Monday, December 19, 2011

'Room For Him!': A Review of "Higher Heights Revolution" by Everton Blender

We've been waiting. There are certain artists who, when their names pop up on a release schedule or a bill, just make me excited and not for the typical reason. If you haven't noticed - I often get extremely emotionally involved and attached to a great deal of this music and it is definitely refreshing when I can just take a small piece of that out and really just enjoy the music for the music itself. The obvious direction here is Zouk which certainly does steer me in a course which requires far less of a mental connection for me to enjoy because, at its best, it's just this kind of crystallized and GLOWING art form which can be appreciated for its beauty on a very easy level. And because of that I list some of the finest Zouk singers such as Kénédy, Tiny Ly and Goldee But there're other times when I experience this in regards to Reggae music with, as I said, this very small group of names. These are artists whose quality is essentially guaranteed. There is absolutely no question what you’re dealing with and although their names may or may not be listed amongst my immediate my favourites if you were to ask me, they are sometimes far more consistent and dependable than the names you would surely hear. The two most instantaneous names that come into play here are veteran singers Mikey General and Yami Bolo. Over the course of the past few years or so, I've grown to appreciate both of their music so much more than I previously did and, attempting to explain why, I think a large part of that has to do with the quiet amount of quality control they exercise. General and Bolo have been around for very long times and they've done so much work that you're going to find material in their catalogs which isn't top notch, but you're also probably going to find dozens or so which are for every one that is not. They'll never get the top amount attention of some of their more famous peers, but when I see either 'approaching', I know that something at least above average is on the way. Also in this category would be someone like Mark Wonder and a bit of a 'wildcard' with Etana. These are artists, predominately singers, who just don't make a great deal of 'questionable' music and if you enjoy the genre of Reggae (and you do), making a case for not also enjoying their music, specifically, is pretty impossible.

Now, also in that group and near its head - if there exists such a thing - would be . . . One of the greatest Reggae singers EVER, Everton Blender. The Blender has made a legend out of himself by singing some of the most UPLIFTING tunes in a form of music which prides itself on inspiring the masses. He is a King here and, along with Luciano, his had been one of two voices to really rise to the top in terms of Roots Reggae singers in an era which was one probably one of the most crucial for the advancement of the music in its entire history. And apparently he's still ready to continue advancing it in 2011.

"It's My Time" - 2005

Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that I hadn't heard much from Everton Blender in recent times, but I can remember being SO excited and happy when I first heard the news that he had something new coming and even though it's taken me awhile to get to it, I was definitely going to get to it. "Higher Heights Revolution" becomes the very first album from the Clarendon born singer in more than SIX years. His last, "It's My Time" from 2005, was very very good and has since gone largely forgotten by many fans which is really unfortunate, but I'm assuming that a similar fate isn't awaiting this latest release. As far as the music here, it goes without saying (and I'm going to say it, anyway) that Blender hasn't lost his way. If you've been a fan at any step along his wonderful journey, this isn't the album that will shake you from that and, instead, it is a piece which is likely to find a large audience amongst many of the very same people who have supported him thus far. However, what is very interesting about the actual vibe of the album is that it is more straight forward than I may've thought. Not that Blender makes music like . . . Vaughn Benjamin or someone like that (is there really anyone else "like that"?), but I think that the focus on this project was to really turn up and tune up on the message and go about pushing that directly, musically. The result is an album largely of the 'no frills' variety, but one which still manages to take advantage of the considerable prowess of its star (more on that in just a minute) and when you take its title into consideration, maybe it makes even more sense as a whole. "Higher Heights Revolution" comes via the US based Island Splash Entertainment and, I believe, it becomes their first official release and it seems as if they've done fairly well with promoting it, although with a name as big as the Blender's I don't know that something which is actually realistic (in the world of Reggae where pretty much everything is under-promoted all of the time) is going to enough promotion in his case - but they've done good. That’s all of the parts 'behind the scenes'. In front? Even if I hadn't made the premise of this review what I did, it wouldn't be too hard to catch on. While not his finest release to date, "Higher Heights Revolution" is full of positively delightful vibes and tunes which once again go to reaffirm so many encouraging things about Everton Blender's music - even at this state of his career. I'm really looking forward to seeing if, in a few years or so, this is the type of album which kind of grows 'legs'. Everton Blender's music, because of his style, is easily appreciated by a wide variety of people, but this piece in particular struck me as the type which just may, wholly or partially, begin to pick up steam as it ages. That doesn’t mean at all that we can't appreciate it and talk about it today, however, so let's have a listen to the latest from one of Reggae's greatest.

'Hold On In Deh'

The Blender, himself, is the executive producer of the album which is no surprise. In some of the press for the album I can recall him saying something along the lines of having to wait a really long time to put this one out before ultimately deciding to take it in his own direction. Presumably that means that he had absolute control here and everything was nearly exactly how he wanted it. If that is actually true then it's no surprise at all how Everton Blender begins his new album, "Higher Heights Revolution" with the semi-self-titled/autobiographical 'Bubaru'. SWEET! The tune really goes through and covers some of the highlights of the Blender's career, as well as some of his motivations, inspirations and what he's gone through to become who he’s known for being today. This track is an excellent one and although I won't go as far as to proclaim it a 'hit' (even though you know I want to), in terms of just the pure sonic appeal, it has nary a peer on this album . The next tune up, however, is an even stronger song. 'Hold On In Deh', I believe, was the first single for this album and from the way it blends a very powerful message with a vibe which is nearly golden, it's not very difficult to hear why it was chosen for the first promoted track from the album. As Blender does at his best, the song inspires and unites and really places a bright, but not unrealistic picture on what can be a very harsh situation. Rounding out the first group of tracks from the album is the common-sense anthem 'When You Wrong'. When you listen to tunes like this (or when I do), I always just want to say it's a matter of stating the obvious, but how many people do you know, no matter the situation, just have an extremely difficult time admitting when they're wrong [LIKE MY W . . . What??? I didn't say anything]?

“You vexed - with your Sister
You don’t want I to talk to her, no
You vexed - with your Brother
You don’t want I to talk to him, no
Don’t vex with your Sister without a cause
Don’t vex with your Brother without a cause
And when you wrong, you’re wrong!
And when you right, you’re right
Don’t you know you are my bredrin?
Now you gonna mek our bredrinship end”

On the highest end of "Higher Heights Revolution" are tunes which are nearly exceptional in spots and just, again, really emblematic of the work of Evertons Blender's career and someone of his accomplishments. To my ears, the 'tallest' of them all, by the slightest of margins, is probably 'Conference Table'. This song so wonderfully illustrates a strong combining of the tangible and spiritual realms, and does so directly, and because that's something that I always speak on, it definitely caught my attention as the Blender says that you can get nowhere in your talks until you give His Majesty a spot in the negotiations! The tune, obviously, makes references in other directions as well, but at its core - it is such a MIGHTY and INTELLIGENT song and not to be missed! Ranking not too far behind that stellar selection is my second favourite track on the album, the repatriation anthem, 'Calling Us Home'. This track is kind of disguised as a love song of sorts and that's kind of what it is, but instead of professing his love for an individual, the Blender speaks on the splendour of Afrikan soil and how important it is to someday return to HER. Also on that level is a tune which figures to create a nice amount of buzz, the HUGE praising tune, 'Lion Crown'. Not only is the actual SOUND of this tune fairly spectacular, but it also features Isha Blender . . . Everton Blender's own daughter. While the younger Blender doesn't receive the full spotlight and sings (an infectious) backing instead, this wonderful tune surely puts her in more of a point of interest and hopefully more people will hear what I hear on this big tune (and she's done nice material in the past as well). I know the song 'Ali Ali Ho' and I know it pretty well. The song, another very good one, comes through on the relicked Jah Jah Give Us Life Riddim from a couple of years back (Glen Washington had a nice song on it as well). Somewhere in the middle of this tune, when Blender goes biblical, it reaches another level altogether with the looming 'spectre' of the vocals returning strong in there! When they do it's heads rocking, it's LIFTING UP HEADS and really just enjoying such a wonderful vibe (really reconsidering my choice of the album's best tune now)! And also check the vibrant 'Free Up Yourself', another of the several standouts on "Higher Heights Revolution".

'Ali Ali Ho'

As for the remaining tracks on the album, there're also good things to be found in some of them as well. The best of that lot is likely 'The Greatest Thing Is To Know', with 'No Bargain, No Deal' being not far behind. The latter may just have the single best chorus on the album and built around it, is a solid track also. The former is only faintly behind the album's best.

“In this ya great tribulation
Money mek man go through nuff frustration
You better head di right direction
So many youth - incarceration
Facing some long, long conviction
Youthman, mi seh you betta be wise
A youth man, seh you betta be cool”

It's really just a social commentary of sorts and one which is really, as I alluded to before, very casually straight forward, which makes it very easy to follow, despite its somewhat urgent vibes. And speaking of being "straight forward", I don't know that you can get more of that on a title than 'Love All These Girls'. Not one of the best moments on the album, but I found it kind of funny at times, which isn't a bad thing. Of a similar nature, but much better, is 'It's All About You'. This song kind of feels like it's due for an EXPLOSION or just a giant moment which never materializes ultimately, but it's a pretty nice lover's set. And a step ahead of that even would be both 'Tonight' and 'We Need Love' - two tunes which may sound like love songs, but are more along the lines of social commentaries and somewhat spiritually vibed tunes. I really like 'Tonight' and that one is one which might enjoy some sweeping success if given the opportunity. Finally, "Higher Heights Revolution"wraps up the only changeup, 'Conserve'. This one is different only in terms of sound, it's pretty much a Dancehall song, but it sounds like Everton Blender singing a Dancehall track - the upful messages are still intact. Also, the tune features the Blender alongside his label mate, the ULTRA agitated Engee Dadon. Dadon is well talented and he makes very exciting a tune which is about 'conserving' the world's most precious resource - the youths - and monitoring some of the more negative influences they may encounter, particularly within listening to the music.

Everton Blender

Overall, that not holding this one back very much, this is a very solid addition to the exquisite catalog of Everton Blender. As I said, he's very much the type of singer who I just look forward to hearing from, first of all, and on top of that, he’s such a well accomplished and well esteemed artist that it makes his output a big deal. EVERTON BLENDER HAS A NEW ALBUM! That's a big deal for people like You and I and it's made 2011 just a bit more interesting and colourful as well. It also helps that the album is very good and just another reason why we should be celebrating such a valuable person to our music like Everton Blender more and more often. Hopefully it's not another six years until he gives us this type of an opportunity again because "Higher Heights Revolution" shows that he hasn’t lost a thing and is still capable of churning out top flight vibes - but we already knew that.

Rated: 4/5
Island Splash Entertainment
CD + Digital

Review #343

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