Wednesday, March 30, 2011

In A Diminished Capacity

Although you probably couldn’t tell from how much I do it, reviewing albums can be quite tricky at times. Besides misreading what you’re hearing and the messages behind it, sometimes you can just be completely fucking wrong! A long time ago (September 2009) I did a list called “Evidence of My Antiquity” which were albums (and an artist) which I felt that I wronged in the way of underrating them when I was younger and having aged I was more capable of appreciating them at that time and I did (and I still do, looking back). But for every album that I underrate and trash in some way, there’s one that I talk up unnecessarily and overrate. This, in my opinion, has been one of the biggest faults of my writing for quite some time and one which I’m currently and actively seeking to correct in 2011. So! Here are ten mistakes I’ve made. Ten albums from ten pretty big names which I've overrated - Albums (in my opinion) of a Diminished Capacity.

{Note: I tried to limit the number of times I mention a certain artist to only one (with one obvious exception, but you’ll notice how I did them)}
{Note 2: Some “former ratings” have been approximated where necessary}
{Note 3: Albums appear only in a ‘convenient’ order}

“Born 2 Go High” & “Keep The Faith” by Lyricson [Special Delivery/2004 & Jonquet/2007]

The ULTRA talented Lyrison actually got this idea started last year because, as I dealt with his latest release, ”Messages” (which I think, incidentally, that I may’ve underrated) I went back and spun through his first two, ”Born 2 Go High” and ”Keep The Faith”, I literally smiled in anticipation and although I didn’t take a great listen then, subsequent spins didn’t really I’ve me what I remembered in either case. Lyricson, EASILY, is one of the most talented Reggae acts in the entire world and even now, listening through them, in spots, you hear it full on - He can do things that almost no one else can. But what I once found spectacular and more than solid, particularly in the case of ”Keep The Faith” (which is the main critique here), is just kind of . . . Boring now. The first album was always a little less than the second in my opinion, but that’s no longer the case and perhaps credit should be given to Lyricson still because, in retrospect, he wanted nothing to do with the second project and disowned it as it hadn’t been mixed to his taste. Four years later and I think he was right.

Former Rating: 4/5 & 4.5/5
Today’s Rating: 3/5 & 2.5/5

“In The Streets To Africa” by Richie Spice [VP Records/2007]

Although it was the work of Lyricson which brought the idea of such a list as this to mind originally, the ‘poster boy’ for it would DEFINITELY be Richie Spice as arguably the most high profile release of his career, and one which was (and remains critically acclaimed) falls directly into this category. ”In The Streets To Africa” was an album which had its fair share of big tunes, ostensibly, such as ‘Open The Door’, ‘Youth Dem Cold’ and of course ‘Brown Skin’, but to my opinion it was one which had a real problem with how well it FLOWED. When things weren’t really good on the album, they were really boring. Today I listen to songs like ‘Uptown Girl’ (especially), ’Mind Off Of Me’ and ‘High Grade’ and it’s just . . . Eh! And given the fact that Spice is one of the most diverse and interesting artists that we have in Reggae today, he should never put up Eh (!) level material. Still, that material here was leaps and bounds better than what was to follow the next year on ”Gideon Boot”, but it isn’t as good as I once thought.

Former Rating: 4/5
Today’s Rating: 2.5/5

“Songs of Solomon” by Turbulence [VP Records/2005]

Yeah - I probably bash Turbulence I little too much, but it’s hard not too when you see flashes (and know the history) of how COMPLETELY brilliant he can be when at his best and then hear just as finalized mediocrity coming from him - It just isn’t wrong. Over the years, in terms of albums, probably THE set which has gotten the largest chunk of my criticism has been the ”Notorious” album, but I never did really like it, I did however, used to find ”Songs of Solomon” and quite enjoyable. Why? I don’t know - Six years on and although it’s not AWFUL, as I’ve said in the past, I prefer AWFUL to AVERAGE and there’s absolutely nothing about this album which makes it stand out on any level. That’s the case so much so that it took some sel-convincing to dig it up for the sake of writing this piece (and I could’ve also listed ”Do Good“”Different Thing“).

Former Rating: 4/5
Today’s Rating: 1.5/5

“I Rebel” by Tony Rebel [Flames Productions/2007]

One of my own favourite things that I do on this blog is the ‘Modern Classic’ feature because I think, even more so than my wordy ‘normal’ reviews, when you go track by track on something, analyzing along the way, it really opens the album in a different way and there’ve been more than ten albums or so which I assumed would fit as such only to be convinced otherwise after giving them that level of examination. One of the one’s which I was actually sad to pull was definitely Tony Rebel’s last (I THINK) studio album, ”I Rebel”. The first time I played my through this one I remember calling it the second best album of that year (after ”I-Space”, of course), but these days? No way (the second best album of 2007 was actually ”Coming Home” by Ras Shiloh). It wasn’t so much that ”I Rebel” got bad to my ears or even average, and the opening tune and its most scintillating moment, ‘Lalibella’ is still mighty work, but it does lack in consistency and when you have TWENTY tracks, consistency is very important! So, it’s very telling that after track #14, only one of the songs on this album really stir me to anything (‘Necessary’) anymore.

Former Rating: 5/5
Today’s Rating: 3.5/5

“Book of Life” by I Wayne [VP Records/2007]

The . . . Strange I Wayne performed a bit of slight of hand trick with ”Book of Life”, his second album and first following the still MASSIVE ”Lava Ground”. When you have someone who is not only clearly skilled, but has a very unique way of showing that skill level, it’s pretty easy to get dazzled into liking something (or thinking you like something) that’s not really top notch (it’s like seeing a magic trick and then later having someone else show you how it was done) and that’s what happened to me with this one. Also, as I said, I did so much enjoy the first album (and still do) and thought big things were in I Wayne’s future, so I just really wanted to like this one as well. Four years later and probably the only thing here which I consistently am going to enjoy is ‘Annihilation’ and the album also falls into a very select and lonely category of being something which has principles and ideas which I just disagree with and while that typically won’t bother me at all (EVER), in this case, an otherwise nicely vibed tune can be ruined by casting FAR too wide of a net over something by saying ‘Life Is Easy’ - Not for everyone it isn’t. If it were we’d have no need for lava ground.

Former Rating: 4.5/5
Today’s Rating: 3/5

“Surprise Dem” by Jah Mason [Vikings Production/2004]

In the same year that Jah Mason released two certifiable winners in ”Most Royal” and the classic ”Never Give Up”, he also served up the somewhat forgotten ”Surprise Dem”, which until fairly recently I regarded as a pretty good album. However, after getting about halfway through it for a look at a future review (and it remains one of only two Mason albums which I haven’t written for (along with ”Working So Hard” which I’ll get to one of these days)), something struck me: After the first three songs, I can’t confidently call ANYTHING good here. The same label who helmed this one, Vikings, who I like, also did a next album for the Mason later on, ”No Matter The Time”, which also wasn’t anything too great, but for this one in particular, while well interesting, it just wasn’t very good so if I ever told you to pick it up (and I probably did) my apologies (although it has gone digitally so I do suggest grabbing up the first three songs on the album) (biggup Zojak).

Former Rating: ~ 4.25/5
Today’s Rating: 2.25/5

“Dem No Know Demself” by Lutan Fyah [Minor 7, Flat 5/2004]

The album which was actually Lutan Fyah’s debut, ”Dem No Know Demself”, hasn’t withstood the test of time very well at all, but because it was a debut, it’s fairly forgettable and . . . It’s actually not that bad either. As the years have passed (and I reviewed it with one of the first reviews on this blog) while it has fallen out of favour (still better than ”African Be Proud", however), I still do occasionally draw on it because, if you can’t tell, I LOVE Lutan Fyah’s music. Even when he isn’t at his best, he’s something to hear definitely. Back then he would have still been in the developmental stage and older Lutan Fyah didn’t have very much in the way of melody (although I did declare ”Time & Place” a modern classic) and was VERY straight forward. I once used to really like and even love some of these tunes. The one which stands out as having fallen back a bit is ‘Black King’ which actually features Jah Mason and I often pull it back, trying to convince myself it’s still as big to my ears as it used to be. It isn’t and neither is the album (and there is another factor at work here, which I‘m going to tell you about now).

Former Rating: ~4.5/5
Today’s Rating: 2.9999999/5

“Rasta Still De ‘Bout” by Josie Mel [Minor 7, Flat 5/2005]

That factor you ask??? Okay so, a few years back there was this label, Minor 7, Flat 5 from out of Germany (I THINK) and it was headed by this gentleman by the name of Brotherman (who I think was from Spain). Anyway, this label released about 900 albums on the same set of riddims with a change here and there and they did it for a wide variety of big artists such as Luciano, obviously Lutan Fyah, Turbulence (twice) and even Al Pancho. And while I did like some of that material (and still do, ”My Hope” is a modern classic for me as well), it’s gotten pretty tedious over the years to my opinion. The album which stands out as far as having lost a great deal of the lustre I gave it is ”Rasta Still De ‘Bout” from Josie Mel. I don’t really know what I saw in this album. With the exception of the MASSIVE title track which features Lutan Fyah, I can’t think of any thing else which is even clearly above average work. It’s just a Roots Reggae album - Nothing more and nothing else (but it was better than the followup Mel would later do for the label ”This Whole World”).

Former Rating: 5/5
Today’s Rating: 2/5

“Child of A King” by Luciano [VP Records/2006]

Perhaps, like the two entries before it, I’ve penalized the ”Child of A King” album because it too was built over a WELL traveled set of compositions (coincidentally, the same batch also spawned a modern classic, the aforementioned ”I-Space” album by Sizzla Kalonji) from Byron Murray’s In The Streetz label. But the more likely ‘problem’ is that the album is a victim of the excellence of its creator. If you go back and listen to all of the recent and semi-recent albums Luciano has done for VP Records, he usually brings some of his best work. Last year was the excellent ”United States of Africa” and before that was the likes of ”Jah Is My Navigator”, ”Serious Times” another modern classic and you could even go all the way back to 2003 with ”Serve Jah” - All of those albums are better, and considerably better in retrospect, than ”Child of A King”. The album certainly was not bad either, however, listening through it these days and what I once regarded as “solid” and “well done” is now unremarkable and, at times, somewhat boring unfortunately.

Former Rating: 4/5
Today’s Rating: 2.75/5

“Shotta Culture” by Spragga Benz [BoomTunes/2010]

That didn’t take long, did it? After years of waiting, it actually took all of three months or so for the latest mega-creation of one of the greatest Dancehall DJ’s of all time, Spragga Benz, ”Shotta Culture”, to fall out my favour and I don’t remember any other nose-diving quite so fast in regards to my tastes (which is why it only received an honourable mention during Albums of The Year consideration) (and I don’t even think I would make it one of those now). What happened here is quite simple and easy to explain actually - Of the seventeen tracks on the album, too many of them sound alike. There’s this really heavy and kind of ‘direct’ vibes to the album which isn’t, alone, too bad, but when you take it and carry it over that many songs, suddenly things start to get pretty boring. I do still LOVE ‘Duppy Nuh Frighten Vampire’ and a few others (not as much, however), but for the most part, ”Shotta Culture” was only a slightly above average album! Maybe they spent too much time on it . . . Everything but the cover, of course.

Former Rating: 4.85/5
Today’s Rating: 3/5

1 comment:

  1. the new ratings are significantly lower than before. is child of a king really 2.75 boring?

    can't wait for Luciano's discography post.