Tuesday, May 15, 2012

'Show Everyone': A review of "Reggae Music Lives" by Gramps Morgan

Do you know what I really like ? As a . . . Reggae . . . Writing person . . . Or whatever I am, the one thing that I've identified that I appreciate above just about everything else is passion. Passion is something which is very unique because it is something which can manifest itself in so many different ways and this is particularly true and evident when speaking of music. On one side we'd have the type of passion that you hear when listening to a song from . . . Say a Mr. Killa or a Skinny Fabulous or an Ilah Man - some random incredibly enthusiastic Soca artist who commands and demands the masses to jump and wave until our collective hands and feet just fall the fuck off our limbs - who show their musical passion in the most obvious and immediate of ways. And on a similar side would be someone in Reggae like a Sizzla or a Capleton who, in their own way, do the Reggae equivalent of the Soca mad dashing at times. Another type of passion would be an individual who just always seem to immerse themselves into what they're doing at the time. When I think of someone like this, definitely a Lloyd Brown comes to mind who, as I mentioned in reference to his most recent set, "30" (or at least I hope I did), very much seems to go about his music making as if it's a 'regular' job of sorts - on a schedule and everything. And similar to Brown would be people Vaughn Benjamin, Sizzla Kalonji and others who maintain a very active schedule. For me, all of those things clearly show a person who is really into their work and, ostensibly, someone who would also still be making music even if wasn't paying their bills. So today we get to take another look and listen to someone who also exemplifies a strongly impassioned stance when it comes to the music, Mr. Gramps Morgan. In his particular case, as we'll get into more briefly, his grand interest is a bit more laid back and perhaps not as immediate as some of the others mentioned thus far, but it's just as, if not even more, captivating and really inspiring at times. And just in case you forgot how ardent Gramps was for this - the world's greatest music - he's going to be reminding you greatly in 2012 with the release of a brand new album . . . And probably some other stuff too.  

"The Return" by Morgan Heritage [2012]
The thing that really gave me the idea for the premise of this review was the fact that just a few years back the famed Morgan Heritage camp had announced that they were temporarily going to be pursuing individual solo careers as the group, itself, which was still going to exist, prepared something which was to be this grand composition and would 'just' take a great deal of time to complete. Well, in that time we've seen great success from some of the members, but especially Gramps and Peetah, the latter of the pair having notched big single after big single over the past few years. For his part, Gramps has . . . Well he's done TWO albums and the new Morgan Heritage album, "The Return" has also been announced and set for a releasing later this year. This man likes making music SO MUCH, that making a new MH album just wasn't enough for him - he had to make his own and I LOVE that!  

"2 Sides of My Heart Vol. 1" [2009]
The first album, "2 Sides of My Heart Vol. 1" was set to be the first of a double album project and it came back in 2009. That piece would happen to spawn a number of subsequently substantial and successful songs (what!), so, while I don't actually think that plan ultimately worked out for a double release (but it kind of did, didn't it???), Gramps is now pushing up a solo followup [sans 'Vol. 2' on the title], the beautifully named "Reggae Music Lives". If anyone were so 'qualified' to make such a statement (biggup Franz Job) it would be someone (with any common sense, whatsoever) like Gramps who has, as we've established, placed so much of himself to be involved in this music. And not only has he been active for himself, Gramps' increasingly crucial label (which releases this album as well its still very easy to find predecessor), Dada Son Entertainment, has also done work for several different artists from since 2008, which marked last studio album from Morgan Heritage, "Mission In Progress", including the wonderful Hawaiian Reggae songstress, Irie Love (who I believe they once signed to a deal actually and she is still around) and others, including Jemere Morgan, Gramps' son, who has been attracting a nice bit of attention for himself. Going back to the first album, I was very impressed. As someone who previously wasn't very much of a fan of the Morgan's, it was definitely a moment which made me go back and take a listen to their catalog to 'see' what I'd been missing out on - it was a very solid piece. It also went far in giving Gramps a real identity as an artist. In the group he surely stands out, but he stands out as part of the group and his parts of THEIR music, collectively, tend to be some of the most dynamic and memorable portions of tunes, but you don't really find yourself going 'Oh I remember Gramps' verse from . . . ' - well that happened on "2 Sides". And now, going forward, I'm VERY much anticipating hearing the new MH album, to see if his role has changed in their musical approach. Before we get there, however, there's a sublime set in "Reggae Music Lives", which builds so nicely upon the first album and, once again, provides the very fascinating Gramps Morgan with another platform to impress. But does he really make an impression? Yeah. He does do that. 

There're a few recognizable tracks on the album, but for the most part, its lion's share is new to my eyes and ears, which is an interesting point on its own - showing that the artist really did go about recording two albums at the same time (and is now, presumably, going to go about promoting two simultaneously as well) and had enough vibes to make it work. Gramps Morgan wastes no time in lifting some of the most attention-grabbing pieces to the head of his new album by starting things with the tune the album is named after, 'Reggae Music Lives'. I was really curious to see the direction in which this track went because I think that it could have gone in several different routes. Gramps did choose one of them, sort of, by calling upon some of the big names of yesteryear in the music, but he doesn't do so in a kind of cheap way - they well flow within the natural progression of things. 

“Know I & I wi dun make a vow
Wi fight dis war, any means, any how
No matta weh you si
No matta weh you hear
Wi strong like a Burning Spear
Dem caah get wi out!
Heritage dun tell you - 
Reggae music have a healing powers and will never harm you
Di whole world see and know yeah-
This music is forever lasting”

The song, unsurprisingly, proves to be a damn attractive tune and mighty opener. The album's second song, 'Want Fi Charge Mi', is absolutely delightful. The tune features international Soul/R&B star, India Arie, returning the favour to Gramps who joined her on the big tune 'Therapy'. Here, Arie sings a wonderful backup on a song which is going to grab you in for a very sonic reason, but make you stay for the big message on board which really makes this one, one of the best songs to be found on "Reggae Music Lives". And rounding out the opening of the album is the very familiar 'Life Too Short', TEARS! I'll probably reach back here more during the closing of this review, but when you relate this one to the exceptional work Gramps has been doing in the music, it really has a bigger impact. For me: It's just all about letting shit go! Stop worrying and fretting over nonsense and caring about so much small things and negative things. We don't have all the time there is to have, so at least give yourself and opportunity to enjoy it, if you don't do anything else. That's a booming message (and one I could take myself) which comes through on this one which is, again, one of the real highlights to be found here.

Besides making one good album, Gramps Morgan really seemed to have a plan with this one and that plan was to inspire the masses to make the 'right' choice in life. On that point, along with 'Life Too Short', there's the shortest song on the album 'The Life We Chose' which, although not amongst my favourites on the album, is such a glowing song, that it'll make you spend some time on it (and it's currently sounding better, RIGHT NOW, than it ever has). I did really like 'Find Myself Thinking Of' which may not be such an inspiring vibe (on its surface, it is a love song), but when you listen to this one as a finished set, it's an uplifting piece. Gramps is saying (in a very relatable fashion) indirectly and broadly just how much LOVE makes a person feel much better and does so much for you, which is very clever on this subtle, yet vibrant piece. 'I Really Appreciate You' doesn't stray far from that message at all - it's SO similar. For this one, what I took from it was to actually SAY certain things to a person while you have that opportunity. If you have someone doing great things for you in your life, make sure you let them know how much you're grateful for their presence. Why? Because life's too short. [WHAT!] There's also 'DREAM' (printed just like that on the back of the album), which . . . Pretty much sounds like it was created to inspire. It's the standard 'go for your goals' type of song, but sonically speaking, it is spectacular in pretty much every way possible. And the album's actual closer [listed as a 'Bonus Track'] is elevating but of a different type. It is a call to action and Gramps is looking for some fulltime applicants as he's grown tired of 'Part Time Soldiers' who stay in the battle with one foot out of the door. The song rides Dimmie Joe's King's Army Riddim and it's just a HEAVY composition which Gramps uses to give the album a much needed KICK.

'The Almighty'

The balance of the songs on "Reggae Music Lives" comprise some of the best, and THE best, selections on the record. To my opinion, none of them rise quite as highly as the MASSIVE 'The Almighty'. You should be well familiar with this one as it was featured on Delly Ranx' big 2010 creation, the Saudi Arabia Riddim.

“Down by di river wi ah read up wi Psalms -
A chapter a day
All when tings get rough and hard, wi ah read it same way 
Hungry belly pickney caah go a school
But wi ah gwan live di golden rule
From Negril to Morant Bay, Gramps seh sing and kick off yah shoes

Mi praise Di Almighty!
All when dem try fight mi
Mi know dem nah like mi, so mi praise HIM more and more
Mi know dem ah chat mi
Jah know dem caah stop mi
If you a God bless pickney, you fi praise him more and more” 

This huge praising cut did a major damage when it ran and I'd imagine it's about to get opened up to a few more ears who are sure to enjoy it! Another song which you might remember from a couple of years back or so, 'Darling It's You', is also here. This one utilized the Classic Riddim from Kemar McGregor (probably one of his better riddims, even still) and while it didn't get the spotlight that several of that riddim's other, flashier, efforts may have, this is one of the best of that lot to my ears a few years on and it's never sounded better than it does on "Reggae Music Lives On". Of grand interest and completely new to my ears is the WICKED 'Coulda DJ [Dem Neva Know]' which features Gramps going in a straight DJ style ["dem neva know singa Gramps coulda DJ. Pick up di mic lak Shaggy, please di people dem same way"]. I always find myself REALLY liking tunes like this (hear 'Customer Care' from Romain Virgo) ('Dem A Coward' from Virgo also) where you have the singer/chanter unexpectedly start deejaying. This is more of a new school set than you'll usually hear on such a tune, but Gramps well makes it work! I also really liked the SWEET 'I Hear You Calling', which is really a unification song. I hesitate to call it a 'repatriation song' because Gramps actually shoots that down lyrically and literally here:

“Some live without you, but I could not live without you
Some say ‘REPATRIATION’ but seem like it’s procrastination” 

And in doing so, he makes the vibe become one which isn't necessarily looking at going BACK to Afrika, but got FORWARD to Afrika in one very nice notion. And finally, check 'I Know It's Love'. Unlike the earlier tune, 'Find Myself Thinking Of', is a very straight forward love song. It's also a very good one and smooth and, really taking a detached listen to it, it's kind of strange sounding for some reason - but I've never had a problem with odd at all - nice tune.

Gramps Morgan

Overall, there's a big point here that I wanted to get back to: Besides just having a passion for making this great music and doing everything which surrounds it, Gramps Morgan just seems to be someone who has that similar amount of enthusiasm and RESPECT for life itself and that's something that can not only be conveyed in his music, but by how much he does, in full. This album, from its title and to some of its tunes, like its first single 'Life Too Short', seems to be trying to give some of that, or at least a view of it, to the listeners and there's nothing wrong with that. Morgan Heritage is back up, "The Return" will be in full swing soon enough, but observing the work that, suddenly, the group's most prominent member, Gramps Morgan, has done over the past few years and now on "Reggae Music Lives" is dumb as hell and it's ignoring the work of someone who TRULY loves Reggae music. Just like you! And me! And everyone else with an even remotely properly functioning pair of ears. Solid.  
Rated: 4/5
Dada Son Entertainment
CD + Digital
Review #359

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Gramps Morgan. In his particular case, as we'll get into more briefly, his grand interest is a bit more laid back and perhaps not as immediate as some of the others mentioned thus far, but it's just as music saves lives