Friday, December 2, 2011

'Progression!': A Review of The Redeemer Riddim

Since we started this horrible, horrible blog, I think that one of the most interesting aspects of it is just watching how everything has developed. What I mean is that, I think it's pretty fascinating to maybe go back and see how one day I'm calling for "Artist A" to release an album and then fast-forward months ahead and to see how I tried not to slam said album, clearly worthy of it - obviously attempting, unsuccessfully, to fight off the fact that I was disappointed. More interesting than that ridiculous example is watching how specific things have come about in regards to what I've been paying attention to and to see just how quickly they done so. We can look at certain artists (and we're going to) and labels (that too) for this and when we do that, easily one of the most curious examples is German label, Oneness Records. There certainly have been others and others still which're currently progressing to that level - currently we're having a healthy look at what Rumble Rock Recordz is doing - but I don't think that such a FULL instance is as available as the work of Oneness. Why exactly? Good question. While it wasn't quite the first impression (who cares? I'm going to call it that anyway), they made this biggest of SPLASHES to be made when last year the label set up the Reggae listening world with the finest modern album to be found in 2010, the increasingly MASSIVE "Long Journey" by Naptali. Now this can go into two different directions: Along with that mighty piece of musicianship, it was also the basic introduction to an artist who, should he fulfill on his immense potential, can do even more great things in the immediate future (and more on him later). In that very same project we also got another introduction to someone who would become a superstar around here, the incomparable Sara Lugo and they would return to do work on her stellar release from earlier this year, "What About Love". Those two artists and those two albums are four of the most revisited topics of discourse in the nearly three year history of this blog and will remain so and, at least partially, we owe that to Oneness Records . . . For giving us stuff to talk about. And most fortunately there's been even more as, at least as far as we're concerned, we've watched them go from a known decent entity to one of my absolute favourite labels in existence today in just about a year and a half. WHAT!

Would've been the best album of this year too

Along with those big releases and artists who definitely have the feel of classics in both cases, like a label should be, Oneness Records have given themselves the opportunity to be discussed by being ACTIVE! They haven't taken large spans of time off (as evident by the fact that this is the fifth review I'm writing for a project with their name attached to it from March 2010) and, even if you haven’t been as impressed as I have by their output, surely you've taken notice, particularly if you're the type of individual who would dare read a review as long as this one is sure to be. They also put out a couple of STRONG riddim releases which were very good, last year's Soul Riddim and the Backstabber Riddim from earlier this year. Well done!

Soul Riddim & Backstabber Riddim albums

So, with us paying a nice amount of attention to the label, you can probably imagine just how pleased I was to learn that they were back at work with what was shaping up to another riddim album and this time they were going in a most fitting and FAMILIAR direction. The Redeemer Riddim becomes Oneness' fifth riddim album by my count (they also did the Oneness and General Key riddims, respectively, a few years back) and it figures to go down as one of their best as well. This thing is just beautiful and now having so many different styles to hear it taken through, I surely have an even greater appreciation for it than I already did, which is saying quite a bit. I've learned something very interesting from listening to this label's work, in particular - it's just always better than you think it is. Retrospectively, looking back at the Soul Riddim: It may just be one of the best riddims I've heard in a . . . really long time and while I definitely recognized its beauty and did so immediately, it wasn't until a few months on that this even more significant moment of "Damn, this thing is REALLY REALLY good" hit me. So, when you take that and throw it with all of the labels other work, I was really expecting a lot here. OH YEAH - It should also be mentioned that the Redeemer is named after its most popular tune which also happened to be the single best tune from the aforementioned "Long Journey" album - After ALLLLLL of that you get something which has no choice but to do well and that's well before we get a look at exactly who is voicing on the thing. When we get there, something else really unique develops as well (as if we needed something else to talk about here). It's not at all unusual for someone to record a mix of big named and well known artists alongside up and comers and, in fact, it's actually preferred in many cases as it serves the best interests of EVERYONE involved, especially the fan, but what Oneness does here is to go into a direction which is starting to arise more and more these days - that of recording different artists 'cross-culturally'. So, while you do get your big names (and you get more than enough of them and you're going to love what they give you), you also get not only up and comers, but up and comers from vastly different walks of life, all linked together for Oneness on the Redeemer Riddim. Previously, they did that a little with the aforementioned Backstabber Riddim, but not to this degree and should it become somewhat of a staple for of the imprint's work in the future, I think that it only brings even more colour to an already extremely multihued establishment. And speaking of this establishment - one of the main facets of it is that the riddims a top notch and the Redeemer does absolutely nothing to take away from that. Let's have a listen!

'Redeemer' by Naptali

A wonderful thing happens at the very beginning of the album for the latest creation of scalding German label, Oneness Records, the Redeemer Riddim. Whether by design or by coincidence, the label steps in its greatest direction by placing three tunes which should probably go to become the signature tracks from this composition. In this most brilliant stroke of frontloading, they ensure that this thing will immediately grab the listener’s attention. So who's here? Getting us started with the second finest I heard on the riddim is outstanding veteran, Junior Kelly, in a fantastic form on the inspirationally vibed 'Heads Up'.

“Poor people keep ya heads up!
All the warriors keep ya heads!
Survivours keep ya heads up!
Dig deep
Find strength
And don’t you stop
Baby-mothers keep ya heads up!
Freedom fighters keep ya heads up!
Youth progressive keep ya heads up!
Hustle and earn an honest bread
Don’t you stop

Well wi ah try fi be more!
And go further than before!
Ya si di youth dem weh ah sleep pon di floor!
Deep dung inna ya core
Just tell yaself
Free yaself yah waan more
Force to be reckoned with
Ya pride - No step pon it
Leggo di - TALK
When physical is happening
No progress no come through idling
And you won’t get no food from MURMURING!”

Besides covering the more stereotypical bases that you'll find such a tune making stops at, Kelly takes the track even further by infusing the slightest bit of urgency in his tones which gives it a more a 'bigger' feel and it's also one of his better lyrical efforts as of late as well. Also, the marriage of vocals and riddim here is HUGE, making for one amazing sonic display. Big big tune! Speaking of big and great displays, next we get even larger with what STILL proves to be the most booming track on the riddim named after it. Of course it's Naptali The Great and it's 'Redeemer'. TEARS! I'm so familiar with this song and it's really progressed to the point where it is just COMFORTING to hear at this point, but that familiarity hasn't lead to a staleness in the way that it sometimes does. This 'fluency' has only made this song an even greater experience to hear these days and it's quickly becoming one of the best songs I've ever heard - from anyone. Oneness Records and Achis Reggae favourite Lutan Fyah is up next with the riddim's third finest piece, the passionate herbalist anthem, 'Bag A Herbs'.

“A just a likkle bag a herbs Mr. Officer
I nah sleep a jail fi no ganja
A just a likkle bag a herbs Mr. Officer
What mek ya waan charge I fi marijuana?

So mi deh come from country wah day ya
Mi, Fyah T and mi bredrin Izula
Wi got herbs, but wi neva got no rizzla
Wi stop a gas station, say wi want some paper
To my surprise, wi buck up inna roadblock
Some screwface soldiers and some badman cop
Dem seh - ‘Hey Ras, what you got inna di box?’
I gotta few ripe turnip and some dried coconut

Him search and him search til him find di spliff tail
And tell mi how much him ahgo lock mi dung a jail
Now to ya name artist wid fame
Yah come from Spain
Tonight you go sleep a St. James
Him fly di car trunk and look straight inna mi face
Di bredda dash weh mi carrot and mi few corn grain
Di scent of di marijuana lick him straight to di brain
Hey police wi no traffic cocaine!”

It's nearly a typical 'fight against the herb' kind of song, but what it does is find Fyah going through an incident and he kind of makes it wonderfully broad on the chorus. The song itself, obviously, is very specific and brilliant, but it's more of a wide-reaching and progressive message to be found in it to my ear.

As I said, the Redeemer Riddim goes in a such a nice direction by incorporating a very diverse group of vocalists and we get our first taste of that when Spanish native (biggup Lutan Fyah) Zuri comes in with 'Por Ti Final'. Zuri has such an interesting voice that it makes me almost certain that I’ve come across some of his work in the past and he sounds downright divine on this riddim! The same could be said for 'Partout La Critique' (although in a different way), which comes from someone who I definitely have heard of before, D Ju Lion, from out of Belgium. I think that any other time I've heard the Lion it was on a Dancehall track and this definitely brought out some beautiful versatility from him and hopefully he can also become a fixture for Oneness productions. Later on we get the delightful and mellow 'Buena' from someone completely new to us, Caramelo Criminal. This tune, also a Spanish track (apparently Carmelo Criminal is from Peru) (biggup reader Manuel, also from Peru), is somewhat similar to 'Por Ti Final'. Not quite as SYRUPY sweet, but really a very nice tune and, it now gives us a reason to seek out more from Carmelo Criminal and you'll do the same as well (so let me know if you find anything good). Finally, adding to the range of artists on the Redeemer Riddim is South African chanter, Crosby who impresses greatly on his 'Jah Powers'. This one is pretty straight-forward but, much like another big artist from out of South Africa, Black Dillinger, Crosby makes it works to the tune of being one of the best songs on the riddim.

And we still get five more tunes from very expected sources on the Redeemer. 'Sun Shine' is such a selection from the big voiced Raymond Wright. This song, like a lot of pieces from Wright, at least for me, seems to add another dimension to the vibes because his style is almost INHERENTLY Gospel/R&B. So, on this riddim, which doesn't adjust itself to him specifically at all, he becomes the changeup 'simply' because of his delivery which is one of a kind. The always welcomed Anthony Locks also gives a find vocal display when he says 'No Mattah' on the tune which speaks of maintaining oneself and determining one's own way. This one took more than a few spins to really grab me, but when it did it was worth the wait for the song - So be sure to pay a little more attention on this one (it's kind of spacey). Another favourite of Oneness', Fyah T, fresh off his own album earlier this year, "Family Wise" (which I’ve been meaning to take a full listen to one of these days), also chimes in with 'Love Me For A While' (which wasn’t on the album apparently). Fyah T is almost always the one who is a bit more intense than the others, but he manages to keep his calm on this selection (sans the beginning) which is a good sound for him actually. He speaks on the kind of 'seasonal friends' while saying he's looking for a bit more from the company he keeps.

“They don’t really love you
Nuff a dem ah pretend -
To be your best friend
Friendship will never end
When time you ask for help, you no see where is dem
And in di end there is no one badda than dem
Remove the cover
See di truth is revealing
Dem a soul robber, see dem robbing and stealing”

The chorus on this one is BIG and the song, later on, begins to take on a more of a social connotation. Fyah T deals with the societal structure of the world in terms of classicism, making a . . . pretty fucking intelligent link between the situation of the song and the situation of oppressive society - The oppressors using the oppressed insofar as to get what they want and then afterwards - not so much.

Redeemer Riddim Mix

The two (three) remaining big names on the riddim also do excellently. Fantan Mojah is 'Giving Praises' which is just what he does when at his best. Like a great deal of Mojah's work, this song has a BIG feel to it and, again, while the riddim doesn't change itself to accommodate the chanter, he gives it a big and powerful feeling while shouting praises to His Majesty. And finally is the sugary 'Dancehall Stylee' which is the riddim’s only official combination - this one featuring sterling singer and Achis Reggae favourite, Mark Wonder and Al Pancho. Clearly this is one of the riddim's finest tunes and if you wanted to call it as high as #2, I probably wouldn't put up too much of an argument with that. This riddim, and I'll speak on it more in just a second, just sounds so nice for this type of song and I could listen to Mark Wonder sing absolutely anything for days and for his part, Al Pancho is on point (he generally is, but I just don't catch his vibes for some reason, most of the time, but that's no problem here at all). Another big tune.

There's a VERY interesting aspect of the Redeemer Riddim album that I don't know that I've ever heard on any other and it's not such a HUGE deal, but it's absolutely captivating to myself. Every song on this riddim has an ending. In one way or another, you hear the vocal end of every song before the song completes. In several cases, wonderfully, the riddim runs on well after the vocals are done (as much as a minute in one or two instances) and you never get the finality of the song being the vocals kind of fading off mid-verse. That's very nice and also nice is the fact that Oneness once again includes a clean version of the riddim which is always a nice touch.

Overall, while I said this wouldn't happen this time, it kind of has again - The Redeemer Riddim ALBUM (not the riddim, the album) is better than I thought when I started writing this review (several years ago). There just aren't any bad songs here at all. My only actual complaint is that they didn’t get a female vocalist on the riddim (and I have a PERFECT ONE in mind) which would have been so nice on this more laid back vibes. For what it is, fittingly, the Redeemer Riddim is yet another outstanding addition to the catalog of Oneness Records and, as a whole, it may just be their best to date. It's also one of the better riddim albums of 2011 that we've come across and that isn't at all surprising when you consider the source - one of the best around. Well done.

Rated: 4.35/5
Oneness Records

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