Monday, June 4, 2012

'The Launch?': A review of "Soca Gold 2012"

I'm currently of the opinion that, if we haven't gotten there already, one of the years in the immediate future - meaning in the next half decade or so - will be looked upon as being a landmark one for Soca music. All signs currently point to it being a genre which is ready to explode on the more 'mainstream' market and when it does, it will do so as a COMPLETELY supported and established art form. Until then, however, we can really see the music beginning to gather more and more attention from atypical fans across the globe and, in doing so, it is a virtual state of PREPARING to reach higher heights and it's gotten [remained] damn interesting to watch and hear along the way. Of course we can [and will] get into the artists who you might expect to see as the dominant names of the music, leading it into the future (like Patrice Roberts), but if you really started to think about it, you're likely to come away with of the mind that THE single biggest name in Soca music isn't actually an artist or a song or a producer or a legend or . . . Any of those things. NO! Probably the best known Soca-ish entity to more casual fans (and there are A LOT of them) is what? Of course, it's an album and that album is called "Soca Gold" and it comes via VP Records. Not Machel Montano, not Bunji Garlin, not Bunji Garlin, not Fay-Ann Lyons (no more on them later) (NONE OF THEM), not . . .  not even Kevin Lyttle - none of them are as popular as "Soca Gold" and, if I am correct in my predictions, obviously the existing face of an entire genre which is about to see itself reach previously unseen heights has a pretty substantial responsibility to be better than it ever has before, right? Right??? Well, not necessarily. My thinking now is that, unlike its still far easier accessible (in the literal sense) cousins, Reggae & Dancehall, Soca may very well be in the position where "Soca Gold" is SO much more well known than anything else in the music, in the more conventional sense, that it can pretty much do whatever it wants - all of the time. And, when you combine that with the fact that the actual music, itself, tends to be pretty spectacular, what you really begin to see is an album which, potentially, can make stars on its own. It doesn't even matter who they might be!

"Soca Gold"
Perhaps that might explain my incredibly mixed feelings when actually looking upon the latest installment of the mineral based series, "Soca Gold 2012". I just didn't know what to expect and that surely has something to do with the nature of the music itself. If you were to ask me to sum up the quality of Soca in 2012, I don't even know that I would be able to come up with something even remotely comprehensive (ME!) (I can be comprehensive about a quarter of a verse). I like it. I think it was the worst scene in recent memory. The best songs from it would have stood well against the best of FAR better years. All of that stuff applies and I could defend it, but they all kind of go against one another.

Soca Silver 2012
And it is somewhere within that most appropriate madness that "SG 2012" draws its substance because, in the midst of all of the over thinking and prognosticating, we do have an album to deal with and, as usual, it immediately becomes a project which is going to bring out those who think it missed a lot (I think that I'm going to be one of them this year) and those who think that it's pretty good as it is (I may be one of them too).  Last year, looking back, "Soca Gold 2011", actually did fairly well in bringing it all together and while the ultimate full reaction was somewhat negative, I think that album may just belong in the lower portions of the top half of the life of the series in its quality. As for this year's addition, I'm relatively certain that I won't be saying a similar thing about it in 12-13 months, but I just as just as surely won't be slamming it into the ground either - I think it's better than most people are going to give it credit for being, but it, by no means, is anything approaching amazing. That's even more interesting when you consider that, already, 2012 has been a large time as far as Soca albums go. Not only have there been big drops from the aforementioned likes of Bunji Garlin ("iSpaniard", his first album in entirely too long), Machel Montano, Destra Garcia, Farmer Nappy (more on those last two in a minute) and others, but we've also seen movement in terms of the BIG Soca compilation. While I'm pretty sure the "Best of The Best" release has not and will not run for 2012, in its stead have been SIZABLE pieces such as the very well received "I Am Soca", the even weller (not a word) (at all) received "We Muzik Vol. 1" as well as "Champion Soca", which I think may be the literal 'descendant' of "BoTB". Neither one of these will EVER come close to being what "Soca Gold" has become and nor will any of the others, (some of) which (I'm really looking forward to) are forthcoming later in the year, but what they do is to provide a HEALTHY alternative/accompanying piece (because they're going to get this as well), for more hardcore Soca heads. And, again if I'm correct and I usually . . . well, nevermind - those compilations are also going to get a vast amount of new eyes and ears tuning in and I should also say that I cannot ever remember seeing as many Soca riddim albums in any two or three seasons that I've already seen in 2012. Soca music is ready to explode and when it does, it'll be taking all of this with it, but especially (me), "Soca Gold". But if it does manage to happen this year will the largely guaranteed first stop of all of these new fans be a fun one? Kind of. 

As I said, there is so much in the way of BIG names which you won't find on this album and that's really too bad. Ostensibly, such an album should always attempt to showcase the absolute best and, while you do get quite a few, it always saddens me when this album reaches and there is NO Machel Montano, Bunji Garlin or Fay-Ann Lyons, particularly when one of them, Montano, had the single biggest song of the season - again. With that being said, however, there is a nice cache of names on board "Soca Gold 2012", one of which gets us started as 'De Boss', Iwer George follows up his big tune from 2011, the MASSIVE 'Come To Meh', with the not quite has huge, but still pretty good and furious 'Jab [No Pain]'. Not surprisingly, the two songs are pretty similar (if it's not broken . . . ), with last year's version obviously still be the favourite, but this tune is also very attractive, largely due to its unrelenting pace and the fact that it finds the Jab Jab addict a little hilariously pissed off that he didn't win Soca Monarch last year (I wonder what he'll do next year, because he didn't win this year either). I've got not a problem at all with this tune and the more I listen to it (even now), I like it more and more. Skipping ahead a bit, on the third tune on the album we find series staple, Lil Rick, with 'Work'. I'm not crazy about this one anymore, even after a few listens, but it's something you've come to expect from "SG" and Lil Rick as well. What's funny is that I could probably play this song for a casual fan and have it elicit a variety of emotions (the pacing of this song is just ridiculous), but if you've paying attention it's a bit on the tame side! The always interesting Swappi wraps up the opening of the album (actually, Lil Rick does), with the extremely infectious, 'Bubble On A DJ'. I don't even know if this tune qualifies as actual Soca music, it's kind of electric and techno and it's very odd and I'm not even going to call it a good song. It's DAMN infectious, however, and while it checks in at track #4, you'll be listening to something else and it will still be at the front of your fucking mind. UNDOUBTEDLY!

'Link Up' by Destra

At the head of "SG2012", for me at least, is a trio of songs which contain my personal favourite two songs from out of Trinidad this year and a very surprising blast from Vincy Mas 2011 as well. You could add a few tunes from Garlin, Montano and Patrice Roberts (also missing) to the bunch, but I don't know that I'd DECISIVELY place any of them ahead of 'Link Up' from the divinity in human form that is Ms. Destra Garcia and/or the chaotic brilliance from Blaxx for the legendary Roy Cape, 'Inna Band'. These are the tunes I look forward to hearing - when the big names do big things - and they have both been solid on players for quite awhile and won't be fading anytime soon. My choice as the single best [DUH!], goes to Destra with HUGE statement making madness which she carried wonderfully for the entire season. 


Joining them is Vincy Soca ace and three time former Soca Monarch, (coming ten thousand strong!) Skinny Fabulous, with the frenetic 'Rumble'. If you like really FUCKED UP and ANGRY vibed Soca music, there're few greater, if any, sources for that than Skinny. The man has simply taken it over and he's done it with tunes like this which don't figure to attract more than a specific type of fan, but fortunately specificity has always been something I've excelled at. And also, while I wouldn't actually place it amongst these tunes, I was very happy to see that Skinny also had another song on this installment of the series. Of course it makes perfect sense for VP to draw 'Rave Out' as it not only features one of their artists, but it features one with a new album running right now, Busy Signal (damn Busy!). I don't enjoy this one as much as I once did, but a pair of songs from Skinny and any involvement from the until recently SCALDING (now he's . . . something else) Busy is a plus for me. 

"Soca Gold 2012" also features a very nice group of songs which, although I won't call them GREAT, are pretty close and there're so many of them that they help to make up the real body of quality tunes present here. Such a tune would DEFINITELY be 'Good Time' from the ever-present Edwin Yearwood (who's been on every one of these). I kind of go back and forth with Yearwood, depending on the year I suppose, but this piece from last year was undeniably strong and, while I don't think that it generated the type of response as some of his other similar offerings in recent years, it was nearly as good as any of them and it's an utter JOY of a tune. Speaking of joy, the incomparable Alison Hinds also returns this year with the hypnotic 'Brace & Wine'. This song is relatively close to more straight forward Dancehall, which is something Hinds has done before and while I'm not all over this one, it has grown on me considerably and hopefully she sets herself on the list by delivering a new album of her own later in 2012 (that would be so nice). Jamesy P also comes close to penetrating the top lot of selections here with the characteristically really song Groovy effort, 'Grapevine' for favourites of ours, Island Traffic Entertainment. I don't spend nearly enough time speaking on the annual splendour of Jamesy P and I really should work on that because what he's done since most people really began paying an attention to him following 'Nookie' a few years back, is to 'merely' become one of the most consistent and quality dependable voices in all of Soca music - a complete GIFT of music and there seems to be not even a hint of him slowing down. That's also readily apparent on this tune on which Jamesy says that he learnt "Vincy gal have de sweetest wine" through the grapevine! BOOM! Also check the cool 'Over It' from up and comer Kimba Sorzano, as one of the title tracks from the aforementioned Farmer Nappy, 'You Make Me'. Both are really nice tunes and keep an ear out for Sorzano, who should be doing big things and also pick up the Farmer's new album, "You Make Me Surrender", today. I'll also, somewhat reluctantly, add 'No Pressure' to this lot from Nadia Batson (who looked SO GOOD this year). This is another piece where my appreciation, or lack thereof, fluctuates a great deal, but as of RIGHT NOW, I'm liking it. Don't ask me again an hour from now, however. And, definitely do check the SWEET 'Roll It' from Hypasounds, who is another one to keep an eye on for the future. 

'Good Time' by Edwin Yearwood

'Keep Talking' is easily the best of the rest, as Lil Rick joins Skinny with a second track on "SG2012". The song is a more lyrical and probably the most such outside of 'Rave Out' and it is not really something too different from the artist. He's been around for such a long time that you have come to expect him to be able to at least attempt to do almost anything, but it does work to a degree here (and how do you critique a tune where the artist already says he doesn't give a damn if you like it???). 'Don't Look Back' is a somewhat funny tune from Big Red also from out of Barbados. It's not amongst my favourites here, but Red is a talented artist, in a very unique way, so check out some of his other tunes (he had a very strange song a couple of years back named 'Action' which I really liked). A pair of big time veterans in Rikki Jai and Lady Saw team up to get drunk and discuss it on the remix for the former's 'De Drinkers Anthem'. I wasn't crazy about the original version of the song, although it did have a nice BIG sound to it and the remix falls behind even it, just a bit. Neither are BAD and the remix does up the intensity a bit, but to my opinion it's somewhat average. And lastly, and somewhat perplexingly is Inches with 'Jiggle It'. Nothing wrong with this song at all (and it's my Daughter's favourite on the album), with the exception of the fact that nothing short of a truly MASSIVE brain injury will get it out of your head (and I mean NOTHING!) - but it is two years old! I know it took awhile to spread out (remember that crazy tune from Triple Kay a few years ago, 'Sousse'? It started to mash up EVERYTHING after it was already two or three years old), but apparently someone at VP LOOOOOOVED it so much that they'd bring it back on this level. Not a HORRIBLE idea, but a surprising one, nevertheless. 

'Shiver' & 'No Pressure' by Nadia Batson

Overall, the bigger picture notwithstanding, it's a decent "Soca Gold" this year. We'll focus more on what's missing, because that's just what we do, but as for what is here, no matter how unusual it is, it's okay and it has enough BIG moments, at least for me. What I would like to see going forward is maybe VP Records would start to do a bit more with the series in the absence of some of the bigger names. I'm thinking of maybe going in the direction of "Ragga Ragga Ragga" this year - where it focused on some of the UK talents predominately, if they could do that with no Machel or Bunji or Fay-Ann, then I think that would be an excellent mix up for a season. Another idea might be to just change when "Soca Gold" releases so obviously you'd have more current songs at your disposal. In any case I do think it's time for a bit of a change, especially if/when this music begins to get a great deal more exposure. So, while you will find better Soca compilations in 2012, "Soca Gold" continues to and will continue to fly the flag for an entire genre which should be BOOMING across the globe any minute now. 

Rated: 3.25/5
VP Records
CD + Digital

Review #364

No comments:

Post a Comment