up - Maybe the new school heads should take a listen as well. Let’s see why!

'From Creation'

I hate being late! As seems to be the case with most people who I’ve read discussing this album what really strikes me about Alpheus’ brand new album for A-Lone Productions, ”From Creation”, is just how sonically pleasing it is (of course, most of those other ‘journalists’ wouldn’t put it like so because their vocabularies aren’t as good as mine so my take will still be FRESH I assure you) and it isn’t shy about putting its best foot forward either as the album gets started with what is clearly its finest effort, the title track. The song is unity piece of HUGE proportions as Alpheus does his take on an old Phil Pratt riddim and does it to the point of brilliance.

“From creation
We’re meant to live as one
Love as one
Work as one

From creation
We’re ‘sposeta walk as one
March as one
Live as one

We shouldn’t need fi forgive or forget none
One love must full up ’til it caan done
Live could be sweet like a sugar plum
One love
One heart
One dominion

Events in life will happen for a reason
So dat don’t mean wi haffi stress a situation
Keep cool and calm, live as one nation
One love
One heart
One dominion”

And I noticed that most people seemed to get dazzled by the tune itself (as did I, I’ve probably heard this song sixty times by now, but if you can, definitely try to have a deep listen to the lyrics of the track because they are well impressive. The next track in, ‘Call It A Day’, hops aboard a Studio One composition and it provides golden results. I pretty much LOVE this track and I haven’t heard a great deal of discussion about it, in specific, but after THOROUGHLY spinning it, I have to start wondering why because it’s also one of the best tunes on this album. And speaking of “one of the best tunes on this album”, the final selection of the opening lot, the Ska-ified ‘We Are Strong’ also registers as one of my favourites, but does so after COPIOUS journeys through. Apparently this one is a brand new track from Sanchez and it sounds EXACTLY like it was ripped from Kingston circa 1965-1970 and for the MANY hardcore fans of vibes from that era, I would imagine this tune, especially, would be potentially CLASSIC material for you.

'Far Away'

Although ”From Creation” comes to its end with four consecutive riddim tracks (more on that in a minute), within its twelve vocals it offers up a most FULL experience and really when you take that and add to it a few SPECTACULAR moments and a very ‘DETAILED’ level of consistency throughout, you really have a fine project by album’s end. To my opinion, the best of the rest is likely to be the sublimely hypnotic ‘Far Away’ on which Alpheus taps his inner Ossie Dellimore. This tune is downright STERLING and even though I do favour the opening and title track (ever so slightly), if you want to declare this one the best the album has to offer, you’ll receive no arguments, none at all, from me - ‘Far Away’ is HEAVY! The Pratt constructed ‘Live & Learn’ has to be considered another standout on ”From Creation”. Although not so much as the song I just told you about, this is another hefty track and its power comes from a very smooth delivery as well as some of the strongest lyrics on the whole of the album.

“Used to be friends but now we’re foes
Where the respect go?
No one never knows
From year to year none secrets would be told
No more trusting
Friendship dead and gone
We live and learn yeah
Move on”

Another standout piece, the upful ‘In Time’, isn’t exactly lacking in the scholarly department either - Should you get that far - The tune, itself, is also an utter joy to simply listen to and it’s one which makes up a ‘problem’ with ”From Creation” that I’ll get to shortly. And later there’s the OUTSTANDING ‘Always’ which . . . If you can listen to that tune and not find yourself smiling at some point (despite the subjectry of the song) then you’re a different individual because the song really lights things up in my opinion. Alpheus is essentially saying goodbye to those who’ve left us and while his vocal tones may be the most HAPPY in the world for the most part, I really feel a lot of joy coming from this one and if someone were going to make a song like such about me after my time has come, I’d want it to sound like this!

'Live & Learn'

Now, with all of that being said, certainly the remaining songs on ”From Creation” aren’t BAD - The album has no bad material on it (and you’re going to have to try damn hard to convince me otherwise - even from a ‘matter of opinion’ point of view). Although this isn’t your typical heavy UK Lover’s Rock type of release, there’re still a couple of strong love songs on the album, ‘Ultimate’ and ‘Inside Out’. I absolutely LOVE the Studio One track behind the latter and the actual song is written very cleverly I should add as well (and Alpheus sounds just a bit like Everton Blender - a GREAT thing). The former is just a really COOL track. It doesn’t try very hard and you might be able to call it lacking in passion, but for me almost everything about this track works through almost perfectly. I could also probably add to this line ‘Turnaround Ball’ where Alpheus seems rather marveled that “she asked me to dance” at a turnaround ball. The music here, again, is excellent - right out of Studio One - And the singer makes the most of it with another very ‘chilly’ piece of vibes. ‘Keep The Faith’ is a song which I’m seriously considering going back and sticking into the spectacular moments on this album because it is very good and the riddim (a Sanchez original) is simply divine also. And ‘Do The Ska’ is almost obligatory in a sense with all the various Ska-ness just randomly lying around the place. The song is still the vocal changeup on the album (although OBVIOUSLY not out of place) (AT ALL) and if you have functioning ears and you can move ANY piece of your body, it’s sure to get you moving in some capacity.

As I said, the album wraps up with four instrumental tracks, ‘When You Call Me’, ‘Far Melody’, ‘Keep The Dub’ and ‘Creation Dub’ and they are all VERY strong. My personal favourite (unsurprisingly) is definitely ‘Creation Dub’. The DRUMS on that one just start in and it turns NASTY! That thing is UGLY and absolute master class of a track. I also really like ‘When You Call Me’ and all of the four are just very good and I always have no problem when you just stick in random instrumentals.

'Call It A Day'

My only really prevailing critique of the album is the fact that (and I know I said it was a “FULL experience” and I well stand by that) the longest track on the album, ‘Far Away’ (and its melody track) is twenty seconds shy of four minutes. That’s somewhat odd with instrumentals (they could have let those things go on for ten minutes and I wouldn’t have complained) and I think that they could have just put more into it and even letting the music play on various tracks which only happens occasionally throughout ”From Creation”. Also, as I alluded to, I think that there’re a lot of people and there’re going to be even more who don’t look at this album as much more than an instrumental release and they’re going to, unfortunately, miss out on some really deep messages and notions so don’t let that happen to you.

Overall, I can very comfortably say that while this isn’t my focal area - I try to stick to more current and even more ‘forward-looking’ albums - I am COMPLETELY impressed by Alpheus and ”From Creation” and I can definitely see now what all the talk has been about and it was all warranted. Last April we received an album in ”Judgement Time” from Chezidek which was EASILY one of the best releases of the year and while it didn’t quite go to these lengths, it also involved more than a small bit of old school flavours and charms and it was a BIG album. ”From Creation” is a BIG album. I would think that there’re a great deal of fans, like me, who aren’t the biggest fans of the singer, but now is an excellent time become acquainted in my opinion. Besides the attraction here of being this ‘old school’ and ‘Rocksteady’ release (I think people just REALLY like using those words) (obviously I do too), Alpheus does a great job as well and he Roberto Sanchez link up to push one excellent piece of vibes for early 2011. Well done.

Rated: 4.45/5
A-Lone Productions

Alpheus @ Myspace

1 comment:

  1. The dreadlocks Big Youth at Reggae Brittania in London 2011 from Pogus Caesar photos.