Monday, June 13, 2011

'The Trinity': A Review of "Rub-A-Dub Market" by Luciano

And another one. As I've said in the past, I feel that in most walks of life and especially when it comes to entertainment, we look at certain individuals and groups of individuals to consistently perform at the highest levels because it is what they’ve shown themselves capable of doing. These are the 'leaders of the pack' and while they've certainly earned the label, it is one which also requires a bit of maintenance (unless, of course, if you are deceased). In Reggae, things are the same, but when you look at the entire landscape of the music, it's so fractured that we don’t tend to categorically place artists together as closely as one might think and, therefore, you tend to deal with a ridiculously wide array of both "leaders" and "packs". Fortunately, however (because I have absolutely nothing better to do with my time), I have managed to cross serious journalistic boundaries and come up with a fairly dependable list of performers who're currently delivering top notch music consistently, regardless of which type of group you may put them in. Chances are pretty good that if you've had pretty good luck in terms of what you’ve been listening to in Reggae over the course of the past eighteen months or so that you've probably dealt with copious amounts of tunes from the likes of Chezidek, Pressure Busspipe, Ziggi, Mark Wonder and a few others. If you take a look (and a listen) to that group you have a very diverse lineup . . . But not really. They all focus, primarily, on Roots Reggae, but we could look at Pressure and Ziggi as examples of artists who may just be hitting their primes, as opposed to Chezidek and Mark Wonder who're either just peaking in a very advanced stage of their careers, or finally just beginning to get the proper notice for consistently delivering excellence over a long period of time (remember that). And we could also look at the likes of Tarrus Riley, Etana, Duane Stephenson, Queen Ifrica etc. but, as usual, I'm looking for the not so obvious routes.

Such as arguably the most consistent Roots Reggae artist . . . Ever (?). I wonder where can probably place someone like Luciano who has, apparently, managed to go a bit 'under the radar' over the past ~ year, but what he has done has created one of the greatest stretches of his legendary career. All of this follows a damn odd controversy which somewhat stalled the singer (and his visa), but only 'helped' to add to the flame which was just about to burn.

"United States of Africa" & "Write My Name" - 2010

Luciano released the very well received "United States of Africa" in early August of last year, for Frenchie & Maximum Sound in the UK and it become one of the LEAST polarizing albums that I can remember. Luciano is very popular and you can find a solid amount of press on that album and although not everyone may have LOVED it or deemed it the greatest album, I don't know if I've yet to find anyone who didn't thoroughly enjoy it and can express exactly why. Just a few months down the line, the famed 'Messenjah' quickly returned with a next release in "Write My Name", for a US based label, Footprintz Music Group and while this one may have had a bit more in the way of 'movement' in regards to opinion, I actually liked it better. Retrospectively thinking, it took more chances in its course than did its immediate predecessor, but the results proved it to be worth it. Regardless of how they rank in comparison to one another, in my opinion they both ranked as two of the best Reggae albums of 2010 and they still do. So that's it, right? The next time we get an album from Luci it'll be in 2012-2013 for VP Records and it'll be produced by whoever or two or three whoevers. Right? Wrong. The very resourceful performer has quickly returned and done so, once again, through a European producer, this time the fine Austrian based IrieVibrations Records. Previously, the same label was best known for an album in "Born Dead With Life", from eccentric chanter (from St. Ann!), Perfect, from a few years back which was heavily lauded by pretty much everyone (excluding yours truly) (Perfect's greatest creation, in my eyes, remains the masterclass that was "Giddimani" and gave them their signature international moment. Well, I suppose (but I’m probably wrong), that that’s a distinction likely to change as also planned for the not too distant future from IrieVibrations, is also albums from both Anthony B and Konshens . . . But of course that’s all after what we find ourselves dealing with now, as Luciano attempts to continue his wonderful streak by releasing the WONDERFULLY titled "Rub-A-Dub Market" which quickly and comfortably proves to be a very ‘entertaining’ and complete Roots Reggae set. While not falling too far at all outside of the scope of Luciano’s standards or typical style, this album is one which I feel that is going to draw quite a bit of attention based 'simply' on the strength that it sounds good as artist and riddim, for the most part, meld extremely well throughout this fifteen track set. The results of that is an album which, while it certainly won't have any type of 'mainstream' aspirations or appeal (it is a Luciano album, after all) probably will bring in and then satisfy more than traditional fans of the Manchester native. It is a very nice sounding album. On top of that is the fact that the material that he brings is also, of course, top notch and emblematic of the vibes Luciano has brought over the course of the past year. All of that goes to make for one very impressive project by album's end and perhaps even one which won't be too difficult to remember when giving honours come December. Why? Let’s see.

Album Megamix

For years, Luciano's role in Reggae music has been very much that of a conscience of sorts. It was he who at least attempted to steer the music back to a conscious state when some of his perhaps wayward peers took it in what he deemed to be an unnecessary and unuseful (not a word) direction. There's the lasting image of him on a Rebel Salute stage one year, essentially admonishing both Sizzla and Capleton (if memory serves me correctly) for having made the show into a slack one and he's been indirectly doing that same thing for a great deal of his career. I mention that because such is the premise for the title track for his brand new album, "Rub-A-Dub Market" -- the biggest tune on this album and one of the biggest I've heard from anyone in the first half of the year.

“Some a dem ah push bad vibes and dem nah hold no rem
Dem ah gwan lak dem a di roots, but dem ah di branch and stem!
Dem shoulda know wi ruling so from way back when!
Dem know dat Papa Luci is a living legend!
Dem caan tek di fyah weh Jah Messenjah send!
Seh nuff a dem come ya and deceive Jah children!
Dem ah gwan lak dem a mi friend, but dem a bag a heathen!
Mi bun dem and scorch dem again!
Well then-

Carry mi music over rub a dub market
And a di music sell off!
Carry mi music over rub a dub market
Even di producer haffi laugh [Ha ha ha ha]”


Luciano turns on the deejay chops for that rousing stretch of this MASSIVE tune which is the essential piece here marrying good common sense with such an undeniably appealing tune and the results, in this case, may be timeless as he fully embraces his 'role' as the (STILL) spiritual anchor for Roots Reggae (although he surely has more help these days than he did a few years back) (biggup Chezidek, Etana, Queen Ifrica, Tarrus Riley . . .).

Making of 'Hard Road'

That big tune begins the album and is followed by a string of impressive sets, the first of which is the familiarly vibed 'Hard Road'. I'm pretty sure I know this tune from somewhere (outside of the "life is a hard road to travel and a mighty long to go" lyric) but I don't quite know where. That’s fine, on its own merits, it far more than adequately adds a great deal to the album. Very nice tune. Next is the first of a few love songs, 'Truly Love Someone'. This one isn't the type of get close and personal type of track; instead it's a very broad one and one which speaks more on the idea of love as a continuing process and display, rather than an achieved state and the enjoying of it. But, curiously enough, it does sound more quaint and comfortable, so it presents this dual-leveled type of song . . . At least for over thinkers like yours truly. It should also be mentioned that the tune featured on IrieVibrations’ new SweetBaby Riddim which is also currently available for your digital consumption.

There're so many songs on "Rub-A-Dub Market" (there has got to be some type of an abbreviation to make that easier to type) which just SOUND NICE, that I almost got to thinking of what type of success the album might have if it were turned to a more casual group of Reggae fans and Im inclined to think that it would do very well. I wonder how such a group of people would respond to the vibrant 'Only You Jah', which is clearly amongst the highlights on the album. Luciano has basically perfected this type of anthem-like praising song (as we'll see shortly) and although this particular effort is VERY STRONG, it’s not at all rare for him (he even betters it later on this same album). I'm also very curious as to what they might think of a tune such as my choice as the album’s second biggest moment, the stirring 'Voice of A Trumpet'.

“If I could heal this world with music
And I could save mankind then I would do it
But even though I try -
They just keep on drifting”

The song finds Luciano, very INTERESTINGLY, openly thinking about the impact that his music has on the world and how he might envision it being more and more effective and accepted and it’s a damn fascinating situation which I’ve often talked about - Just how much of an effect is this amazing music having? By the end of the tune you fully see that Luci has come to the conclusion that it is well worth it to continue singing to find out (!) and I definitely agree. Another tune which has vast potential to win over new fans due largely to its sonics (even though I’m not terribly fond of it) is 'Feeling For Love'. This one isn’t awful (no song here is), but what it is, is almost TOO upful. It almost seems like the type of a song which was made to fit a purpose (to be happy) and then it was slightly overdone, but again, it’s a very nice song to listen to, even if there isn’t a whole lot going on with it. Things turn back to the BRILLIANTLY VIVID when we reach another of my favourites here, the nearly massive 'Praise Jah Anytime'. I'm tempted to deem this one the possessor of the finest chorus in this market and while that may be in question, its clear beauty is not (at all)! This is even big for someone who does these types of large praising tracks very often, like Luciano does - I'd have to say that it is one of his best of this type in some time. Later we get one of the tunes which drew a direct line to one of the greatest albums I've ever heard, "King of Kings" by Elijah Prophet, 'Always Around'. This tune appears on the same riddim (whatever it’s called) which backed the Prophet’s HUGE herbalist track, 'Piece of Ganja' ("officer nuh badda lock me up fi smoke one piece of ganja!") and Luciano uses it for a song which very much quintessential of his work. The song speaks on the ever-present and unwavering properties of His Majesty and it is another big big tune which is also very easy on the ears. And there’s also 'Bun Dem' which interestingly comes through across the same riddim (“ “) as Gentleman’s tune 'The Reason' from the "Diversity" album. In my opinion Luciano works it out even more than the German superstar and he brings in some very clever aggression (not to I Wayne-like levels, but on that same course) so well pay attention to the lyrics on this big offering.

The remaining selections on "Market" (found one!) are by no means dead songs and some of them, for various reasons could even fit in well with the more dynamic few I just mentioned. However, their existences definitely give the album a very full sound altogether. Check the more docile 'Mek It Over' which is somewhat of an un-Luciano type of a song. It's a fairly straight forward social commentary with only the slightest of spiritual overtones at the chorus and Luciano, typically, just doesn’t do that, but this one is a real winner.

“Their biological plan
To deceive the nation
With their infiltration
Through virus injection
And they don’t give a damn
For the suffering man
All the struggling people, working hard as they can
Cause they don’t even care
If we live on welfare
While they’re spending their billions and billions on warfare
And they don’t turning an eye on those who suffering high
And they don’t even hear when we cry!”

'Living My Life' is a song which brought a tear or two from my eye, initially, because it rides the same Lovebird Riddim as Elijah Prophet's sterling 'Mother Nature'. Later, I saw (heard) that the tune around that riddim, while not (yet) the modern classic I recall from the Prophet, may just be approaching those hallowed levels. 'Love or Leave Me' is one superbly mixed tune and it’s a fairly 'standard' (potentially) jilted lover's piece which is almost completely saved on its smooth sonic appeal. Continuing with that line (not really) is the HUGE 'Where Is The Love'. This is more of the type of social commentary you'll generally hear Luciano sing. It’s very much rooted in spirituality and it NEVER reaches a point where the tangible world is either taking precedence over or even going on outside of the watchful eye of His Majesty. This is a song which, although a little slower than some of the others, I feel has a great opportunity to do damage amongst the masses if truly given the opportunity - And it just may be someday. Big tune. 'Love Paradise' is the final love track on "Market" and it comes in as a kind of a bluesy track, but once it gets going it is a song which is going to make endless people around this wonderful world smile big smiles because it is a lovely lovely song! Finally is 'Positive Vibration' which is a *bonus track* I believe. This song is pretty smooth and nice and you should already be well familiarized because it was featured prominently on IrieVibrations' "Modern Revolution" release from the aforementioned Konshens and Delus. The song really is just one which is just uplifting the music and it is a fine idea of a way to end this album to my opinion.

Making of 'Praise Jah Anytime'

Two things quickly: First of all, if our research is correct, then sometime later in 2011 the album will be released outside of Europe and be done so by VP Records (apparently after having now taken on the latest Gentleman album and that of Ziggi Recado, VP has caught on to all of these wonderful European produced releases) ("United States of Africa" would also apply now wouldn't it). Secondly, I suppose I'm well spoiled at this point by the likes of Not Easy At All and JahSolidRock, but I would have LOVED to have heard some instrumentals and dubs in the midst of this album. There are some amazing vibes here.


Overall, what we have here, yet again, is a stellar release from an artist to whom we look to provide such releases, but one who has clearly exceeded our expectations as of late and that's DAMN impressive coming from someone who is a legend in Reggae, without question. I told myself that I wouldn't even attempt to rank this one in comparison to its two most immediate predecessors, but what I will say is that, altogether, it's probably a more dynamic release than either "United States of Africa" or "Write My Name", which is definitely saying something, particularly in the case of the latter. "Rub-A-Dub Market" is also, very much, a statement making album. While "Born Dead With Life" was largely heralded as this amazing 'concept album', I think this may be one also as Luciano seems intent in living up to the title and the title track in re-solidifying his place as BACKBONE of Roots Reggae music (as if he needed to do that) and by album's end, it's exactly what he does. Having just served up his third top notch album in ten months, there can be no question that Luci, after alllllll of these years, is still on top of his game. One of the best of the year.

Rated: 4.65/5
IrieVibrations Records/Groove Attack
CD + Digital

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