Thursday, May 3, 2012

'Open Door Policy': A review of "Back To Eden" by Lloyd De Meza

The front door of the house of Reggae music doesn't actually have a lock on it. In fact, it's always wide opened. Whether you are planning on unpacking your bags, getting a room and 'sticking around' for a while or even if you're just waiting around to just pick someone up, it doesn't matter. All are truly welcomed. This can be a bad thing, at times, as, when taking the music into a different direction it can become somewhat marginalized (such as when you have some random artist with a Caribbean accent jumping on a song from a different genre and someone automatically says that the artist's mere presence is "adding some Reggae flavour" or some bullshit like that), but generally speaking, it's for the best and in a few different ways. Of course exposure is [usually] a good thing and when a very popular artist from some different musical base does legitimately incorporate Reggae into their music, he/she gives the music itself some type of indirect visibility because of simply adding it in. However, selfishly, it also presents a very nice opportunity for artists from other paths to completely immerse themselves in the music and really fall in love with it and become someone who is suddenly geared towards making Reggae music. The main comparison here is obvious because we just recently discussed someone who did that exactly with Soul singer, Toussaint and, thankfully, he isn't the only one who has caught the Reggae bug, got locked in the house of Reggae, caught Reggaemylitis . . . whichever you like (there is no known cure to Reggaemylitis by the way). Wonderfully, someone who is coming to mind at this moment is a WICKED singer from out of The Netherlands by the name of Maikal X. The (biggup Ruffy)  'N Vibes vocalist (biggup Ziggi Recado) has established for himself quite a career singing Reggae music, having come from a background in R&B and Hip-Hop circles. These days he's one of the most popular and talented Dutch Reggae artists and as far as singers, probably on of the best in the genre in the whole of Europe. Someone else on that same scene who has made a similar shift in focus and may just be on his way to a comparable level of stardom is the former R&B singer (and I'm pretty sure I've heard him rapping as well), Lloyd De Meza, a star in Dutch music outside of Reggae, who chose to move all of his stuff into the 'mansion' and doesn't figure to be leaving anytime soon now apparently as he sets to release his debut Reggae album.

Where Toussaint linked up with I Grade Records and Maikal X with Rock 'N Vibes, Lloyd De Meza also chose an imprint with a very heavy history in the music (especially as of late), but in his case, it's not surprising at all. While I had heard of and from the singer prior to it, I REALLY began to take a notice and an interest in his music after he appeared alongside good friend, Benaïssa, on a few different tunes for the friend's solid 2008 release, "Tables Turn". That album reached from a nice 'little' label known as Jah Solid Rock who has been in the process of absolutely exploding over the course of the past two or three years, with Not Easy At All Productions and for their very first release of 2012 [I THINK], they're going "Back To Eden" with Lloyd De Meza. 

Actual music From The Highest Region
If you've been paying attention (and you have been), certainly you've noticed Jah Solid Rock and Not Easy At All doing big things recently. At the head of it all was the MASSIVE "Judgement Time" album from Jamaican singer, Chezidek in 2010. But they've also pushed projects from the likes of veterans Apple Gabriel ["Teach Them Right"] and Earl Sixteen ["The Fittest"] over the past two years as well. They also released a booming compilation, "Cultural Vibes Vol. 1" which featured a whole heap of top notch artists on big sets. So, if you just so happen to be someone coming to Reggae music from a different style, you could do MUCH worst than uniting with these two labels, so it probably goes without saying that Lloyd De Meza struck gold here. But maybe the label did too. As the story goes (in the press release) (first time we ever got a pre-edited version of  a press release. I want to know I think that's cool because it shows people actually put work into these things sometimes), De Meza was in the studio one day and heard a riddim track and fell in love with it. The result was an impromptu album which you're now giving an attention to. The singer, I believe, is either from Suriname or his heritage. I know that both he and Benaïssa have a following in the country (biggup Joggo also with that master class of an album from last year), so De Meza grew up listening to a lot of Reggae music. So while this album is somewhat of a first for him, if you traced him back, you see that he does have an ear for the music which, as we'll examine in a second, does come in well usage throughout "Back To Eden". Perhaps that might also explain the earlier interest of De Meza's. As far as I know he began in a Hip-Hop group alongside Benaïssa (and De Meza does still actively sing Hip-Hop/R&B to my knowledge) and as Benaïssa would subsequently go completely towards Reggae music, the singer was still there, not only as a friend but as a fellow artist obviously. For me, that's a credit to the music itself. Yes, the door is always open and there exists no such thing as a lock and therefore not a key, but if you're taking too long, Reggae music will come and get you and put you in your proper place! So, while the future of Lloyd De Meza is sure to be colourful the present, in the form of this album, is at hand and it is Reggae music and, by its end - very good Reggae music. Let's take a listen.

The one thing you're going to notice about this singer from the immediate onset, whenever you listen to him, is that he has one of the most clear and subtly powerful voices that you're going to find singing a Reggae song. As we've established, he comes from a more Soul/R&B/Hip-Hop oriented tangible background in actually making music and while I can definitely see it working there (or pretty much anywhere else), I'd go to say that he has a nearly PERFECT voice for singing Reggae music (to me at least, he sounds like a MUCH more refined version of VI superstar, Pressure Busspipe). It's absolutely beautiful and hopefully this isn't his final time expansively singing the music because he has a voice which was made for it. Want an example? Tune into the first selection on Lloyd De Meza's forthcoming Reggae debut album, 'It's A War', which presents us quite a few different things. First of all, going back to speaking on De Meza's voice - Jah Solid Rock makes music which sounds spectacular. We can disagree and argue about the quality of the individual songs, but the music, from a sonic standpoint, is flawless. When you take that and combine it with such an amazing voice (or even a strange one) (biggup Chezidek), you're going to have that dynamic be one which is even more easily apparent and crystal clear and this album, and particularly this song, benefits from that greatly throughout. As for the actual piece, it's one of the finest efforts on the album, unquestionably. It's a big and beautiful social commentary and it's not something you'd expect from someone singing a Hip-Hop song, surely, so De Meza has more than just a voice for this music. To my opinion, the opener is only topped by anything here by the second and title track which is MAMMOTH! The aforementioned Joggo makes an appearance here alongside the singer (I'm inclined to think that the next time we hear from JSR maybe on another Chezidek album, but should they be able to mix in a release from Joggo, who proved himself more than capable on similar compositions on his album, "Modern Rockers Vol. 1", last year, the results could be special) for a combination which is not to be missed.

“Tell me who is watching you?
You and Me
Taking away all our hope and prosperity
Feeding us lies 
Telling us what to eat
What to wear, what to be -
In this world of make-believe
Divide and conquer: This is a rule of their world
Burning hatred make dem forget the lord
But we must never ever forget where we came from
We was born under the moon and raised by the sun

Take us back to Eden
Where we can live in freedom
These are the wishes of my soul 
Take us back to Eden
Paradise we were made in 
These are the wishes of my soul

Let’s reminisce on the love we had
Notice only joy as the main aspect
We haffi try hard to come as close we can get-
To what we stand for: Peace, love and respect
Gunman! Duppy Man! Dem all will regret
Guns and hatred mek di world ah run red
Oh Jah Jah I beg you!
Take us back!
To Eden” 

The very concept of the song is brilliant - one of a type of backwards progression to a more peaceful time in the world and it is solidified in a nearly STUNNING way.

Now (that I've taken a really really long time to talk about only two songs and have ten more to go), I've had this album for quite awhile, maybe nearing two or three weeks now, so I've had awhile to deal with it. My main complete about it is relatively easy to figure out and it's also somewhat expected. In the twelve tracks (no Dubs this time), there're too many love songs when De Meza proves he does so well doing the more cultural/social pieces at the head of the album. For me, and probably most fans of the music it pinnacles IMMEDIATELY and while that's still true, I don't think that I gave some of the Lover's Rock on "Back To Eden" enough credit because some of them are sublime (and it makes sense to have love songs - it is EDEN where we're headed, after all). The best of them, in my opinion, is a trio of top notch tracks which not only make up the class of the love songs, but go to make up the class of the entire album, though a few others aren't very far behind. First up is the very familiar 'Angel of Mine' from the LUSH One Blood Riddim (not the one you're thinking of), which is golden and would be amongst the very best of the catalogue of just about any modern Lover's Rock singer that I can think of. Then there's 'You're The One', another familiar piece which is quite familiar as it features the same riddim (I should probably know the name of at this point) as Chezidek's shining herbalist tune 'Ganja Tree' ["if a man was going to commit a crime, and burn a spliff same time, him nah go bodda dweet! Put on a pot go look some food and go eat"] [I digress]. This is just a SWEET tune and well on its way to becoming Mrs. Achis' very favourite on the album. And you'll also have to check 'Part of My Life', which has grown on me considerably from since it appeared on the "Cultural Vibes" release. These days it's even more beautiful than before and it should get opened up to a whole new and appreciative audience be featured on the album.

'Lie To Me'

Also impressing while maybe just a step behind (then again, maybe not), is a song like 'City of Love', which is a combination track, this one featuring singer, Kinah (who sounds a little like Pop singer, Mya). It kind of makes a reference to the title of the album, albeit an indirect one as the idea behind it is to go to this 'place' which actually isn't a place, but is more of a state of being - wonderful being - which is so accessible to us all. Speaking of combinations and collaborations, another tune sure to get a great deal of the spotlight shone on "Back To Eden"'Heartbreaker', just so happens to feature Jamaican star, Richie Spice. I like songs like these which kind of give an album that most necessary 'visual' appeal from listeners and potential listeners. While anyone who actually hears this project certainly won't need any convincing of the sorts, maybe fans undecided about whether or not to pick it up will be helped along by seeing Richie Spice on board and the tune is nice as well. Also check the coolly infectious 'Hey Lovely', another piece here is in the process of growing on me as well as the album's closer and previous single, 'Lie To Me', on which De Meza confronts a fucked up and cheating lover. The last song has a really nice R&B structure to it, but not one which makes it fall anywhere at all outside of the realm of the album's other eleven tracks. 

Highlights still remain on "Back To Eden" and none of the left moments can be bigger than one of my favourites, the divine 'Every Day Is Great'. You can almost call this a love song, because that's really all it's speaking of, but it's doing it in terms of being in love with LIFE. I really like how this song takes the title of the album and puts it (again) into a structured and TANGIBLE song which really tells people to be able to appreciate the EDEN which exists on earth. You knew Benaïssa would have to be in here somewhere and he chooses to jump in on the obligatory Mama song, the appropriately titled, 'Mama'. Reggae Rule #1: Reggae loves Mamas and Lloyd De Meza and Benaïssa love theirs also [Hey Mama] [Hi Mama]. 

“Mama caan hold this thing no more-
I regret weh mi took you for
Now I wanna be your shining star, forever
Mama caan keep this thing more
Mi know yah heart is what I tore
Now I wanna be your shining star

And finally, '9 To 5 Grocery Store' is another song which gives a credit to hardworking Mothers of the world, although not as full on as 'Mama' (but it's probably the better song). This is just a sweet song speaking about the sacrifices people make in order to do what they have to do and I feel like it's a bit of a personal effort from De Meza as well, because it's very specific. 

Lloyd De Meza
Overall, I can very casually and very comfortably give a very unconditional recommendation (- hardest word for me to spell all the time) to "Back To Eden". Although the singer does come from a more mainstream type of background, what you hear on the album is full Reggae music, but it sounds so nice that I think that some of his older fans who may not be fans of Reggae will also want to pick it up. My question about this album is exactly that - Will they? Doing research for this album, we've come to find out that Lloyd De Meza very much has an in progress R&B career and he's had a few years of hits as well, so hopefully that type of fan will key in on this release as well. As for someone who's likely to have read a review for this long (REGGAE FAN) - You'll like this one also, particularly if you have an ear for modern Lover's Rock, but new or old fans, it really doesn't matter. Lloyd De Meza steps into Reggae music and hits a winner in the form of "Back To Eden" and the door will always be open if he wants to come back . . . because he really should.

Rated: 4/5
Jah Solid Rock
CD + Digital
{Releases on May 5}

Review #355

No comments:

Post a Comment