Friday, March 30, 2012

'A Fire Ball': A Review of "Reggae Music Again" by Busy Signal

Do special things. We would often speak on the 'leaders' of the various genres really living up to their lofty and attained statuses in the music as far as defining and taking it to greener pastures. While history is certain to take at least somewhat of an interest in just about anyone who made an impact and a contribution in any given era of music (biggup Marlon Asher) by observing artists, producers, labels, etc. of the day, just as days gone by, those/these times will be most associated with its stars and justly so. And this is very much a concept well in motion, particularly in Reggae music where fans demand so much of our performers - taking a break for a top artist will almost always and IMMEDIATELY bring up the calls of someone having fallen off the course and being, perhaps, unavoidably past their best days. Surely if you give a damn, and most of them do, this has to create a great deal of pressure on an individual, but DAMN, isn't it so nice when they maintain anyway . . . Oh and isn't it even nicer when, on those rarest of occasions, they go even beyond those clearly and already unfair expectations??? But, with that being said, we've just come to expect the unexpected from certain individuals and these are people who just really make listening to music fun and challenging in some way. Currently in Reggae/Dancehall music not a more resolute example of such an individual exists than the most original Busy Signal. If someone, right now, were to tell you that Busy had a new big tune, you'd honestly have absolutely no idea how it sounded or what type of song it even was. It wouldn't if they told you the riddim and it was your favourite EVER, you still wouldn't quite know what to expect because out of a most controversial 'class' of artists which included, most notably, himself, Aidonia and Mavado a few years back, Busy Signal's career has become a most BRILLIANT and captivatingly dazzling mound of  high tech confusion - the theatre of the unexpected. Of course what helps in his case is that as his apparent need of versatility has developed, his skill level has evolved simultaneously and similarly, so he hasn't become a sideshow of sorts and the hardest of hardcore Dancehall heads have to take note to his work. The result is easily one of the most fascinating minds the Dancehall has ever produced.
Collect Them All
And he's about to get even more interesting. Thinking about it now, I think it's pretty safe to say  that Busy Signal has been somewhat underrated in regards to his album releases to date. As we drift further away from it, his 2007 debut set, "Step Out", shines brighter and brighter and has very few equals in terms of hardcore Dancehall music during its [relative] time. Its followup, "Loaded", while clearly the weakest of the lot still serves up quite a few gems (like 'Cool Baby') and his most recent offering, "D.O.B." from a couple of years back was and remains a wickedly colourful effort. Place them in any order you like in terms of quality, but you're going to have to change things up because Busy Signal is about to drop a classic.

"Reggae Music Again". Over the past couple of years we've heard Busy Signal going in a variety of different directions musically . . . Because that's just what he does. As it would turn out, shockingly, the most unusual turn he could possibly take becomes the most familiar for Reggae fans. Busy Signal's senior album finds the DJ turning back the clock and churning out some truly MAGNIFICENT old school vibed music. I don't know who else, amongst his peers, could've done something like (although I wouldn't have a problem at all if Agent Sasco adopted the same approach later this year when he, hopefully, also delivers a brand new project) on this scale and as the album develops, you quickly begin to see [hear] that you're dealing with something potentially very special. Perhaps it shouldn't come as such a grand bombshell, "Reggae Time Again", given exactly how Busy has spent some of his last three years or so. Certainly what's going to come to most minds are the big tunes, 'One More Night' and 'Nightshift', which were Reggae-fied covers of tunes from other genres. Both of those songs would achieve more than their 'fair share' of acclaim and also, I would suspect, play a role in igniting such a project. He would also voice a very odd cut of 'Tempted To Touch', a big tune originated by Beres Hammond and instead of refashioning it with his own vibes, Busy sang it straight away and, again, the tune received (SHOCKINGLY) a pretty good response from a great deal of fans. Hopefully many of those same fans will have eyes and ears for this album as well which builds on that type of vibes considerably. Although Busy doesn't pull out the singing voice to that degree at any point, what he does do on "Reggae Music Again" is something immensely impressive. The album comes via the same VP Records who released its two most immediate predecessors and is largely helmed by the well respected Shane Brown who, likewise, pulled both "Loaded" and "D.O.B.". According to the press release for the album it was the long-term intent to build an actual album, as opposed to string together singles, which may explain why you haven't noticed a great shift . . . well, at least not more than usual, in the direction as of late from the very varied Busy Signal (lot of new Soca from him for this year) and those intentions have produced an unquestionable success! "Reggae Music Again" is SPECTACULAR from beginning to end as Busy has arrived with his opus on album #4. Dig in! 

'Busy Thoughts'

Although it is the major point of the album and the main premise of this 'concept album' - going old school with the music - this is very much a modern project. I'm damn interested what artists and producers alike from thirty or forty years ago may've thought about Busy Signal, but his pure style is one which is completely modern and what we have here really isn't as much of a musical look back as much as it is a MASSIVE and progressive (biggup Vaughn Benjamin) step forward. And on that side, the real interest, at least for me, is the blending of the two eras (and everything in between them) and not just taking in this [post-]modern artist in an old style. I cannot say that I'm typically fond of such a thing, but it definitely works in this case: The latest and greatest album from the catalog of Busy Signal, "Reggae Music Again", gets up and moving with a bit of an introductory commentary. 'Busy Thoughts' appear three different times on the album and the first, 'Positive Music' sets a very brief tone for what is to follow. What is to follow in the immediate sense is one of the brightest of stars on the entire piece, the MAMMOTH 'Run Weh'. This tune is just a big knowledge social commentary on many of the negative things Busy sees in society. He reserves a great deal of his venom for bleachers, unsurprisingly, and in doing so displays some of the greatest wordplay on an album which is certainly not lacking in this area.

“And mi know seh when dem hear di one yah, nuff a dem ears cock up
Run away!
Dem judgment well stock up
Run away!
Inna Jah Jah yard, you caan back up!”

Sonically, just like everything else you'll find here, the tune is top notch and when you have such big lyrics and such a big prevailing vibes, you have a song which is in dire need of a fucking diet and exercise. The sound gets a bit more grimy on the next tune, another sizable social commentary, 'Modern Day Slavery'. To my ears, this song is even better than the musical opener and probably my third favourite tune on the whole of the album. This is the type of song, a very very 'visual' one, with such vivid statements in such a powerfully tangible way (which is in contrast to its predecessor), which you'd most hope someone like Busy Signal to be capable of on this album and he proves himself so much more potent with this huge winner (love how the riddim goes on and on after the final lyric also). And next we have what is sure to become the signature cut from the album, the title track.

“It’s been a long long long long long long time
We no have no vibes like this
Reggae music again!
Reggae music again!
And its been so so so so long
We no listen to some old time Reggae song
Play di music again!
Mek wi unite again!”

The third full verse on this one is so simple and forward that it almost catches you by surprise and really it helps to take the song out of the context of 'I want to go back to these times' and push into a frame of 'I want to bring these times back now!'. The difference is a subtle one, but no less sharp indeed and for someone like myself who is always trumpeting the cause of modern music, it becomes a very big help!

'Come Over [Missing You]'

The title track is one of several tracks on the album named after it which're sure to generate a great deal of response and attention. Another pair, obviously, is the album's two official combinations. The first, '119', links Busy with sweet singing Anthony Red Rose and the third coolest man in the world (biggup Beres) (biggup Cocoa Tea), Joe Lickshot. Musically speaking, both of these tunes come in as the album's changeups, being the largest deviations from the main vibes, but neither are going to really jump too far outside of things because of what happens during them. In this particular case, '119' is a song which directly calling for a RETURN of times gone by. They speak on how much fight Dancehall music and culture have gotten and how it's played a part in diluting both, but how it's only an obstacle which can be overcame. The other featuring track, the hypnotic 'Running From The Law', is the  obligatory herbalist tunes on "Reggae Music Again" and it brings forth Romain Virgo (who we'll be hearing from in March, apparently) as well as the well promising Esco Levi (who took time out his busy schedule burning down bleaching shops all over the Caribbean and Canada). BOOM! I love this tune and can easily see do it big business as a future single. And speaking of singles, I THINK this album's very first spotlight tune is 'Come Over [Missing You]'. A GOOD Dancehall album is usually one on which you almost have to TOLERATE the love songs, because they just aren't very good at all. That isn't the case here, 'Come Over' is very strong and not to be missed! You're also likely to notice the acoustic version of previous single, 'Comfort Zone'. Just like the original (on Penthouse's Big Stage Riddim) this took a bit of growing on me, but it does have a large FEEL surrounding it, so when it finally did win me over, again - like the original, it became damn hard to shake from the mind. 'Kingston Town' is another likely hit to my ears and already picking up a bit of steam, apparently. This sounds like the type of song Busy would've done even without this album, but given this set, it's made even more crucial.

Now! In the eyes of such 'flashy' material (and I don't use that word in a negative way, interestingly on this album, "flashy", like every other adjective you'll find here, is a very very positive term) the song which stands up to me as my absolute favourite and an early favourite for the best song I've heard all year (outside of Soca) (biggup Destra), 'Fire Ball'.

“Trample di beast and trod to di east
Cah nuff a dem ah live like fleas
Tell dem lock dem mouth when relation ah speak mi si nuff a dem ah live like freak 
Bun dem north and south-
Cah fire get hot, mi seh judgment, gnashing of teeth
Blackberry crash!
Dem head get mash!
Dem get confuse cah dem caan tweet 
Caan even si it
Nuff a dem fall, can stand pon feet
Likkle more, watch dem, dem ah crawl pon feet
And ah feed, pon di wrong set of things dem ah eat
Youth don’t get defeat
Watch wi ah feast
Nuff stand up pon di cornah wid dem palm waan grease
So mi haffi bun di corrupted priest, weh touch di likkle pickney-
But Jah Jah nah sleep”

MAD! [And clearer than the 3d movie, "Avatar"]. The Kirkledove produced song does have a purpose, but I have to say that it's likely to hit most in the same way that it did for me – A most EXPLOSIVE showcasing of one of the greatest talents currently to be found in Reggae music (remember that). And again!

“Trace dem a trace cah chatty mouth dem
Time dem ah waste, wi no matta bout dem
Coulda neva keep none badmind friend, weh ah pree my money, every dollar mi spend
God nah sleep
HIM ah peep pon dem
All wicked deed dem, mi ah fyah bun dem
Nuff a dem ah discriminate Black
End up inna roadblock
Detour gone inna dem end
Well nuff nah go deh deh when Jah Jah role call
Like Gibraltar Rock, so mi standing tall
Dem ah bawl
Dem ah fall
Dem ah crawl
Nuff no memba Jah til dem back ‘gainst the wall
No burn bridges behind you, you will stall
So mi bun badmind and bun dutty heart and slew dem all!”


Moving on, because I have to, not because I want to, the scathing 'Wicked Man' is yet another top track and one which instantly bids itself to the favour of fans with its stirring opener ["I and I no mix with evil men! I and I say trample the heathen!"], before revealing itself to be such a FULL and multifaceted track. Basically it's a piece which reminds the masses to keep away from negative people and, should you find yourself actually BEING such an individual, be quick to correct your ways. And have I mentioned that the track also nears complete lyrical perfection (again).

“Cah The Most High guide the road that we trod
Give thanks fi life, you know seh mi glad
Caan mek dem draw mi out nor be bad

The luscious 'Jah Love', which comes after another edition of 'Busy Thoughts', 'Music From The Heart', is certain to have head swaying because of the sonics on the tune, but hopefully not too fast to overlook what is being said, because it's well important. The same is to be said for the very familiarly vibed 'Part of Life' (biggup Sara Lugo). This tune is one which is kind of broad, but I also hear some personal moments as well. It's an inspirational vibe and an intellectual one, while you may not be blown away by the sound, you might be if you pay a proper attention. Going back, check the very cool 'Royal Night' which is now Mrs. Achis' favourite song on the album and definitely don't overlook 'Sweetest Life' with its big big sound. This tune should find an audience amongst the more mature listeners because it is GOLD, although just slightly more laid back. "Reggae Music Again" comes to an end with another segment of 'Busy Thoughts', 'My Intention', on which the artist explains the motivation behind the birth of this idea. Sounding very Bounty Killer-ish, Busy essentially says that he sees this type of music on more of a LASTING level and a reward to do. What is most interesting to my ears is when he speaks of how appreciating and LOVING Reggae music was a process for him and not a something which he immediately gravitated towards.

"Reggae Dubb'n Again"
And lastly I should mention that VP Records has taken a very nice step in order to promote this album via "Reggae Dubb'n Again". As a 'companion piece', the release is a six track vinyl set which features dubbed out mixes done by Shane Brown. 

Overall . . .  "A most EXPLOSIVE showcasing of one of the greatest talents currently to be found in Reggae music". "Reggae Music Again" is a GREAT album. Of course, I observe the situation around it and the premise, but I find that even if you don't, if you don't give a damn about what is going on here, you'll still love this album if you kind of like the genre[s]. With this release, Busy Signal takes a most interesting step into becoming a current Dancehall artist with an undeniable CLASSIC album behind him and in his most colourful case, I can well say that we got here because he is an artist who is completely without fear. As I said, we look to people like Busy Signal (meaning Busy, because he's one of a kind) to shake things up and really just keep the music fun and interesting altogether and he's shown THAT to be his dominant talent. Here, he's now shown that he can take that and double it and triple and more! A clear future classic and the best fucking album I've heard in at least two years! AMAZING! GO GET IT!

Rated: 5/5
VP Records
CD + Digital

In stores April 24

Review #346


  1. It is about brain was turning into MUSH without anything good to read! My morning coffee even tastes less bitter now. I beginning to feel a little smarter already...

  2. It was pretty good Cassa.
    Mush can be a good thing Nico.

  3. now for a review of tarrus rileys mecoustic

  4. If you want some new music to listen to, you should check out my site