Monday, April 30, 2012

'The Conference Table': A review of "Jah Golden Throne"

I'd like to think that the actual process of making a strong compilation album is something more than just throwing together good songs because if it isn't, maybe I should get into the . . . Compiling business. When they're good, and not of the very specific variety, there's something so nice about being able to hear a string of different voices in different circumstances tied together with some type of common 'theme' or another. In Reggae, as I've said in the past, such projects are unfortunately disappearing and while the digital medium has given a new life to the riddim album - the "specific variety" I just mentioned - that really cool release where you have a multitude of different acts jumping on different riddims and just pushing one vibe or similar vibes hasn't been as actively produced to my opinion as in the earlier 2000's. For me, that's unfortunate for so many reasons and not the least of which is the fact that, as I've personally observed, they're so popular to many different types of people. Both fans of old[er] and new[er] can really enjoy them and generally do. A really really long two and half years ago such a project arrived, which although it seemed to be one strictly for the hardcore fans, turned out to be something so much more and really did something great for pretty much anyone with even remotely semi-functioning ears, "Joyful Noise". Released by I Grade Records (more on them in just a minute), that MASSIVE set, for me, may have just been the single best varied Roots Reggae compilation that I've ever heard and I definitely drew comparisons between it and another of my own classic favourites, "Culture Dem" from Lustre King Productions (surely you can see where this is going by now), several years back. Both of those, going forward, really did big things and continue to do sizable operations in their 'old age' going forth. Now, if you happen to pay a decent amount of attention (or can just read English), you're very familiar with a group of labels who these days work very often together, known as the Zion I Kings, collectively. You have I Grade Records, you have Lustre Kings Productions and you have, Zion High Productions. With both of the formers having taken there proverbial shots and done well, now it's ZHP's turn.  

The Zion I Kings
And they've done GOOD! It shouldn't come to the surprise of anyone as the same label also not only served up what still remains this blog's single most discussed album, "Breaking Babylon Curse" by Messenjah Selah, but ZHP was also behind an album which really has become a personal classic for me and favourite of mine through the years, "Rebelution" by Yami Bolo (I probably find myself listening to that album, in its entirety, at least once a week these days). And more recently, Zion High Productions were also on board for "Black Gold", the impressive debut album of Soul Roots singer, Toussaint. Credentials like those do absolutely nothing but set the stage for even more big works and if you look up you'll notice that "big works" has just walked through the door.

It's name is "Jah Golden Throne" (biggup Peter Broggs). Arguably the first big compilation of its kind in 2012 thus far, the piece very much feels like a direct descendant of its two elder 'siblings' and I knew, even before identifying that I had heard any song on this album that it would live up to those very lofty expectations. What you have here are sixteen original tracks, produced by the Zion I Kings, featuring a very nice mixture of vocal acts whom you would have expected to see involved with such a venture and a few surprise lights as well. All of the tunes are very upful and inspirational music, with at least a hint of a spiritual source involved in most of them, but really at its core, it's just EXCEPTIONAL music for the most part. The album also has a very cohesive and interconnected feel to it which isn't always the easiest thing to do when you bring together such a subtly diverse group of individuals - and that isn't just because of the music. And while we get into this more detailed shortly, some of the names on this set just seemed absolutely perfect, but just were just as unexpected and not in a curious and bizarre type of way (no, I'm sorry, but you won't find any Denise Belfon on this album) (biggup Saucy anyway). And while it seems that the early reaction and response for the album has been excellent (here comes some more of that), I do want to say that I had absolutely no idea that such a release was on the horizon and in a year which, thus far, has really been over-generous in terms of who has been active and who has been present on the scene with albums, @"Jah Golden Throne" may not get the same attention as some of them, but for me it's just as big of a deal as almost any of them, again, considering the history of the label[s] and artists involved. So, being the over thinker that I am, I also can't help but wonder what this portends for future releases from ZHP. It's been a minute or so since they've last pushed an artist's album (unless I'm really overlooking someone) and while I'd climb a mountain or two (not really) for sequels from either of a couple of different artists with whom they've worked in the past (two in particular), at this point - if it's going to sound this good, and it probably is - I don't really care who they'd have in mind. "Jah Golden Throne" is a very well thought out and carried out project which very quickly proves itself more than worthy of hauling the increasingly crucial 'Zion I Kings' tag. So how good is it exactly? Let's find out. 

"Joyful Noise"
In comparison to the other two compilations which I've mentioned thus far, what I will say is about this set, specifically, is just how POLISHED the album's sound is. Retrospectively, part of the charm and brilliances of both "Joyful Noise" and especially "Culture Dem" (all of them) was this kind of 'rough around the edges' type of sound - meshed between vocalists and the riddims. You won't find very much of that on "Jah Golden Throne", which is about as refined of an assemblage of tracks that I've heard in a recent times. For a fine example of that, check the album's icebreaker, the sterling 'Empress Omega' from the first unanticipated name here, Chet Samuel. I don't think I'd heard anything from this singer from quite some time and he's made a nearly SPECTACULAR way to say 'hello' again on a tune giving thanks and praises to not only THE Empress, but women of divinity all over the world. Taking it further, it's also somewhat of a relationship type of vibe in the sense of if you empower woman, you also empower man, which is a damn powerful sentiment. Speaking of powerful, next up is the coolest man in the world (I probably give that title to about five different people, but I mean it this time!), Mr. Glen Washington with the MAMMOTH 'Fall On Me'. TEARS! I found no better tune seated in this Throne than this effortlessly sang future classic from a classic of a vocalist. Washington is someone who, in my opinion, may not get all of the attention that he deserves, but is WELL on his way to becoming someone who will get that status well after his career is over and you'll hear part of a generation of younger and younger singers coming through and using his name as someone who inspired them as a youth. It's songs like this which are the reason for that - I could listen to this man sing all day long!

“Let your blessings fall on me
Let me be your guiding light
So that them that’s without can see
Guide & protect me on my way
Let me see a better day 
From this vibe I will not stray
The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof
Them that endure will be rewarded at last
Your heart must be pure, your hands must be clean
For you to rally round the Black, the Red, the Gold and the Green!

Jah Jah love is like the sun shine
Brighter to me everyday 
I’m energized every time I pray 
Let your love take me over
Daily as I make my way
To the mark of the higher calling”

'Make It Work' is the UK connection as it is a link between longtime UK superpowers, Tippa Irie and Lloyd Brown. There's a rising intensity here that doesn't at all destroy a SWEET Jazzy type of a feel which is exhibited throughout on a tune which is about as WIDELY specific social commentary that you're likely to EVER hear. Mr. Lloyd Brown is the only artist to appear on "Jah Golden Throne" more than once (almost as if to remind me that I have to review his album) (all twenty tracks of it) (than you Mr. Brown) as he later returns with the downright delicious 'Just So That You Know'. Brown is another artist, like Washington, who I think people will really wake up one day and use as a platform to build inspiration for their own careers around because he's just done so much and yet been so current. Here, it took me a few spins (I've got no problem with that) to really get the point of the message, but I think I got it finally, Brown, in his typically brilliant lackadaisicalness is basically saying 'I'm in your corner'. Whatever your positive works and optimistic actions may be, he and HE are behind you in that. It's really a very COOL track and one which is a complete joy to listen to - one of the album's finest. Some of the more unexpected names on the album definitely go a long way in making a big impact for the listener. Such an name is the ridiculously overlooked General Jah Mikey who we simply don't hear from enough and perhaps that has something to do with his tune, 'Set A Way', being such a joy to listen to. Or maybe it's just because it's really good. Hopefully he makes his way more into the ZIK rotation and pops up on some other projects from the group because he's been unseen and unheard from for entirely too long and their music is straight for him full on, as evidenced by this track here, another of the real highlights. Similarly, although no where near as overlooked, is Prezident Brown who also makes an appearance on "Jah Golden Throne" with his own selection, 'Towerful'. I'm not the Prezident's biggest fan, but when you push rhymes like he does on this special praising track, you make me a fan. When combined with his own recent EP drop, "Do Thy Work", obviously he's on a good roll these days and hopefully a full LP is imminent with more material like this. Immediately following Prezident Brown is 'Nowhere To Run' by yet another overlooked veteran, Marcia Ball. Ball has been singing for quite awhile and has at least two albums to her credit that I know of, but to my knowledge this would be her most high profile feature to date. She did make an appearance on 'Without You' alongside Ras Attitude for his album, "Holding Firm" and some other things, but I was so happy to see hers being the lone female voice on the album (would've been even happier if there were one or two more). She certainly makes the most of the opportunity with a big social commentary focusing on those who may not have their lives revolving around proper ideas and are well tuned in on far more material things. Revered saxophonist, Jah Bless, also makes an appearance with the album's actual closer, 'Highway To Zion'. It's a full instrumental which is just an EXCELLENT touch and Bless takes on the same riddim that the Nazarenes and Vaughn Benjamin recently pushed 'The Lord Said' on from the former's outstanding new release, "Meditation". And the other unusual suspect appearing here is an artist who takes all of that stuff I mentioned about this album being so amazingly polished and destroys it - the insanely rough, coarse and gritty, but positively captivating veteran, Mr. Mention. His song, 'Showers of Blessings' is one of the highest ranking compositions you'll find here. It is SPECTACULAR!

The biggest names appearing on "Jah Golden Throne" well bring in some of its most metabolically challenged moments as well. Perhaps none are more familiar, however, than the sublime 'Babylon Yuh Wrong'. One of the best tracks I'd heard in 2010, when it initially reached, ZHP actually release the tune as a digital single and billed it as the first combination between two bonafide Reggae music legends, U-Roy and the coolest man in the world, Cornell Campbell [six]. A couple of years on, this tune is still as sweet as ever and I'm sure you'll agree. Jahdan Blakkamoore's is a tag not at all unknown to readers of ours and to the ZIK, so if such a thing as this compilation were going to exist, you'd expect him to be involved and involved he is with the bouncy 'World Needs Love'. This may be the changeup for the album - it's going to have heads swaying (like mine right now) and faces smiling (like mine right now) - and as is his norm, Jahdan brings in a heavy message, this one just happens to be in a very shiny packaging, but it's still giving babylon nightmares (did you catch that?). Jahdan Blakkamoore also appeared on "Joyful Noise" as did the WICKED Guyanese chanter Arkaingelle who makes a return here on the biblical 'Y Should Yee'. This artist will forever have a place on my players because he provided the world (meaning ME) with one of the greatest songs I've EVER heard from anyone, 'Manifess Joy', from his sadly as yet un-followed-up debut set, "O-Pen", from forty-two years ago. That's frustrating, but even more so is the fact that I recently noticed that although I haven't heard much from the chanter following that album, everything I have heard has been BIG! Here is no exception at all. Our good old friend Messenjah Selah also shows up for this release and does so with yet another excellent and uplifting vibe, 'Life Is To Live'. Quietly the man has begun to string together some big tunes from various labels (like Dynasty Records) and he's becoming someone who appears to be peaking once again, so hopefully there's an album in his future. As for his selection on this album, it's a big one - it's STERLING - and it's 'put-one piece-of-giant-smile-on-your-face' music, while having a crucial message as well. For current Reggae music, the two most familiar names, arguably, to appear on "Jah Golden Throne", Lutan Fyah and Pressure Busspipe also turn in fine pieces as well. For his part, Pressure delivers the SWELTERING Roots piece, 'Culture Inna Yuh Face'

“Culture inna yuh face!
Black culture and I will neva separate 
Culture inna yuh face
Babylon a vulture -
A time you get erase!

I culture is all I & I have, yes
Share di food amongst di people weh have less
Dem fi know that’s why di Rastaman truly God blessed
Bun di bwoy dem weh no inna progress
Hey Black woman, yuh king alone fi si yuh undressed
From you love yah culture, push up unuh hands, yes
Black man a top-ranking unuh confess
Right yah now a time fi free up unuh conscience!

Hey, Rastaman teach love from one to another
Respect all yah elders and respect all yuh Mothers
Babylon dem ah fuss when Black man climb up di ladder
Babylon nah no cool, a juss peer labba labba
When mi light di chalice, it full a peer grabba
Wicked man ah bun up through di disrespect Jah Jah
Afrikan people no fi favour Mick Jagger 
Inna babylon mi nah wallah” 

BOOM! {Note: I probably played this tune about fifteen times before I continued writing this review}

Not to be run out of the album, Lutan Fyah, as he always does, stands up big and proud with another of the major winners, 'Race of Life'. Oh and the riddim on this tune is . . . Golden. 

“I tell yuh, in di race of life - 
No one cares, who win or lose
In di race of life - 
To each his own
Don’t you interfere, man will choose 

I tell you if you ain’t got love, your life is an illusion
Hey, come let’s rebel against dem foolish bad thoughts
Just a likkle bush of herbs mi go chant and plant
From di altar of my soul, I send offerings of joy
Give thanks and praise to Fari
Yes, I’ve been ridiculed so many times
Used and abused, even pushed aside
You get a pat upon di soul, a ‘well done’ with a smile
Yad it under cruel profile

I’ve got di eternal flames
Dis time we’ll be no millennium slaves
Tell di youths now when they turn to religion for that, lame
Woe to di church who drive di people insane
So said di right thing, yet done di wrong way
Di wicked nah go prosper these days 
Oh yes, Rastaman ah beg yuh gather yah grains
In time of drought yah gone need some food to sustain 
Till di soil, Jah will fall di rain
Feel no pain”


And finally (I think) is the always more than welcomed Toussaint, who we'll be dealing with a bit more directly later this week, serving up what amounts to the title track here, 'Crown I Got'. TEARS! Call it my second favourite tune on this album (more like 1B) or just call it a divine level of a HUMBLING track. This song reaches emotions that no other present here does and it's really somewhat overwhelming. Toussaint is really making a fan out of me and with songs like this, you're really going to start to look FUNNY if you aren't as well.

Zion High Productions
Overall, Zion High Productions and the Zion I Kings have hit another homerun with "Jah Golden Throne" and you knew they would. Looking at things from the aspect of this increasingly wider and wider reaching amalgam of labels, you really start to have somewhat of a limitless outlook and perspective. CONSISTENTLY, there's no one in the world currently making better modern Roots Reggae music in the world and if you pick up the "Joyful Noise" album and then have this one as well, you'll hear what I mean (incidentally, if you haven't picked up "Joyful Noise" by this point, I have no respect for you at all). They've mastered the art of making a great compilation as, with the first third of 2012 just about wrapped up, "Jah Golden Throne" is easily the best compilation album I've heard this year and should that have changed when December finishes up, I will be SHOCKED. Excellent. 

Rated: 4.85/5
Zion High Productions/A-Train Entertainment
CD + Digital

Review #354


  1. Cornel Campbell is my favorite reggae artist. Money, The New Boss, & the Jah Jah Man Riddim.

    "Make we do di butterfly
    ah this ah new style say it wicked and wild!
    The whole world turn to the butterfly style. Butterfly, butterfly
    Make we dance in ah di sky"

  2. Back in the day, (I'm talking early eighties when I was first buying vinyl), I used to spend my money (I thought wisely) buying compilation albums because they gave you the best value for money, i.e. the most wicked tunes per (paper) pound. Nowadays, with the Riddim albums (and coins for pounds! who'd have thought eh?), you can get maybe two, three or four (and sometimes but rarely more) really good lyrical deliveries to the same tune. I have always subscribed to the adage that 'Variety is the spice of life' and so stumbling across this blog (guidance and blessings to you Achis!) which pointed me in the direction of this quite sublime and entirely magnificent gem of an album (Jah Golden Throne) has made me realise that my attempts to make compilation tapes with a story (albeit using a double tape recorder) was not a bad thing to do. Maximum praise to all at I Grade, Lustre Kings and Zion High... you guys could, have and (with absolutely no doubt at all after this effort) will teach me a thing or two about putting a proper, class compilation together. I just cant stop playing this album. Thanks, and thanks again.

  3. Give thanks Robby. Wells said.