Friday, April 22, 2011

'Only A Matter of Time': A Review of "Ziggi Recado"

In music, just as in sports, films and most other forms of entertainment, specific eras are defined by the achievements of and levels attained by its greatest practitioners. Certain time frames are most often associated with certain artists, certain athletes, certain actors and so forth and when you find yourself recalling the years of your life, you are perhaps more likely to remember to whom you were listening, rather than to exactly what. It is within this frame of thinking that I direct you to now as, I want you to just be able to sit back and appreciate just how lucky you, Reggae fan, are to be living (and hopefully doing so healthily) in this time. As I often discuss, Reggae music is a genre where, ultimately, the classics are far more celebrated than the currents and future classics by fans around the world, but as a modern listener of modern Reggae music, most respectfully, I’d be willing to place the talents of this current period of time and those of the previous three or so next to any other in the history of the music. Specifically, while this generation may’ve lacked ‘a’ Bob Marley, as did every other generation besides the one that didn’t, what we did have and what we still do is truly GLOBAL Reggae music. People all over the world make and LOVE these vibes and not just or even predominately one act - There may very well be hundreds of successful Reggae artists in the world at this point. Furthermore, of course, I’m completely biased, but being able to say that you experienced the prime years of people like Sizzla Kalonji, Capleton and Luciano and then stuck around long enough to see new faces such as Tarrus Riley, Etana and I-Octane rise to prominence is something which belongs to us and us alone. Also, you’re privileged to be able to appreciate the next big riddim from the likes of Stephen McGregor, Don Corleon and others and somewhere along the way you’ll be able to mention that you were around in the day and age when someone invented a genius ‘program’ by the name of Vaughn Benjamin - Codenamed ‘Midnite’. In your ‘day and age’ you enjoyed listening to some of the finest and most talented lights in the history of Reggae music and some of them, at the highest of levels, literally had no equals in skills but within themselves. Somewhere up there, residing amongst the stars was a most unique and most modern of talents who started slowly but eventually gained heat and began to breath FIRE on each and every track he touched. His name was Ziggi Recado.

"So Much Reasons"

I’m trying to think of someone who has been on the type of ROLL that the Dutch born, Statian grown supernova has been on in Reggae over the past few years or so and those ranks are filled by Protoje, Pressure Busspipe and I-Octane. In terms of ‘simply’ putting out good music, Ziggi has been smoldering. In his case, all roads lead back to his STERLING 2008 album release, ”In Transit”, which essentially reintroduced the artist as a MIGHTY modern Roots Reggae voice, as he had previously existed, including on his debut set, ”So Much Reasons”, as a developing Dancehall act. In the two years in between those albums, he would go from that to being what was heard on ”In Transit”, a seemingly COMPLETE, fully developed modern Roots artist and I STILL find myself finding new aspects of that project and enjoying it more and more - It may very well prove to be one of the best albums that I’ve ever heard someday. And, unsurprisingly, Ziggi also managed to become a personal favourite of mine and easily one of the most popular and perhaps THE most skilled European Reggae artist in the world, with respect to Gentleman. Thankfully he didn’t stop there. Over the course of the past three years Ziggi has continued his climb. He’s also changed his name, from ‘Ziggi’ to ‘Ziggi Recado’ (seemingly, at least partially, to further distinguish himself from Ziggy Marley) and to mark the occasion, he released a well received EP, ”Same Differences” just last year and seemingly to tie up any and all ‘loose ends’, Ziggi Recado now gives EVERYONE what we’ve been waiting for, his third studio album, the now eponymous, ”Ziggi Recado”. The album, just like the two before it, comes via Rock ‘N Vibes Entertainment and, as was the case for ”In Transit”, this new album has been released in Holland first with a worldwide date coming soon via industry leader VP/Greensleeves. Currently, you can also purchase the album via the Dutch iTunes store and the international release isn’t very far off, being now just a month and a half away.

"In Transit"

Personally (and I’m sure I’m not the only one), this album is one of the most anticipated of 2011 for me. If you haven’t been listening to Ziggi’s music over the last few years, I can tell you that, as I said, his skills have evolved to the point where he has very very little in the way of similarly equipped peers and particularly those of his age group of thirty years old and younger. Also, it should be said that while most of those efforts don’t appear on the album (which, fortunately, is largely new to my ears and one could probably come up with an outstanding release full of recent singles which aren’t on this album from Ziggi as well), he’s also stepped up in the way of activity and releasing videos and just making some of my favourite songs and because of that, were I to list out my favourite artists of RIGHT NOW, Ziggi’s name would rather easily appear somewhere in the top five - without question. All of that, however, only adds up to more and more anticipation. What we really want to know is if the album can live up to expectations and prove to be another project which demonstrates the true skill and class of this artist. Well that isn’t really much of a question because you already know the answer. This album is outstanding. Let’s examine!

'Get Out'

After seeing the tracklist for the album a few weeks back and not seeing ‘Joka Smoka’ and the likes, I was really interested in just seeing the nature of the vibes and the direction of the project. Ultimately, speaking strictly in terms of the sound, I think the album is a more diverse one than ”In Transit”, but it’s not something which is going to, ostensibly, ‘run off’ fans of that album (like You and I) and it should also help that the artist is in a DOMINANT form throughout. The first sign of ascendancy we get a taste of on ”Ziggi Recado”, the new album of its namesake from Rock ‘N Vibes Entertainment, is on the funky first single ‘Get Out’. This song is very unique and somewhat unexpected from Ziggi and, originally, I wasn’t very sure what to make of it. A few weeks on, however, and it’s pretty much latched itself on to me (a wonderful video in that time surely didn’t hurt either). The song is on a pretty dynamic vibes and, in retrospect, was a pretty clear choice for a single. And then there’s the boom. Listening through clips on iTunes when this album was listed as a pre-order, there was one song which stood out to us more than the rest and that song, ‘New Day’, is still standing high because it is HUGE and not surprisingly my absolute favourite tune on the whole of “Ziggi Recado”.

“World is in a big recession
Dem ah call it ‘crisis’
Politricks ah run di world, you betta analyze dis tune
Wi inna cycle, for a long time
Wi haffi ready now to step up to di frontline
Educate and get mentally fit
Globalization -
My generation witness too
When wi feel like wi close wi should know there’s a long way to go
Long way to go
Barriers inna di way, wi ahgo break dem down
United, we must stand up from the ground
Prepare and nah fear, just beware
There’s a revolution that’s near
Hey, when di clouds start to clear then the sun will come shining
Together with my people, wi haffi start climbing
Now is the time and today is the day
Straight forward mi seh

DAMN! The tune rings in as some MIGHTY and IMMEDIATE call to action, particularly for the younger people of the world and, at times, it (obviously) borders on lyrical perfection as Ziggi shows, for the first and definitely not the final time on the album, how spontaneously effective he can be.

Charged with most unenviable of tasks of having to followup that major tune is a piece which does manage to keep the vibes up and does so with a VERY clever style. ‘Mary’ is, essentially, a love song from Ziggi to his favourite ‘girl’. I think I probably heard this tune prior to the album release (and if I did, it would have been just one of three - along with the opener and the closer), but it took paying a considerable amount of attention before I was able to really appreciate what was going on.

“She takes me so far away!
Mary really makes my day!
Me and her connect in a passionate way
She’s deh ya when I need her
I will never leave her”

“Rise inna di morning when I get a cup of tea -
Best believe I got Mary sitting right next to me
Always need her inna di vicinity
She grow inna di hills and she’s a natural beauty
Yow I love her sweet aroma
Her perfume -
Is why I love when she come over
She free me up and take di burden off my shoulders
I watched her grow from she was young and now she’s older”

Ziggi is, indeed, talking about a very special someone: Mary Juana. In the absence of the aforementioned ‘Joka Smoka’ the album’s ganja tune may just be stronger that excellent set (and the riddim on this song is exceptional). Although I should probably alert Ziggi that the love of his life has also been cheating on him FURIOUSLY - with me.

'Time For Greatness' w/Mr. Probz

Combinations. Like Gentleman and a few others, Ziggi has been very strong and active in working with some of the biggest names that the genre has to offer (and occasionally stepping outside of Reggae/Dancehall as well). Prior to this album he’d worked with the artists such as the legendary Marcia Griffiths, Elephant Man, Anthony B, Gentleman, Ce’Cile, Admiral T and the Morgans and really, one of the things I was most looking forward to on the album was to see with whom he’d link this time around. Six of the fourteen tracks have artists featuring alongside Ziggi with a healthy mix of lesser known and up and comers with certified big names. As far as those who you (and I) may not be very familiar with - The first to join in is Pete Philly who is a Dutch rapper with roots in Aruba. He guests on the somewhat austere ‘Prostitute/Crack Head’ which is one of the best songs on the album to my ears. It’s very straight forward and in a story type of setting with the duo speaking on some of the harsher roads people take in life in a very big way. Next to join in is Mr. Probz on the very LARGE sounding ‘Time For Greatness’ which . . . May be my choice as the album’s second best song altogether. Probz is another rapper from out of The Netherlands and he does very very well on this song, which is probably the first I’ve knowingly heard from him. Hip-Hop isn’t my favourite genre in the world and this song kind of carries a Hip-Hop cadence, but it proves to be a SCATHING social commentary which transcends my taste, or lack thereof, in just about every way! MASSIVE! And Royston Williams, another rapper (from England) and one who I have heard of previously, appears on ‘Away From Home’. This very colourful tune literally sounds like three or four wrapped into one and it’s sure to get heads knocking and rocking across the globe (particularly as it goes along and the two kind of double-team the same verse later on which is very impressive).

'All My Life' w/Etana

”Ziggi Recado” also features Ziggi voicing alongside a quartet of very Reggae familiar names across a trio of tracks. The biggest of them all is the magical mystic that is Etana who chimes in on the relationship styled ‘All My Life’. This song may just have THE best and most infectious chorus on the entire album and Etana, as usual, sounds excellent, despite occupying a decidedly lower vocal octave than she normally does, which works well on this song. Later on, UK Dancehall veteran, Tippa Irie, and the son of Reggae royalty, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Omar Perry, join Ziggi on the fresh ‘Jah Alone’ across the recent Gorilla Riddim from Necessary Mayhem. I don’t know whose idea it may’ve been to link these three, but whoever is responsible for it (biggup Curtis Lynch Jr.) exercised more than a little brainpower because this song is not only very good, but it’s not three artists who you would think of working together in the ‘normal’ sense. And lastly is motivational and inspirational ‘This Year’ which FINALLY puts together the two biggest names of Rock ‘N Vibes Ziggi & Maikal X. Last year X released his debut album, the well received ”Genesis”, and I was pretty surprised that there wasn’t a track featuring the two there. Here’s a track that, after having them on the same label for some time now and having them mash up the same stage who knows how many times (including at Regatta last year), is just long overdue, but thankfully it proves to be one of the finest efforts here and thus, well worth the wait as Ziggi and Maikal X proclaim this year to be the time for EVERYONE to succeed (now if someone could just get Ziggi and Smiley together . . .).


The balance of the album, with Ziggi going solo is still very impressive, as you might imagine, with some of the real highlights coming in the remaining five selections. The most attention-grabbing of that lot, on paper, is the closer, ‘Pretender’ on Necessary Mayhem’s thumping relick of the Police In Helicopter Riddim. I was actually surprised to see it here, but it only adds to an already powerful set. ‘My Everything’ is Ziggi’s tribute to his children and it’s another very well carried out track. The song is one which is somewhat ‘moody’. It has an odd tempo which slightly expresses a sense of urgency, but I think what they were going for was a kind of heightened seriousness where Ziggi doesn’t want to just show how much he enjoys his kids, but how much they mean to him as well. Speaking of being important, ‘Still Wandering’ is another tune which finds Ziggi expressing imperative emotions - This time he’s reminiscing about ‘the one that got away’. I actually thought that the title was misspelled, but you listen to the track and it makes sense (“after all of this time, you’re still wandering in my mind”) and it’s all done very skillfully. ‘Real Talk’ is just strange and not in a bad way. It sounds like Ziggi goes circa 1975-’80 R&B with the pitch just gone off the face of the earth in this exaggeratedly high manner and it WORKS! Later in the song, on the other hand, Ziggi does manage to return to form and promptly precedes to serve up a sublimely WICKED verse of some big real talk.

“Nowadays we living in a economic crisis
Cutting into what you make by the raising prices
If you lose yourself you might forget that life is priceless
Everything that’s going on can make you numb and lifeless
Hey they world is in trouble how we gonna fight this?
There’s so many wrongs, tell me how we gonna right this
Like we living in the dark -
Can’t find the brightness
This is real talk, analyze this”

And finally is ‘Can’t Stop We Now’ which is currently one of my favourites and is about to become one of yours as well. While the message is definitely poignant on this song, the real attraction is the fact that it is a sonic MASTERPIECE. It almost sounds like a piece of a score from a film or something like such - Giving a full auditory experience.

"Same Difference" EP

Overall, I think I’ll make this as simple as possible: Here we have a top notch Reggae artist (in terms of skill, again, I’d argue that he’s in a class which stands favourably to any EVER) in the prime of his career releasing an album. That, alone, should be enough to interest you, but if you’re still not convinced (after that and 2800+ words of a review) what I will tell you is that, while I am intentionally going to refrain from DIRECTLY comparing the quality ”Ziggi Recado” to its immediate predecessor, I think that this album displays an even stronger artist. Lyrically, I hear advancement and I’ve heard one over the past year or so - At this point I wouldn’t put it past Ziggi to full-on sing songs which were winners consistently. I also really like the focus of this project which seems to have stepped up levels in terms of the music as well. There’s nothing really to dislike here AT ALL. So, when you hear some old and stubborn person tell you about how great the music of his day was and when you, yourself, get old as hell and become that old and stubborn person and you hear youths tell you how the music of your time is ridiculous and outdated - You tell both of them that you listened to EXCELLENT Reggae music. Tell them that you listened to people like Ziggi Recado. Excellent.

Rated: 4.75/5
Rock 'N Vibes Entertainment
CD + Digital

Ziggi Recado & Rock 'N Vibes

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