"Black Gold" by Toussaint [I Grade Records]
Today we take a look back to what was definitely one of the most interesting (and perhaps THE most) and best releases of 2010 and an album which I hadn't picked up in a minute until quite recently. This was an album which, wonderfully, got quite a bit of attention and, looking back, in terms of being what it was and when it was released, it was probably one of the most gripping albums of its time and it also figures to have a nice 'charge' to it as well as we'll still occasionally get messages from readers not only interested in the music, but still VERY passionate for it, nearly a year and a half on. "Black Gold" by Toussaint.
Toussaint The Liberator
1. 'Nobody Knows'
Still the best. While it was surely well received, I don't know that I ever read anything from anyone who appreciated this song as much as I did. For me, it is the 'title track'! If you come here looking "GOLD", you'll find it as soon as you start listening to this album in the form of this absolutely DAMAGING opener, 'Nobody Knows'. All this time later - what really sticks out now is the kind of 'broadly personal' nature of the tune. It now comes off as a presentation of thoughts more so than a written out and performed tune (which is what is actually is). Of course, there's a spiritual element to it, but that side is even active primarily in the mind. Very, very UNIQUE song.
"Nobody knows what I did today
Only me and The Most High"
2. 'This Song'
And from that conversation with "The Most High" was born -'This Song'. Here's another one which I recall immediately enjoying from the very first spin through. This tune is just full of discussable points and moments, not the least of which is the examination of the actual subject of the song, 'this song'. The "song" can be called a few different things in my mind. It's a song, it's an idea, it's a memory, it's a theme - So many different words fit into it and allow the song to still make perfect sense and I think what is at the song's core is INSPIRATION. It's a song very much about seeking inspiration and acting upon it as well.
3. 'Roots In A Modern Time'
In terms of the music on the album, I think that 'Roots In A Modern Time' so wonderfully expresses the situation of the album (and I believe it was the original title of the project also) in terms of how an album which sounds like this comes to be in the spectrum of Roots Reggae music (more on that later). But in digging deeper (because that's just what we do around here), the most fascinating word here is "Roots" because when you listen to the tune, it's clear that it's a synonym here for LIFE. The song isn't an examination of the world in reference to the music (or is it?) - but it's making a musical link between those Roots and to life and that is a MIGHTY notion.
4. 'Be You'
'Be You' has gone onto become the signature tune from this album and it's no surprise why. It was the first single from the album and there was a video (which should be in here somewhere) and it was just a very nice and vibrant song. Past the obvious, it also brought in concepts of inspiration and ORIGINALITY and, at least for me, it was a celebration of uniqueness and you could take that in so many different directions, but the one I go to is the idea of beauty and how wonderfully fucking beautiful the world is because everyone is at least a little different from everyone else.
5. 'Sunshine In Morning'
'Sunshine In Morning' is a song which will make a quick impact on the listener because it's a GLOWING tune. On a superficial level, it's easily one of the most sonically pleasing tunes on the whole of "Black Gold" (and that riddim is SPECTACULAR!). When you're able to get passed that, however (if you're able to), the message here is just as vivid as the 'aesthetics' of the tune. Be patient!
6. 'Hello My Beautiful'
We can call this one a "love song" because that's what we do with this kind of tune, but it's so much more. For me, I don't know that I ever paid as much attention to the sound of 'Hello My Beautiful' - it's . . . very odd and I mean that in a good way. It sounds worn and kind of rough at times, but in there somewhere is a polished and repolished tune which almost sounds like something out of some kind of movie. It's very BIG and dramatic and one of the most shocking moments on the album.
7. 'Black Gold'
The album's title track, now, is one which I find just almost over-filled with a sense of pride. The premise of the song and the title of the song are both concepts which are built on it.
"The faces I see starring at me-
In Grandma's collection of pictures
A treasure-trove to behold, nuggets of gold
And there lies the reason for my existence"
Toussaint will mention bad things and situations ["I come from mental anguish, malnutrition"], but they're COMPLETELY overthrown by this pride which is inborn and a birthright! This song is amazing and if it were set sans music at all (even though I do like the music), it would still be - it's a very message-driven beauty in this case.
8. 'Look Up'
I haven't gotten much further on 'Look Up' because I . . . pretty much overthought my way through it the first few times I heard it. It's a song for the Afrikan Woman and I'm still so very much interested in the way the tune is constructed and arranged. It's almost like Toussaint is apologising to the Woman (who has done her part) on behalf of the man who hasn't handled his responsibility and he's doing it without condition. But it is his hope and belief that this will be corrected and soon which ultimately gives the song a very positive bend.
9. 'Conquering Cocaine'
Here we have a song which I definitely liked when I heard it, but I don't know that it's ever been as strong in my mind than it is these days. 'Conquering Cocaine' is very personal (despite the very 'free' nature of it - when you think of such a tune, I think the vision is of someone sitting in a room playing a guitar, singing and crying about their problems, but that isn't what happens here at all), very unique in the spectrum of Reggae and a song which has become a late highlight from the album for me.
10. 'Rise & Fall' featuring Jahdan Blakkamoore
Jahdan Blakkamoore wasn't far away from delivering his own set which would be nice for a "Rewind!" someday, "Babylon Nightmare", when he, expectedly, popped up on the only combination on "Black Gold", 'Rise & Fall'. What I'm focused on now is one of the verses in the song from Toussaint where he speaks on Haiti and a reawakening of Haiti which is something somewhat unexpected, but when you frame it into the balance of the tune, it's well situated. Between the two, Jahdan goes more on a broad level where Toussaint dives into specifics and between both sides is a HUGE track.
Next we go 'Marching' with Toussaint. This song is interesting because I can remember not liking it all that much and while I still wouldn't rank it amongst my favourites here, slowly it's starting to pick up a little steam to me. If you take the premise of the song - this call to action and call to movement - the style of the song, which is what I didn't like, makes more sense. If you want to get someone up to do something and take an action, you're probably not going to be easy about it. There'll likely be a great deal of urgency in your voice and that's exactly what you hear on this one . . . and I'm still working on it!
TEARS! 'Patient' is and always was the second best tune on "Black Gold" to my opinion. It was absolutely GORGEOUS! And the tunes punchline:
"Please be patient with me
I am not through with me yet"
Resonates with me so much that it's such an identifiable tune with me, personally. As someone who's done a TON of really stupid stuff in they're life, I listen to this track and I wish I would've had the words in my head in . . . so many different situations that I found myself in, in my life. Particularly gripping is "Can't worry bout the apathy, though it's CRIPPLING" - DAMN! It's like the man wrote the song with me in mind. But that's wayyyyyyyy too much of my business. Excellent tune!
Toussaint goes all Nat King Cole on the people (not really) with the second single from "Black Gold", 'Unforgettable' which, again, is much better than I think I originally gave it credit for being. It's pretty much an R&B song and one which is just so beautiful that I'm wondering if it ever got an opportunity to be appreciated in those circles because I think that it would have done very well.
Although somewhat buried on the album and pretty laid-back I've paid a great deal of attention to 'Changing' and while it isn't really hard to follow along and it's low on metaphors and is very straight forward, I think that I'm getting to a point where I can better appreciate this one. The main thing which interests me, much like in the case of 'Marching', is this wonderful marriage between vibes and messages and how it now sounds like an old school Jazz tune but . . . ask me again in a year.
15. 'Rain Again'
FINALLY (although it really hasn't taken a long time to write this one - maybe 60-70 minutes of actual work) (combined with about four hours of downright masterful procrastination) is 'Rain Again' and after all of this time - I like it. I was wrong, it's much better than I gave it credit for. Youssoupha Sidibe produces the tune which is very stringy and kind of hard to really grab or do anything with. BUT somewhere in the middle of listening to it, it lit up. I now hear a melody and a musical direction and it's not there yet, but I see the intent and in terms of a single tune, I can't actually think of more of a change that I've had than here. Beautiful and growing.
Okay, here's what's sticking with me from "Black Gold", in full, today. The album was pushed on the concept of how Toussaint brought together Reggae and more traditional Soul and Jazz and R&B for a genre which was called "Soul Roots". I wrote about it, pretty much everyone else did as well and that was a big point surrounding interest on the album as many people from the Reggae side just hadn't heard of Toussaint very much. Now? I don't even care about it slightly. That aspect of the album has relented a lot for me and while I won't go in the direction of saying that genre doesn't matter to me at all (clearly it does, I LOVE categories, they make things really convenient), I really like how this album has 'progressed' from being this project which was, to a large degree, interesting because of the background of the artist, to being just as interesting and arguably even more because of the music. Going forth that's what is most easily accessible. You'll have to do research to learn/remember the story of Toussaint and the background story of the album, but all you need to do to realize just how special "Black Gold" is - is push Play.