Sunday, November 13, 2011

'No Shadow': A review of "The Journey" by Omar Perry

There exists an equally very interesting and wonderful moment in the career of every artist who ends up sticking around for any length of time when the initial 'shine' has worn off and it becomes time to add further substance. Whatever it was that originally attracted fans - a big tune, an unusual style, a link to someone else - has ceased to generate interest, for the most part, and fans begin to demand more and more in the way of new material and successes. I also look at artists who may have come up in very unusual circumstances as good instances of this - someone like Aidonia. The DJ has a talent which is pretty much unrivaled. He can throw together words like no one I've ever heard (with the exception of Saïk, someone who might also fit into the same category had his fans not pretty much had the opportunity to watch him up grow as an artist) and all of these years later, while it is impressive, the focus now goes to whether he has a greater and more timeless quality to him and he is in the midst of demonstrating that. For a more fitting and appropriate example of this, we can point to the current status of the career of someone Damian Marley. There have probably been, literally, hundreds of articles written about the career Jr. Gong being "in the shadow" or something like such - of that of his most legendary father, Bob Marley. These days, however, the younger Marley has definitely made his own place, due mostly to the fact that he is not only insanely talented, but also is so clearly identifiable with the music in a very modern style, that it becomes easier for fans to detach (at least superficially), his vibes from the work of his father. Similarly would be someone like a Tarrus Riley who experienced the same thing with his own father, Jimmy Riley, but in a much different way. That initial material coming up with him surely read 'son of Jimmy Riley', but he very quickly distinguished himself and if you look at it today, his lineage is much much less discussed, even in the most casual of circles. Someone whose own situation would follow more along the lines of Riley would be the individual we deal with today, son of Lee 'Scratch' Perry, Omar Perry. Not that he was as prevalent as Riley, but Omar's somewhat nomadic journey to prominence certainly took him away from 'simply' relying on his name quickly and establishing his own name. Still, when your father is who is father, you come from Reggae royalty (the elder Perry would hold a lofty claim to being one of the most talented individuals EVER associated with the genre) and when that becomes known and turned to the public it is ripe for interests.

"Man Free" [2007]

But I think most of that has waned away by album #3 and he never seemed to be too interested in it anyway. The interest in Omar Perry is almost heightened because, superficially, the most attention-grabbing bit of information surrounding him is almost an afterthought now and while he isn't the most popular name in Reggae music, his is a solid one which is added along to many who are plying their trades around the world (particularly in Europe and Africa, in his case). Also, it should be mentioned that Perry has quite a nice following. His work is pretty well discussed and popular amongst fans (at least those who talk to us).

"Can't Stop Us" [2009]

One would hope that to be the case as Omar Perry has just released his third studio album, "The Journey". The project, which comes through Bonfire PR Records, follows 2007's "Man Free" and "Can't Stop Us" from a couple of years later. The first of those, even still, just wasn't very good in my opinion and really exists as an album (somewhat like Chezidek's perplexing "Rising Sun") which I occasionally go back to, expecting to like because I didn't hate it, I just didn't have very much of a response to it at all. "Can't Stop Us", on the other hand, was pretty good and just a solid modern Roots Reggae set from 2009. For me, that was the first time I really took notice of Perry's talents. It wasn't that the album was just so AMAZING, but what it was (and especially when compared to its predecessor), was a very well done and thorough piece of work. For me, that was an INTRODUCTION! That was the way you get someone's attention, musically, and I was happy that the album was very well received by others as well. It was also quite varied (as is this album which I'm about to tell you about) and by its end, I was on board, as loosely as possible, as a fan an thus, pretty curious to see what Perry would bring up next. Well, two years later and I have my answer. The pretty aptly and fascinatingly titled "The Journey" follows a very solid run over the past year or so from Omar Perry. I can't say that I've enjoyed all of his work over that time, but I've been happy to see his name popping up on various projects as of late. Before the last album, I don't recall that being the case, but Perry has since linked up with some fine producers recently, including Necessary Mayhem, The Bombist and Tippa Irie and some of that material is present here. Going into this album I don't know that I was exactly expecting some type of tangible development (although it would be nice, surely) - I was pretty easy! A runback of the previous album would have been good enough and, although it's still pretty early in the 'sit down and think about it' process, I think that's, essentially, what hes done here. Although too long at eighteen tracks, "The Journey" is a very concrete release. Again, it does an excellent job of displaying this very talented and versatile artist and I can't imagined that anyone who came (for whatever reason) will be too disappointed. Let's take a listen!

'Love Inna Mi Heart'

My point in much of that was to detail that this is a very important album for Omar Perry (I know what you're thinking - every album is important - that's wrong. Trust me! They aren't!). With the 'title' he carries having now all but dissipated, and probably totally amongst hardcore fans, this is a great time to create long-lasting fans around the world and I'm sure that's exactly what he wants as an artist. If the first track on his brand new album, "The Journey", is any indication, Perry is sure to put up a big and beautiful sign to attract attention in the form of the album's lovely praising opener, 'Father of Creation'. Fans might be familiar with the track which originates on the UK Flu Riddim, via the aforementioned Tippa Irie, from last year (itself a remake of an old Studio One track). This is a SWEET song and was actually my favourite on the entire release for quite some time and should definitely rank highly for . . . Really anyone with ears. Next is another recognizable tune (on another old riddim), previous single 'Love Inna Mi Heart' from (the also aforementioned) The Bombist. I do like this tune on a certain level, but I think it could've been even better. It's VERY straight forward and I think just thinking outside of the proverbial box could have been very strong here, but nevertheless, it is a nice song and the riddim (which was originally crafted by Perry's father), of course, is absolutely dazzling. Wrapping up the start of "The Journey" is the first of six official combinations on the album and its most high profile as well, 'Change Your Ways', which feature star chanter, Anthony B. REALLY like this tune! The bite missing from the preceding track obviously made its home on this anti-violence piece and it features Anthony B not at his absolute best, but still in a really fine form.

“Badness no pay, badness no pay, badness no pay now
Mi ah warn di youth dem night and even day now
Full times mi seh fi change dem dutty ways now
Too much innocent get take away now
Too much of di ‘popopopopop pi pi’
Man seh dem a shotta, quick fi mek a marrow fly high
Tall up dem quick fi wave inna di sky high
Too much innocent ah die!”

The tune figures to have legs if given an opportunity, but even if it isn't, definitely check it out.

Also joining Omar Perry on this journey is a colourful group of featuring artists, alongside Anthony B. On the top end of the list, in terms of being known, are Kiddus I and Earl 16. The former joins in on the classically vibed 'Life Ain't Easy' which I had to work on quite a bit before declaring a final opinion on. It isn't the best song on the album, but it is strong in its own way (don't just hear it once and continue along). Earl 16, meanwhile, comes in later with the FUN 'Thinking of You', one of the album's changeups. This song exists somewhere in the spectrum where Dancehall and Pop meets and while usually something like such isn't necessarily what I'm going to be interested in, this one works for me a little and its just a delightful and feeling good type of song to bring a higher mood to the vibes: Mission accomplished. Frenchie, Fabrice Boyer helps on 'She Is So Nice' which is another song which will require more than just a couple of spins. In this case, however, it's because the vibes on the tune are pretty strange with the very 'electric' sound of the track being dominant throughout, but it is a decent song at its end. 'Rhythm Runs Deep' features the charming Davanna Sweet and with its HEAVY vibe, it's probably one of the best songs on the entire album. This is smoky room, COOL Reggae with just a hint of R&B mixed in as well. I really liked the mix here and do keep an eye on Ms. Sweet, hopefully she'll have a big 2012. The final combination track on "The Journey", 'Rip Off' is a strong acoustic number featuring Andres Lopez Gomez. I was pretty interested in hearing the motivation of the track and it finds Perry espousing on the state of the world's economic problems. He does so, however, in a very broad way which does cover specifics at times, but is so cleverly put together that after you listen to the entire album, I think it is one of the songs which will be stuck in your mind most, as it now is in mine. Well done.

While I definitely like a few of the combinations and they're always interesting (and I would have said something had no one been joining in), "The Journey" gets A LOT better, consistently speaking, when Omar Perry goes solo - in doing so he provides the album with some of its biggest moments. Aside from the opener, I think there're four tunes on the album which really distinguish themselves from the lot in a big way. The first is 'Wicked Affi Leave' (which I think may've been produced by Fabrice Boyer) which is another tune which just gives the listener a bit of an edge in the vibes and something to get you moving just a bit. The message here is pretty self-explanatory from the title - Perry talks about moving negative and nasty people from your life and your presence in a large way. This track is BEAUTIFUL! Next you should have a listen to 'Dem No Recognize' - BIG!

“Well dem nuh recognize
When dem see Jah Jah power just a move
Dem nah recognize

All dem ah scream and a all dem ah shout
Dem seh di fyah keep burnin and you know it nah out
Is like dem inna dream and dem caan get out
Di evil wickedness dem know is dem only route
But when mi si it from the other day
Mi no love how mi si di likkle youth man stay
Dem no waan fi live fi dem old gray
Mi si dat everyday dem get up, dem nah pray!”

Also, the tune just has a powerful and LARGE sound to it which really pushes it high to my opinion. Later we get the knocking 'I & I Rising'. This song, in my opinion, really shows what Omar Perry does well as an artist. It isn't the most well put together and crafted project, but he manages to pull it together so nicely, ultimately for one of the album's finest pieces. Finally (not really), there's my choice as the best song on "The Journey", 'Eat A Food'. Here's the thing: I'm pretty sure I LOVE this song because it sounds a lot like Capleton's crazy tune, 'Death Row', but I don't really care! 'Eat A Food' is GRIMY Roots Reggae - something you'd hear from someone like a Jah Mason and it made a big impression on me. I may be the only one to prefer it over the other seventeen tunes here, but somewhere in the middle of the tune I hear Perry hearing another level, one which is much better than "solid".

Rounding out this trod are a few more tracks which don't rank, for me, near the head, but aren't very far behind in some instances. The swinging 'Ready For The World' is a fine example of this. This is an excellent effort and a highlight for the body of the album and a song which both carries a powerful message and is entertaining at the same time. You might recall 'Those Were The Days' from just last year's Clearly Riddim (biggup Itation) and for some reason, I was somewhat surprised to see it here, but again, it's another fine addition to the album and whoever had the idea to include it definitely did a wonderful thing. Omar Perry (is pissed off and - ) has a thing or two to say to the taxman on the frenetic previous single 'GCT'. I enjoyed this one from the first time I heard it and while maybe not as much these days, the tune still packs a punch and should probably be a favourite of quite a few listeners here. Also check the album's closer, 'Wise Man' which should be another attention-grabber on the album and is so good that I really thought about going back and including it in the previous lot as some of the album's biggest tracks.

The two tunes on "The Journey" which just didn't do anything for me were 'Big Brown Eyes' and the very odd 'World Let Us Down'. The latter almost sounds like something from Cali P's last album, but you keep waiting for this explosion (musical and lyrical) and it never really comes. 'Big Brown Eyes' is just a love song . . . That's it. Nothing special about it at all.

Omar Perry

Overall, there is good material here and a lot of it. However, what I will say is that obviously the album is too long. You can carve out a damn good eleven or twelve track set here, but eighteen is stretching it and I figured it would be even before hearing the album. On the positive side, on the other hand, I hear flashes of absolute brilliance in this album which I don't think that I heard on "Can't Stop Us" which may be showing some type of development or may just be showing a better song or two in specific cases. Regardless, that is definitely a plus for this album. Now, if someday Omar Perry can put all of that together, this Perry may just be able to pull off a FULL project which someone might expect with his name. Until then, even with more solid efforts like "The Journey" - the spotlight will continue to be on Omar and for the right reason - Because his music is pretty good. A decent set.

Rated: 3.75/5
Bonfire PR Music
CD [I THINK] + Digital

Omar Perry @ Facebook

Review #337

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