Monday, July 30, 2012

Discography: Perfect Giddimani

Perfect Giddimani 
In continuing with our [not really] critically acclaimed series - today we take a look at an artist who is now on as hot of a current streak as anyone in Reggae music today and someone who has also, just within the past couple of years or so, really reached his apparent height in terms of skills - Perfect Giddimani. Fresh off the release of his latest and sixth album to date, "Journey Of 1,000 Miles", the most unique chanter has entered a very rare group of artists who, at least for me, should be looked upon as capable of and downright EXPECTED to produce great moments and it's his own fault. He's been remarkable, which is even more astonishing when you take into consideration that his fiery and capricious style is one which, almost inherently, doesn't immediately seem to lend itself to being so consistent. But he has mastered it and is now, arguably, one of the most consistent artists around during a wonderfully progressed state of his career. Discography: Perfect Giddimani

The music of Perfect Giddimani

"Giddimani" [DHF Records - 2006]


'Handcart Bwoy'

Loaded. Chances are quite outstanding that if you've been listening to Perfect for more than a couple of years or so, the first batch of songs which helped originally to steer you in his musical direction are present on his debut album, "Giddimani", which now stands as a pretty comprehensive collection of much of his early hits. 'Handcart Bwoy’, 'Black Marcus', 'All I've Got', the scathing 'Nuh Badda Mi' and others highlight an album which has, unsurprisingly aged excellently. While I hesitate to use the words 'classic' or 'vintage' in this case, either may just be applicable and are certainly not entirely off-base.  

"Born Dead With Life" [IrieVibrations Records - 2008]

The concept. There was SO much discussion and talk surrounding Perfect's sophomore project, "Born Dead With Life", which came via the now still mighty IrieVibrations from out of Austria and may still be the chanter's most high profile release to date. Much of the talk centered around the notion of it being a 'concept album', a trait which you heard a great deal of in reference to it and still do at times (you just did). Personally I wasn't very impressed by the record, for the most part, I liked it originally and after a bit of time it kind of faded for me. Having a listen to it now (which may be the first time I picked it up, in full, in a year and a half or so, I'm still not a big fan at all, but I'm focused more on the good moments. Such as??? 'Hanging Day' and '30 Pieces' were both on this album - that's big work, no matter the concept behind it.  

"Karma" [Chalice Palace Music]

The gateway. No. "Karma" wasn't very good. It wasn't very good at all. The album, seemingly, caught Perfect in the midst of a VERY strong kind of love and he wanted to tell the world about it (does that make this another 'concept album'?). That's fine. Time has kind of tempered my dislike of this album (RARE is the album which is so bad that I can passionately dislike it straight into perpetuity and this one doesn't even come close to qualifying). The best thing about "Karma", in retrospect, is that it really went a long way in showing that Perfect was an artist who played by his own rules. This album was on his own Chalice Palace Music imprint and he did everything he wanted to do with it, I'm sure. Also, it would basically open the door to a PRIME level of the artist. All three albums which followed (thus far) have been of an undeniable quality on some level.    

"French Connection" [Tiger Records - 2009]

The tiger. Three years later - what I'm left immediately thinking of when the "French Connection" album pops into my overactive brain is just how much FUN it was. "Karma", obviously, is the changeup of Perfect's catalog, but if it didn't exist (I'd be almost finished writing this post) that distinction would definitely go to this album. The Tiger Records helmed set did a great deal as far as showing off the extremely varied and unpredictable nature of its star and you hear glaring examples of that on songs such as 'Son of Jamaica', 'Bobo Special' (which I suddenly really, really like), the hypnotic 'Step Away' and a few others also. Sizzla Kalonji, Lutan Fyah and Zamunda all joined in on something which has to rank fairly highly for me in terms of ENTERTAINING recent Roots Reggae albums.  

"Back For The First Time" [Lustre Kings Productions - 2011]


'Hold On Buju'

One thunderball. Words like this are not probably the best in describing the natural wildness of someone like Perfect, but I'm going to use it for here anyway. Lustre Kings Productions pulled from the artist a REFINED record in "Back For The First Time". It literally seemed like, at least on a 'Perfect' scale, that everything - every word, every riddim, every melody - was finely combed over before ultimately being kept in the tune's final version. This was a mature and more laid back Perfect and, while theoretically speaking that may not sound like the best move, it worked to near . . . perfection on this album. The penultimate set of his career, to date, would reveal an artist at or so microscopically far away from his absolute best, that what resulted was one of the best releases he's had (and if you want to call it THE best, you'd have a full and capable lasting argument for that. 'Hold On Buju' was on this album, which was a tune which garnered a great deal of attention and justly so at its time, but when I come back (for the first time) to this album, I'm ALWAYS drawn to 'HIM Smile'. That song has become one of my recent favourites from Perfect and it highlighted an album packed with highlights.  

"Journey Of 1,000 Miles" [Dynasty Records - 2012] 

Starts with one footstep. An extremely quick two months having had this album to listen to hasn't really changed my view of "Journey Of 1,000 Miles". I'm still under the impression that Perfect, with Dynasty Records, really crafted something together which was not only sizable and one of the best Reggae albums of the first half of the year, but also something which very much has the potential to stick around. Just as in the case with its predecessor (obviously), this album features a chanter who is really in his best time and form as a musician. Also, as the title says, it's still a matter which is in process, so hopefully he can do this a few more times! Lasting highlights include the title track, the . . . Happy 'Happy', 'Mama Africa' and the latest in a long line of smashing herb tunes from Perfect, 'My Chronic'.  
Perfect Giddimani
Looking back now, it's really very interesting to see (and hear) how Perfect has developed through the years. He's worked with some really talented producers during that same time as well and the artist who has emerged is someone who has been able to calibrate the exact type of a style befitting someone of his most curious and volatile talents: The truly one of a kind Perfect Giddimani

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Discography: Jah Mason

Jah Mason
Today we're going to take a look back at the work of an artist who has definitely brought more than enough enthusiasm to the current landscape of modern Roots Reggae music - and stretching back for much more than a decade now. Jah Mason, very much in the way of someone like Capleton before him, brings a definitive edge to a genre which isn't inherently known for providing the roughest of vibes and particularly not when he first arrived. However, before we attempt to characterize him as someone who can only burn the fire, the Mason, as his name suggests, is also very capable of constructing beautiful pieces of a vast variety and has scored some of the biggest hits of his career - including the single most sizable, arguably - with love songs and more laid back material as well. He's also become a true star of this era and while he may not receive the same type of accolades as some of his more popular peers, there can be no denying that with the large amount of work that he's done, he has well secured his historical position in Reggae music. To date, he's released twelve studio albums of his work and now we have a quick retrospective at each of them. Discography: Jah Mason

The music of Jah Mason

"Keep Your Joy" [Ghetto Technology - 2001]
My good-ness. Jah Mason's album debut, "Keep Your Joy", now exists for me as somewhat of a classic. His first was a project which now doesn't even receive that kind of 'built-in' attraction to it as being the debut set of this artist. It's pretty much been forgotten, it's terribly difficult to find and it never arrived on the digital side either and all of that is sad. It's especially disconcerting when you actually listen to this album. It was good! The Mason is CLEARLY a much more skilled artist today (and has been for quite some time) than he was when he did the work on this one, but it certainly wasn't without its moments and moments which still resound, a decade on. Of particular interest is definitely the title track which is as gorgeous today as it ever was and has helped ME through some really awful times over the years, but I'm really also taking this set as a whole even today, with pieces such as 'Fire' ["Mi nah cool wid di fyah weh mi burn. Cah dis yah fyah too red and dem no waan get none"], 'Life Up Di Name', 'None Shall Escape' and others being the big standouts.

"Working So Hard" [KJ Records - 2002] 

Run come. Speaking of an album that has been forgotten . . . Or maybe you can't actually forget something which you never really observed in the first place. Because of its quality, this is well a distinction which belongs closer to the first album on this list, but the now completely invisible "Working So Hard", in terms of how difficult it would be to actually track down, is the biggest 'collector's item' here. The album wasn't the best and it was nowhere near as strong as its predecessor (with which it shared tracks, even the former's headliner), but what it mainly had going for it was a couple of tracks especially. Both early Jah Mason/Jah Cure combinations, 'Run Come Love Me' and this album's title track (the original, less polished version) were present here. They were the obvious headliners, but a next track, the long forgotten, but WICKED, 'I Am Going Home', was also worthy of several spins and remains so.  

"Unlimited" [Reggae Vibes Productions - 2002]

Way past the sky. The Jah Mikes produced "Unlimited" remains one of my favourite Jah Mason albums ever to this day and that's because it is just PACKED FULL of tunes which may not have gained a great deal of attention in their respective days, but for me really exist as personal hits of sorts. I can go down the tracklist of this album and while surely some tunes stick out 'further' than others, when I actually go and listen to it and kind of drift back into the mindset of early hearing them, I'm pushing them all to a level near one another for the most part. While the title track, 'Si Dem Move', 'All I Can See', 'Vegetable Time' and one or two others immediately stand up, others such as 'Nah Give Up' [BOOM!], 'Email', and 'No Token' take a quick glance of a sound to tune up perfectly in my ears. I should also say that I really like this album for one more, obscure and weird, reason. Its cover, while extremely simple and nothing more than a cover, a back and an inside - I've always liked it. Jah Mikes and company kept meticulous records, obviously, and that may not mean much, but I'd tell you to crack open either of the first two records we've discussed thus far and then think about that again.   

"Never Give Up" [On The Corner - 2003]

Keep this inna ya head like a thought. I don't need to say much in the case of "Never Give Up", or at least I shouldn't these days. You'll disagree with me, surely, but to my ears it's the best piece of work Jah Mason ever did and it's one of the best that ANYONE has ever done. I LOVE this album - always have. It's never too far out of my players and it's well one of those type of pieces where every time you feel inclined to jump back into it, it has something new for your ears, even all of these years on. These days it's the two opening selections which're really on my mind, 'Gideon Start' and 'Mount Zion High', but I'm also extremely fixated on 'Righteousness'. That being said, there isn't a single moment here which I don't enjoy! 

"Surprise Dem" [Vikings Productions - 2004]

The journey. I have been on such an interesting road with the "Surprise Dem" album that I don't even know where to start, but I'll make it quick. When I first got this album, I don't think that I listened to it very much, but I liked what I heard. A little while later, I didn't like it at all. Earlier this year . . . I found myself enjoying it AGAIN. I cannot possibly have the most reliable opinion of this one, so I'll just keep it to the constants. This album did actually contain one of my all-time favourite tunes from the Mason, 'Too Hot Fe Dem'. The title track wasn't bad either and nor was 'Red Gold and Green'. Everything else? I could tell you but I'd change my mind in minute.  

"Most Royal" [Jah Warrior Records - 2004]

No barrier, no bridge. Like several other albums you'll read about today (and have already read about) I'm always up for just about any excuse to pull up the "Most Royal" album (if for no other reason, because my copy is probably the oldest album I have whose CD still has that 'new' feel), because it was really good. Also , in terms of what it was and where it came from, it's probably the single most underrated album the Mason ever did. The once mighty Jah Warrior Records (and I don't know if they still make music anymore), put together one SWEET modern Roots Reggae album here and one which very much had 'legs' for anyone who wanted (and still wants) to take a listen. Listening to it in 2012, it's an album largely devoid of bad work and I'm well mindful of songs like 'Rumours of War', 'Words of Wisdom', 'Most Royal' and definitely 'Rainbow Circle Throne'. A must have.  

"Rise" [On The Corner - 2005]

Who? If you still aren't able to appreciate me appreciating something as simple as decent liner notes in the case of "Unlimited", you've obviously never managed to pick up "Rise", an album which OBVIOUSLY whoever put it together didn't want you to know a damn thing about it! I mean NOTHING! That's unfortunate because it wasn't a bad release at all. It was the album which carried 'Rise This Morning', a combination with the aforementioned Capleton as well as 'I'll Never Break Your Heart' and 'The Come Friend You', two more combinations, both with singer Zeno. There was also another big tune in 'No More We Slave' and a few others which helped push this album, to my opinion, in the top half of quality of all the Mason's work. 

"Princess Gone . . . The Saga Bed" [VP Records - 2006]


'My Princess Gone'

Not gone. Jah Mason's debut (and to date only) album for VP Records, "Princess Gone . . . The Saga Bed", is probably still his most high profile release to date, some six years after its reaching. This is an album which I've kind of learn to like more, although I've never really been exactly thrilled with it (and I'm still not). What happens in this particular case, however, is that if you just draw the absolute heights of this album - 'Saga Bed', 'Princess Gone' and definitely 'Stay In My Heart' - they rank favourably to just about any best songs from any album here (including the fourth one). What I have gained through the years is more of a taste for bits like 'Stick Nor Stone', 'Got To Pay The Price', 'Plan Out' and a few more. And I'm still working on it as well.  

"Wheat & Tears" [Greensleeves Records - 2006]

Most high? I've learned in taking an unpopular stance over the last few years that Jah Mason's consensus 'best' album is definitely "Wheat & Tears" (of course, every one who feels like that is completely wrong, but you're allowed and I still love you) (. . . Some of you) (. . . okay, one or two of you) (maybe). This album came in a year of 2006 which was remarkable for the chanter as he made his debut for the two biggest labels in the industry at the time (which were still separate), the just mentioned VP Records and here with Greensleeves. "Wheat & Tears" was clearly the best of that pairing and it also came in another interesting stretch (in which it wasn't the best), as the album was one of several pieces marking the sudden explosion of In The Streetz productions who pushed albums near the same time from Luciano, Lutan Fyah, Natural Black and Turbulence (the crowning jewel of them all, of course, was "I-Space") (this album was the second best). You could make a very nice (wrong) case for this one with BIG tunes like 'Couple Chalice A Day' [BOOM!], 'Kings Of Kings', 'Most High', the title track and 'Mi Chalwa'. It was very strong!   

"Life Is Just A Journey" [Maximum Sound - 2007]

Some time. I hadn't actually taken the opportunity to sit down and listen to the Achis Reggae favourite, Maximum Sound (big new riddim, the Most Royal, in stores now), produced record, "Life Is A Journey" in quite awhile and surely that has something to do with it, but I don't remember it being THIS good. Solid always, but what I'm hearing now is bordering on something even bigger than big. This album had all the flare you would hope of on a Mason album, but it was also VERY consistent and that's how I recall it. Big tunes were all around like 'Things Will Be Better', 'Ganja For Life', 'Blame The System' (and it's crazy chorus), but if you, like me, haven't picked this one up in a moment, it may be time to take another journey.  

"No Matter The Time" [Vikings Productions - 2008]

Team up. The "No Matter The Time" album, following "Surprise Dem", was the second time the Mason linked with Vikings Productions for an album (the two also share songs and this was a far better promoted venture than the first). Time hasn't been too good on this one to my opinion and I don't like it nearly as much in 2012 than I would have in 2008/09. It's still decent and undeniable in certain cases with 'Black Star Liner', 'Burn Dem Still',  'Give Thanks', 'Precious Stone' and several moments from the first album - including 'Too Hot Fe Dem'.  

"Keep Ya Head Up" [Rastar Records - 2010]

Mix-up. I used to be rather passionate in my dislike of "Keep Ya Head Up". It was an album which was delayed and re-delayed for more than a couple of years, if I recall correctly, and when it finally did actuate, it was this . . . A primarily Hip-Hop album with Jah Mason rhyming on it. And it was the second time, following Lutan Fyah's "African Be Proud" release where this label, Rastar Records (who you now know for doing a new Midnite album every fifteen minutes or so), had done that. I still don't like it, but like I said, it's a less passionate dislike. Why? Surely it has to do with  the fact of a basic passing of time, but these I can listen to this album and focus on the positives which were the only real lasting Hip-Hoppish tune here that I like (and I'm not much of a fan of Hip-Hop), 'Computer' and the album's final quarter, which included 'Love & Respect' (a gorgeous song), and was full of nothing but straight forward 'traditional' Reggae music.  

Jah Mason
While I can't give this one the rousing and full on recommendation that I did in the cases of Ras Batch and Ras Attitude (obviously in twelve albums), what I can say is that, in full, is that the album discography of this artist is about as COLOURFUL and INTERESTING as anyone of this era. It also showcases the full brilliance of one of the greats. Jah Mason. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Discography: Ras Attitude

Ras Attitude
It worked so well the first time, that I thought we'd bring it back. In observance of a big new album and just an all around supremely highlighted body of work, I thought that today it would be nice to get back into what hopefully will become a decent new running series for us around here (until I get tired of writing) and examine the work of the ultra-talented, potential Reggae superstar, Ras Attitude. The chanter from out of St. Croix has really become a staple on the entire scene of Reggae music, even reaching beyond the Virgin Islands, which certainly is an ever widening field. Really to any impartial critic or just a fan with adequately functioning listening devices attached at the sides of their heads, Ras Attitude has to be considered one of the most gifted artists of the current era, as well as someone clearly destined for an even more substantial form of greatness. With him having recently released his seventh studio album to date, "Hold the Vibes", we now take a look back at them all in Discography: Ras Attitude. 

The music of Ras Attitude

"Happiness" [Sound V.I.Zion Records - 2001]

Glorious. I'm always looking for a reason to get back into "Happiness" which was not only the debut album from Ras Attitude, but I think it was also the very first artist's album to appear on Sound V.I.Zion, the label of Attitude's good friend, producer and initiator of this series, Ras Batch. While it certainly wasn't his best piece of work, looking back, I'm coming around to the notion (one which I've been working on for the past couple of years or so) that it may've been a lot better than most people gave it credit for being and still do. With an album like this, it can be kind of difficult to discern such things because 'Ras Attitude's first album', whatever it was, has some type of inherent distinction, whether or not it was actually any good, so you many times you may not even get into its actual quality before lifting it up to some pedestal. Fortunately, however, this set had its share of strong moments and doesn't just as exist as some figurehead-ish type of a project. "Happiness" had a bit more Dancehall and Hip-Hop than you'd ever expect from Attitude looking back, but these days my personal standouts include 'Jah Trees', 'Who Mek Man', and the bookends, 'Back in the Hills' at the front and the still devastatingly gorgeous track, 'Glorious' which closed it up. 

"Love Life" [Sound V.I.Zion Records - 2004]

Mr. Goodwin. I'd like to think that Attitude's sophomore venture, "Love Life", has become one of his more well heard releases altogether, but surely that isn't accurate. For me, in several ways, while you may not see the Modern Classic write up one day, it's somewhat of a personal classic because of how IMMEDIATELY strong it was. This wasn't the type of an album, such as its successor, which took a great deal of concentration and thought to rectify its greatness, it was very upfront - either you liked it or you didn't.  Hearing it now, it sounds like a portal of sorts from the "Happiness" album to the rest of the artist's career. It had elements of that first record (a nice amount of Dancehall here as well) and it also featured bits and pieces (biggup Lutan Fyah), which would kind of illuminate throughout his career. It also had some really strong material. Batch, Mada Nile, Ambassada and others contribute to an album which featured tunes like 'Bun Dem' ["wi ah bun dem wid no apology. Rastafari give I di authority!"] [BOOM!], 'War To Win' and the title track. It also contained a piece which is the first of the trinity of tunes from Attitude which I hold in the highest possible esteem, the downright flooring 'Ithiopia Alone'.  

"Holding Firm" [Zion High Productions - 2005]

Time-delayed. I know I've told this story before, but I'd like to thank Ras Attitude and the fine people at the currently resurgent Zion High Productions for showing me just how old I was. When I very first got a hold of "Holding Firm", frankly I thought it was boring and it had too much singing. It was very much unlike the album I just told you about, which would have been a favourite of mine at the time and still very fresh in my mind, being just a year old at that point. I had it for a little while and then I didn't have it anymore. Fast forward a little while later and I heard it again and . . . Suddenly it sounded like a completely different album. Surely that suggests some type of severe aging on my part and while I miss my 20's more and more each day, one of the gifts of time passing with me still being on the planet is that my ears had been opened to one of the greatest JOYS of an album Attitude has ever given the world. "Holding Firm" was absolutely a loaded album and you could go straight down the line unerringly and hit a winner at every stop along the way. Particularly, check 'Wrath of Jah', which featured Batch, 'All We Need Is Love', 'Why', the title track and the song which still tops this one for me, 'Let Jah Be Praised'.  

"Royal Lionage" [Royal Inity - 2006] 

Upstream. I look at "Royal Lionage" now as THE album which very much ushered in the 'modern' version of Ras Attitude (and yes, I know that makes no sense at all). It was a streamlined  (literally, it only had eleven tunes) and well refined set which now serves as one of the most instant basis of comparisons when dealing with output from the artist. It's interesting now because he's clearly developed from then, but even being MORE talented - it's difficult to top this sublime one from Royal Inity (who has seemingly vanished from the planet these days) (biggup IM Music). Despite its brevity, this album featured a great deal of memorable moments which jump out even prior to going back and listening to it. I remember songs like 'Revelation Time', 'Joyful Day' (especially), ' Push Up Your Level Rasta', 'Kette Drum' and 'Upstream of Life' by name and already associate them to this album without very much thought and that wasn't all. "Royal Lionage" came to its conclusion with a pair of the strongest tunes in Attitude's vault altogether. There was the all kind of beautiful 'Shelter Me Oh Jah' and, of course, 'Know Who Is Jah', which is the second of the aforesaid 'trinity' of truly great songs from the chanter. 

"Trodding Home" [Green Sphere Records - 2007]


'Trodding Home'

Wearing a crown. If I remember correctly, pretty much at the same time that Batch pushed his own album for Green Sphere Records, "I-Ver Strong", Ras Attitude had an album for the label which, arguably, remains his most high profile release to date (until, I Grade Records goes ahead and does the inevitable), "Trodding Home". The album featured a title track which would go on to make a serious impact on just about anyone who ever heard it (even me - it's the last of my 'trinity') and become probably the single biggest hit of Attitude's career to date. For me, I go so long without REALLY digging into this one, that I'm always happy when I find a reason to listen it again, because I'm almost sure to find a new favourite songs. These days it doesn't get much better than 'Music' (you need to hear that song, right now), but I'm also focused on older favourites like 'Jah Lives' with Malika Madremana, 'We Gonna Make It' and a song which I completely forgot was on this album, an acoustic version of 'Music', featuring the full motion brilliance that is the incomparable Tuff Lion 

"I-Meditation" [Universal Balance Records - 2009]

Universal. I don't have to think about these things very much anymore (because I already have, obviously), but 2009's "I-Meditation" is not only the single best album that Ras Attitude has done in his entire career, it's also the one which, at least for me, showed that it was time to looking at him for the talent that he was and got me started on the thinking that he was one who was capable of putting together that type of LANDMARK moment (and he is, he's going to prove me right, I'm sure of it). When you do something like this, even with the great works he'd already given us at the time, I'm expecting great things and I haven't waned in that at all. What made it so good? Pick just about any of the album's seventeen lights and you'll know why. Pay a special attention, however, to songs like 'Disya Time' (if I were to make my trinity a quartet, this tune would be number four and I probably should do that, but I don't feel like rewriting this piece!), 'Mi Woulda Vex' alongside album producer Ishi Dube (biggup Ishi Dube), 'Great God' with Norris Man, 'Sing A Song' with Jah Dan, Everton Blender joining in on 'Whip Dem' and the ear candy that is 'Gway' . . . oh and every other song on the album while you're listening also. Winstrong and Jah Sun also made appearances on this album which was just fantastic!

"Hold the Vibes" [One Drop Records - 2012]

Here we go again. Having had just a few weeks now to simmer on Attitude's latest creation, "Hold the Vibes" - I don't think that my impressions of it have changed very much, but perhaps my thoughts have solidified in just a bit (I do really like that cover, which I didn't say previously). 'Here We Go' definitely remains my favourite, but after that I think the one tune that I've gravitated towards most as of late has been 'Miss Royalness'. That tune has a riddim on it which may just be the best on the entire album and is really just hard to shake from your senses (not that I've tried very hard). As I said before, while I don't think this one is his finest piece of work, it has reassured me that the greatness that I heard isn't very far away from flourishing in its brightest way.

Ras Attitude
So! Hopefully you've already picked them all up, but if you've missed one or two along the way, definitely check out the work of an artist who really has everything you would hope from a performer in modern Roots Reggae, Ras Attitude

Thursday, July 26, 2012

'Make It Happen': A review of "In My World" by Jah Van I

Follow the vibes. Even just as a fan, it can be very a difficult and often somewhat strange experience to really find an exact type of music which works best for you. Reggae music, in particular, is an excellent example of just that as the kind of stereotypical fan of the music is one who has had a rather massive image rearranging over the past decade or so. It's just something which now brings together such a wide and varied lot of individuals and, presumably, many of these people come to the music looking for different things, which they all eventually find in one way or another. Now think about how that must register if you're actually an artist. Of course, you're going to work with those whom you have the most chemistry and, ultimately, success, but as we go on and on and the music spreads out so far, you start to see that sometimes that's a task which is far easier said than done. Just this year we saw the unlikeliest of pairings which linked Swedish based, Ethiopian grown brothers, The Nazarenes, link with I Grade Records from out of St. Croix for their sublime new album, "Meditation". We could draw lines on a map from Ethiopian (and Eritrea originally, if I recall correctly), to Sweden and then to the Virgin Islands so you could see exactly how far spread that project is and in due course we found that it was worth it. You've also seen countless Jamaican acts head to locales through the European continent for similar works, most notably at the moment I'm thinking of Hi-Kee who has now made his home in Italy. Taking the specifics out of matters just think of - A Jamaican who wants to do Reggae finding that his best opportunity for success comes in heading  to Italy. On a far smaller scale we see, basically local by comparison, instances of people like Vaughn Benjamin and Midnite linking with Andrew Campbell, King Cephas and Tuff Lion, Pressure Busspipe and Don Corleon and others (Jamelody and Bobby Digital) who have bridged smaller, sometimes not likely, gaps in order to find the biggest vibe possible. Today we take a look and listen to another such case as Portmore native, Jah Van I, has clearly hit his prime level of efficacy and done so while working through a fairly unusual set.

Royal Warriors Muzik
Royal Warriors Muzik is a label which is based in Martinique and while that certainly can't be called unusual (more on that in a moment), again it is relatively rare, as far as I can recall, for a Jamaican artist to find his musical home in a next location in the region. Of the examples that I gave, only King Cephas' linking with Tuff Lion fits that description and while there're surely several more, it's definitely not common at all. Martinique does have a very established Reggae base, however, while it may not have as big of a wide and reaching presence as the St. Croix and the Virgin Islands, you do see quite a few artists reaching from Madinina who are clearly talented (the obvious change here, of course, is that most of them deliver in French/Kreyol. Names such as Paille, Mighty Ki La and definitely Kalash as of late, highlight the strong Dancehall talents from out of Martinique, while there's also the extremely gifted Saël, a personal favourite of mine, and Straika as well. Another name you should know is that of one Bhy2R who (releases an album every half an hour) comes through on a little label called . . . Royal Warriors Muzik.  

Up until recently that's been the way you generally hear of RWM, doing Bhy2R's music. And he's done a great deal, having already worked alongside the likes of Turbulence, Fire Star, Daddy Morry, the aforementioned Straika and others. The owner of RWM is one Etifier Johann and . . . Yeah, he is Bhy2R, they're the same person. I don't know what were the circumstances via which Jah Van I and Bhy2R (who looks almost exactly like Slikee) originally came together to do work, but it has taken the career of the former and the name of the label of the latter to higher stages as both have well benefited in the partnership. As I said, you only really heard of RWM in doing Bhy2R's music and now they've become a pretty big deal and, previously, Jah Van I existed as Jah Smood, an artist who did have good music (check 'Freedom Streets'), but lacked a proper notoriety. That's changed over the last couple of years or so and the new "Jah Van I", has become a bit of a hitmaker. To place it all in context and to slap a nice package on it in full, Royal Warriors Muzik now presents the debut album from Jah Van I, "In My World". The basic foundation of it is well interesting, as we've just examined, but the obvious next step comes in whether or not it, and JVI's music in general, are any good. To date, the singer has wrapped up a few big tunes in his career and this album collects several of them and it also pushes new[er] pieces as well  to serve as some type of a formal introduction to the rest of the world who may not have been as attentive to the artist. What you are also going to learn, if you are such a person, is that besides coming through under different circumstances, Jah Van I has clearly paid his proverbial dues in terms of sharpening his skills and his successes thus far haven't been the products of flukes at all. Also, again, all the work wasn't for naught as he and RWM have a large amount of chemistry and familiarity in making music together so one could only hope that "In My World" is eventually looked upon as a very productive and fruitful (and hopefully he is the first in a string of artists taking a similar route to success). Right now, however, all that we can do is judge "In My World" for what it is and what it is, is a set which proves itself to be one satisfying debut album. Let's go!




'Down A Yard'


Jah Van I has a very interesting little 'twist' to his style - his vocals. I don't know who I would compare his voice to! He has this thing where it almost seems like he's singing apart from the riddim. It's not like he's singing offbeat or off-key, but it's like he's the leader of the song and the riddim adjusts itself to him as opposed to the other way around, which is the norm. Regardless of how you want to classify and compare him, you do have to admit that whatever it is he's doing when he sings, it works for him. The greatest example of  this (ALL of it) comes on the biggest moment on "In My Life", which doesn't start the album, but I don't have to go in order all of the time (I make the rules!), the HUGE 'Down A Yard' [track #3]. This tune is probably one of the most original and ingenious social commentaries that I've heard from the turn of the century. It's an extremely poignant observation on the state of the times and as Jah Van I sees them, and for me it really was the tune to showcase his immense gifts in the brightest of lights. Joining that signature tune in starting the album are another couple of very familiar pieces, the title track and 'Neva Forget'. The first is song for the women which really went on to do very strong work and despite an opening which I've never liked, the song is nice and even with it having done large things, I still think it's rather underrated. 'Neva Forget', on the other hand, is an even better tune and no less than the third finest flash on "In This Time".


'In My World'

Said album, in its only twelve selections is full of recognizable parts which, to me at least, is a good thing because it shows just how prolific Jah Van I and Royal Warriors Muzik have been together. Along with the first three songs, you may also recall from 'Home Alone' RWM's Jungle Cry Riddim from last year. This is a love song and it kind of makes its place because of its sonics. It is immediately catchy and for that reason, not to be missed. On that same wave is 'Hello Suzy' which is a tune I began just jumped up right before the album reached. The first time I heard it, I didn't really enjoy this tune and I still definitely wouldn't call it amongst my favourites now, but it has moved up slightly in my estimation. I can't imagine it would go much further for me, but have a listen for yourself. Another relatively recent bite, 'Reggae Music', is the album's closer and it, shockingly, kind of has a Hip-Hop vibe to it, but I do like this one. It's the definitive changeup on "In This Time" as it kind of speeds things up and bit and changes the pace to give credit to the music itself ["music is flowing like a river through my mind"]. The other tune I recognized before digging into the album is the joyous 'Tak A Walk', easily one of the best songs aboard.

"I take a walk in the streets sometimes
See di ghetto youth dem ah suffer
Some ah wipe car glass 
And dem caan find bread and butter
And they don't even know -
If they're gonna get a next night dinner
And away dem go
Inna di streets, di slum and di gutter

This is the time
Time is now!
Get up and work, achieve your goals
Life ain't so easy
It used to be before 
So I sing-
This is the time
Time is now!
Get up and work to achieve your goals
Life ain't so easy
It used to be before" 

I love songs that can make a point, a powerful point, and entertain the senses simultaneously and that's what you'll find on 'Tak A Walk' in both instances.


'Tak A Walk'

The new songs on the album, for me, also offered some memorable times and perhaps a few to look forward to enjoying and seeing in the future (literally, they make videos for every song) (biggup Stevy Mahy). Surely you've noticed by now that Jah Van I is fond of the love song and two more remain on the album, one of which, the sterling 'Don't Go Back Home', is nearly exceptional. Here we find Jah Van I entertaining a very special woman in his life for the first time who subsequently likes the experience so much that she . . . doesn't want to go home! 'I Need A Girl' is another tune which I'm not overly excited about, but my main complaint here is that it kind of 'teases' the listener. Somewhere in there, not very far from what you end up hearing, is a BIG tune threatening to leap out. The actual results aren't bad, of course, but you get the feeling that there was something more in here. Back to making more social/cultural/spiritual sets (at which he is very strong), the singer continues to impress. Check 'Warrior For A Cause' which I really liked and took as a song suggesting to the masses, indirectly (and directly at times), to really just strive to do positive and make constructive actions in whatever you do - big or small. That ULTRA simple approach is at least a portion of the charm of this track and hopefully it gets a chance to shine like many of the record's offerings. 'Dutty Babylonian' is another one which would do well with such a spotlighting prospects, but maybe not in the same way. Like 'I Need A Girl', you just get the mindset that there was something even better here, but in this occasion, you actually hear that bigger performance as this song goes along and develops into something downright mighty. And lastly is song which is either the album's second or third strongest in my opinion, 'Give Thanks Fi Di Rain'. As soon as this creation dropped in for the first time I SMILED and it didn't disappoint at all. First of all the heavy riddim, which is quite 'moody', may just be the best on the whole of "In My World" and It plays a master painter's backdrop to a song which gives a MAMMOTH thanks and praise for every single piece of positivity and brilliance on the planet. The song also has a very free vibes to it which isn't normally a good thing, because it can kind of make a song sound messy, but here it literally sounds like Jah Van I set down with a subject in his mind and started singing and talking about it and Bhy2R and company just laid a track right behind and these were  those most natural of outcomes. 

My biggest critique of the album is certainly its length. There are twelve songs in all, which is kind of short, but not too bad at all (when you write like I do, you actually look forward to albums with twelve songs on them). But eight of those twelve are less than four minutes long (the title track is actually less than three) and only one is longer than five. So it would've been nice if they did just a bit more and, again, Bhy2R seriously makes new music like everyday, so you know they have the material. But I guess we'll to wait for album number two. 
Jah Van I
Overall, hopefully that sophomore venture isn't very far off at all (if Van I records like Johann, it'll be out by the time I finish this conclusion) (biggup my oldest reader who I still talk with too, John B, who is probably Bhy2R's biggest fan, despite the fact that, to my knowledge, he doesn't comprehend French AT ALL), because the first is very promising. "In My World" is an album and a collection of tunes which I think really shows Jah Van I's peculiar talents in a very favourable light, but I also think that in, getting back to my prevailing critique, his are talents which are somewhat difficult to TRULY capture in such brevity. That being said, however, one of the most interesting aspects of this album is its direction and the positioning of its star and that is something which is readily identifiable here. So, while Jah Van I may've taken an unusual route to get where he is today and where he is likely headed, as in so many cases before his and as is probable in so many cases to come - it was worth it. Nice. 

Rated: 3.75/5
Royal Warriors Muzik
2012
Digital

Review #382

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Monster: Post #1000!

"It's not easy - to carry my load
It's not easy - to travel my road
They say a journey a thousand miles -
Starts with one footstep
It's not easy
And don't you ever forget"
-taken from 'Journey of 1,000 Miles' by Perfect Giddimani

Best music in the world. Biggup all of our friends and all nice people.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Coming Soon #53: Future's Eve

Coming Soon
"Worthy To Be Praised" by King Solomon (EP) [Jahlight Records]

First up this week, we take a look at quite possibly, 'the next big thing' to come out of Trinidad. Big names such as Khari Kill, Marlon Asher, Isasha & Million Voice and, of course, the divine Queen Omega highlight Reggae from the area and poised to be next to join that level is the well talented King Solomon who is going to be saying 'hello' to a lot of people via his excellent debut EP via Achis Reggae favourite, Jahlight Records, "Worthy To Be Praised". This set features five tracks, 'Jahlight', 'Living In Love', 'Worthy To Be Praised', 'I Know' and 'Things That We Do'. It's the title track which is the releases's first single (and the riddim on that tune is downright angelic), but all of these tunes are really worth a listen with 'Jahlight' and 'I Know' being serious standouts for me. You also get a very nice mix of the artist in terms of sounds and subjects in just these five tracks. King Solomon is an artist with a great deal of potential and while it remains to be seen exactly what he does with it, ultimately, you can get a great taste of the foundation by picking up his new digital EP, "Worthy To Be Praised" from Jahlight Records. 

Releases on August 1
Digital 

'Bruk It Down' Soca Remix featuring Alison Hinds by Mr. Vegas [MV Music]



Next, we link up with a couple of serious veterans in Mr. Vegas and Alison Hinds as the latter joins the former for a remix of his big tune, 'Bruk It Down'. Mr. Vegas has always had a mind for Soca in previously working alongside the likes of Machel Montano and, most recently, Patrice Roberts, but he may've outdone himself here in linking with Ms. Hinds for a remix of this big hit, while STILL riding from the massive success that was his most recent album, "Sweet Jamaica"

Releases on August 7
Digital

"Heart of Love" by Ras Mikey [Rasta Youths International Recordings/Isouljahs Muzik]

Hawaiian Ras Mikey is up next with a forthcoming brand new album, "Heart of Love". If I recall correctly I just recently heard Mikey for the first time as he was featured on the Step By Step riddim from Rumble Rock Recordz just last year with a nice tune in, 'Keep The Faith', and he didn't waste very much time at all in attempting to capitalize on potential new fans like myself as he's now up with the new full set. I still don't quite know what to make of Mikey, but I'm sure that this album will give a great deal of clearance in that. Mykal Rose [twice], Pressure Busspipe and Rastar all stop by to help things along.

Releases on August 1
CD [I THINK] + Digital

"Yes Iyah" [Zion Cube Productions]

It's always nice to learn of talented new labels and the latest we get an opportunity to look at is Zion Cube Productions who opens the door with their new Yes Iyah Riddim. I almost immediately assume new labels are from France and did the same here, but as it tunes out, Zion Cube is actually from out of the state of North Carolina (biggup JP . . . Or . . . Damn! I have one old reader from North Carolina, so biggup yourself if you're not JP). The riddim itself here is a very, very nice and mellow, old school vibed piece. Zion Cube has also gotten a strong cache of artists to voice it (especially for, presumably, their first release) as Al Pancho, Monsoon, Joseph Israel (who may just have the best tune on the riddim judging the clips), Rochelle, Gubu Coparchy (a name I haven't heard in a LOOOOOOOOOONG time) (easily one of the best names in Reggae music) and others take their turns on the composition. Biggup Zion Cube Productions and WELCOME!

Releases on July 27
Digital

In Stores Now
"Dé Not Kréyol" by Lindsey Lin's [Zouk Enterpies/Shark Entertainment]

'La Pot Fèmé'

FINALLY, after dropping singles from a project in both 2011 and 2010, one of my absolute favourite Zoukies, Lindsey Lin's, is back with a brand new album, "Dé Not Kréyol". Lindsey is someone who just seems to exemplify Zouk in its current and modern state. She is the quintessential stunning, angel-like young singer who is really the archetype of the genre today, in my opinion. She's also quite talented and this album marks her third and first from 2008. The singer's music also comes with a bit of a added emphasis for me as Lin's did sing 'Les Beaux Jours' (which they UNSURPRISINGLY dusted off and placed on this album also) (it is SPECTACULAR!), which is easily one of the greatest Zouk songs I've ever heard in my life. The album's first single, 'La Pot Fèmé', which is lovely, appears (DUH!), and also the aforementioned pieces from the last two years, 'Calin Matinal' and 'Morgane De Toi', respectively.

CD + Digital

'Awété Pléwé Penn' featuring Misyé Sadik by Tiwony [Blackwarell Sound/Hemp Higher Productions]

Riga, Jahnaton and company at Hemp Higher Productions waste absolute NO time at all in getting the word out that they have a new riddim which we discussed last time, The Evolution [in stores now] by giving you the set's first single, 'Awété Pléwé Penn', from the over-talented Tiwony, alongside Misyé Sadik from out of Gwada. I could go on and on about all of the nice things to like about this one, but the one you know I'm looking forward to mostly is the fact that . . . 2013 isn't far away at all and Tiwony seems to do an album every other year . . . He had one last year . . . Soooooooooo. . .  And go and pick up the Evolution Riddim.

Digital

"Reggae Addiction" [Undisputed Records/Musicast]

Completely random and well done compilation here. Undisputed Records from out  France (told you) present something I've been meaning to get up for awhile now - "Reggae Addiction" - which is a fourteen tracked compilation, featuring a healthy gathering of artists of all statures. Vybz Kartel headlines a pack which also includes the very VARIED likes of Pressure Busspipe, Jah Mason, Konshens, Tarrus Riley, Mr. Vegas, Million Stylez, Capleton, Luciano, Zareb, Fantan Mojah, Collie Buddz and others. This set is perfect for perhaps a casual fan of the music who you are currently trying to get to come around to exhibiting some modicum of an even slight amount of common sense in good taste.

Digital

"Abbasage, Man From Iyuwn" by Jesse Jendah [R.E.M.S. Records]

Resurging veteran and former residence of Xterminator - he of so many names - Jesse Jendah is back with his very first album in several millennia, "Abbasage, Man From Iyuwn". Jendah has been really been enjoying a most welcome return to form and prominence over the course of the past couple of years or so and this album, very much, places it all under a very nice package. It should also be said on Jendah's part that he is simply one of the most INTELLIGENT of individuals that you'll find in Reggae music, a trait which well shows through his music when at its finest, and also something sure to positively drench this album. So check it out today.

Digital

"Revolution Time" by YT [Sativa Records]

Talented UK product, YT is now pushing his third (I THINK) LP, "Revolution Time". YT was one of the people who I really started paying attention to from his work with Necessary Mayhem and he's proven his talent on those pieces, for me. For everyone else - he's one of those artists that is probably more popular than you know and has more fans than you'll give him credit for. You can see why that is, exactly, by picking up his new album today. Still not convinced? Spragga Benz and another skilled vocalist from Mayhem, Mr. Williamz, are also aboard this one.

CD + Digital

Alison Hinds [Black Coral INC]

And lastly (I am SO tired of writing this thing for some reason and it's still short - currently checking in at 1358 words) we head back to the doorstep of the most incomparable Alison Hinds who checks in with three singles from 2012 season 'Gals Want More Iron', 'Dis Is De Best Band' and, of course, the chaotic 'Soca Till We Die'. The last mentioned of the three requires a bit of patience because it literally sounds like three (or more) tunes going at one time. Fortunately, however, while I have more flaws than I can count, a lack of patience isn't one of them and that tune has grown on me. 'Gals Want More Iron' has a very familiar and immediately likable sound so that was no problem either. BUT [!] the star of the trio for me is definitely the insanity that is 'Dis Is De Best Band' which will just not find its way out of my mind AT ALL and I'm not complaining! We're still waiting on a new album from the Queen, but her 2012 season shows that just maybe she still is getting better with time.

Digital

Monday, July 23, 2012

'Lifting the Fog': A review of "Danger Zone" by Avaran

Off radar. Just very recently we complete a list, "Ears Wide Shut", which went through speaking about ten different artists who I wish I paid more attention to. In this list were individuals who, for whatever reason, I just have a difficult time in either keeping up with or really getting started to be in tune with on some level. While it certainly was an idea for a one-time (although I'd have no trouble in packaging up a sequel), it also really spoke just how frustrating it can be in music, and particularly a genre like Reggae, to follow someone who may not be at the absolute height of the game in terms of popularity. The music is getting so popular and global in this era that while just about any 'side-effect' that comes with such a situation is definitely allowable, it can become quite a frustrating experience when you either stumble upon someone who you probably should have known about long ago or find out that someone who you used to enjoy has been far more active than you knew about. Not too long ago at all we dealt with someone who researching became a rather educational experience, Qshan Deya'. The St. Vincy born singer has just pushed a fresh new album, his first in more than a decade, the outstanding "Love Govern Us All" [in stores now, pick it up]. Doing the background work for that one was just a revelation and I ran into not only tunes that I'd known somewhat of, but not fully, but also producers and riddims and it started to become evident that the album was the final goal in that particular case. Today, we're going to take a look at a someone with a very similar set of circumstances as far as I can tell as we delve into the most recent work from a singer who was once extremely well regarded and didn't really seem to stick around long enough for the Reggae listening world to give him the respect he was so obviously due (although he did get a great deal of it), the incredible singer, Avaran. The Bahamas born vocalist gave us just a taste of his merit and his place in the music and then he hung around for awhile and . . . then not so much. But thankfully, talents such as his can't fight the urge to comeback forever. 

"Short Rope" [1999]
In 1999 a singer named Avaran delivered a debut album by the name of "Short Rope" which may not have exactly 'set the world ablaze' or 'take it to another level' or some other crazy bullshit like that, but it did leave a fine impression on just about anyone who had the good fortune to hear it (and you can still hear it, it's currently available digitally and the actual CD shouldn't be too hard to find either) and generated a nice buzz. It showed the singer as very classy and potential saturated. That was 1999, the year I turned eighteen years old. I'd be thirty before he'd release another [!] and while I certainly didn't forget about him, it wasn't like Avaran was bombing big singles the entire time. Following his output, even if I was most keen, wouldn't have been without trouble, which is awful considering just how talented he is.


So hard to follow the music of Avaran it is, in fact, that it would be well into the second half of 2012 before I would become aware that in late 2011 he had returned in some 'formal' capacity. "Danger Zone" was Avaran's very first album in more than TWELVE YEARS! According to the bio I read, the singer essentially took a break from the music for five years or so, so it wasn't as if I was totally futile in my efforts to follow his work - there was no work. Upon his return to recording and performing, he did what many artists in his position do and headed to Europe which had embraced the first album and where he would subsequently, again, find producers and, more importantly, audiences for his music. I was still rather surprised to see that he had just so recently done a set, however, because, as I said, there was once such a strong reaction to his work and, unlike we've seen in the case of Deya, whose album has gone on to make a nice round in terms of promotion, there wasn't very much discourse around "Danger Zone". The album officially comes through Hungry Belly Records and BluFire Productions, which I think may actually be Avaran's own label, but much of the identifiable work, as you may imagine, comes through European outfits, where he had gained a nice reputation, dating back even to the "Short Rope" days. Going through the album I was actually a little surprised at how many of its thirteen tracks I recognized in some way. Be it actual lyrics (have you ever had the experience where a tune starts and you just start in singing along with it, but haven't the slightest of ideas where you know it from?) (that happened to me at least three or four times on this record), a riddim or some other small facet of the tune, several of the songs were familiar to me in some way. On top of that, I was just happy to see Avaran back and, again, doing research for this album has once again showed me that perhaps I wasn't as far out of the proverbial loop of Avaran's as I had assumed, although it would have been so nice to learn of the existence of this one . . . About six or seven months ago - that would've made things so much easier for me. Still, taking a listen to this album, ultimately, well fulfills on some of the promise and potential displayed by the artist on his first album and although you would surely think him a different person today (or last year in this case), than he was way back in 1999, what you have here is something which isn't such a grand step in a different direction than "Short Rope". Ostensibly, that isn't a shock at all, but it also appears that Avaran 'simply' seems to pick right up where the first album left off (with a bigger sound behind him, of course). The results are powerful as "Danger Zone" proves to be a release guaranteed to be enjoyed by almost any fan of modern Roots Reggae. Let's have a listen. 

The obvious comparison to be made in Avaran's sound is to the legendary Garnet Silk (they even make it in his official bio), and while I do hear that, I do think that he has some type of loud projection which may even push him in the direction of sounding something like a more traditionally Gospel singer at times. However, you want to categorize it, it well works for Avaran which is apparent throughout his sophomore release from 2011, "Danger Zone", which gets up and moving in a very familiar direction, by means of the triumphant 'I Will Rise'. As soon as I heard this riddim I knew it was something I had heard at least fairly recently and didn't take me long at all to come up with Goldcup Records (a label that has worked extensively with not only Avaran, but also Achis Reggae favourite Jah Nyne, also from out of the Bahamas), whose Mirror Riddim of 2010 underpins the track. This song is golden in just about every way. It's very dynamic Roots Reggae music, but the message is still well present. Avaran does something similar to Jah Mason's now classic (in my opinion), 'Keep Your Joy', by essentially saying that your happiness or unhappiness is your responsibility and it's very important to maintain and "rise" no matter what type of outside forces may contribute to your life. This one should have been a greater hit than it was because it is excellent and one the strongest songs on the album that it heads. We go on to another tune which made my ears jump, 'Things Tough'. This song did make quite a bit of damage in its day. It's featured across a knocking riddim with which it shares a name from VI Connection, a label from out of France. 

"You watch my people suffer
You say it's gonna get better
That's what you write in yuh newspaper, while politicians eating steak and lobster
Hey, it's blood we cry from our eyes 
I can't take this touchy life
While you promote death and poverty, we're the ones who suffer!

Things tough round here!
What about the poor round here?!
Politician dem no really give a damn round here

They call this a ghetto -
Where anything goes, anything goes
They call this the ghetto -
Where politician they don't dare to go
They lock you up, throw away the key and charge you with a crime
You won't get away this time
Oh my people you've got to stand firm and strong"

What you have here is a very specific social commentary/observation as Avaran is as pissed off as he can possibly be with the way that the powers that be are running and ruining the world. It's another song whose sound, albeit in a much different way than on the opener, really is nice on an early intense bite of "Danger Zone". And rounding out the opening of the album is my favourite song on the entire project and another piece which I was well familiar with, the gorgeous praising offering, 'Let Jah Be Praised'. The mighty I Love Jah Riddim from Zion Gate has to be maybe four or even five years ago at this point, but I'll likely never forget it because it was really, really beautiful and when I first dove on this tune for this album, it came in and I'm singing along with it, but it took my mind awhile to make the connection (I tell you guys and girls I'm not the bright every chance I get) and when I did, it was a surprising moment that this song I had been enjoying for some time now was actually Avaran's and it, obviously wasn't a fact I learned for the first time, but it's exactly how things like that happen when you don't have a reason to think of someone so often. Sometime they push brilliance and it's something which doesn't reside firmly in your memory. This is a flawless example because this song is fantastic. 

The acquaintances continued to grow and grow as I made my way through this zone and it definitely was somewhat trying (at least for me, mind you, I'm a nerd) because you want something like this to be stuck in your mind, but I had a hard time with this one. Of course that's not due to the actual music, most of it is fine. 'Gonna Be Dread' is a precise model of both the frustration and the quality. This song comes through on yet another big creation from Goldcup, the Keep It Clean Riddim, and I know this song in some way (Nyne actually had an increasingly big tune on the same riddim, 'Zion I') (which you can find on his own 2011 album, "Holdin A Vibe") (in stores now), but I would have never made the equation to it being Avaran's tune which is just damn unfortunate because it's strong. The well known Sane Kry Riddim, from VI Connection, backs 'Rumble Jumble Life' as Avaran goes all King Kong on the people. This tune actually has stuck with me over the years and although I was somewhat surprised to see it on an album, it wasn't an excavation project by any means to figure out exactly where it came from. I always liked this song also (pretty much anything on that riddim is nice) so it's nice to see it afforded a 'second wind' of sorts on this album, which also features a nice remix of the song later on. 'Times Getting Serious' is a serious standout on "Danger Zone" and you may recall it on the Respond Riddim from the mighty Pow Pow, a few years back. All of Pow Pow's work (that I can think of) is top notch and here we have just as refined of a tune as well. 

"Times getting serious
Times getting dangerous
When we don't know who to trust
It's still Jah we love

So Mama set me down to pray, for a better way
So many been lead astray, lead astray
Oh, so Jah please deliver us!
Oh, hear our plea oh Jah!
Wipe these tears from our eyes!
From our eyes!
Through the storm you've been strong
Now it won't be long -
Before you lead us home, Jah Jah
Before you lead us on" 

'Dreams of Home' is also a piece which I knew of as is 'Powers That Be'. The former is very good. It's kind of a veiled repatriation track and one which I enjoyed, ideologically, because it speaks of a person actually PREPARING to go home. More times you hear a song like this and it's very forward 'let's go now' type of thoughts, but Avaran actually suggests that there is work to be done before he's ready to leave which is necessary before the "dreams" can become realities. 'Powers That Be' is also a winner and one which goes back to the type of imagery dealt with earlier on here.

"Now this one goes to the powers that be
The one who makes decisions for me
When I should rise, when I should sleep
When time to eat
I'm in poverty

They lock me up, throw away the key
They say, in time, they'll set me free
All I see is a conspiracy
New world order and world war three" 

Really straight forward (and urgent) social commentary and a good one, which adds a bit more colour to the type of songs on the album, even though it doesn't change things tremendously. 

Of the songs on "Danger Zone" which were completely new to me, we have some of its winningest moments. The biggest of them all, to my ears, is also my second favourite selection on the whole of the project, 'Heathens'. I don't know why this tune wasn't a hit because it has all the makings of one in my mind. It's a big and vibrant composition and one that well shows off Avaran near his absolute best. When it really intensifies, the piece turns into this multi-faceted work of art which makes you smile and move and it invokes thought as well as Avaran goes biblical and does it in a massive way. Next (literally) is 'Another Moses' - which took quite awhile to grow on me for some reason, but these days it's another of my personal highlights appearing here. The same could, in both ways, be said for the record's old school vibed title track. 

"We're living in a danger zone 
Where the streets are filled with blood
We're living in a war zone 
Everyday it takes a life

You see the way they build their policy
It is filled with such hypocrisy
Ignoring the minority -
While living the life of vanity
Stop oppressing the minority
That's the reason for the poverty
The guns, drugs, crimes, bombs it ah mash up a life" 

I always think that the title track is supposed to one of the most immediately striking on your album (and that's generally the case to my experience), and while that isn't the case here, at least not for me, what you do have is clearly one of the impassioned routes taking on the album named after it and a song just as evidently very important to the singer. 

Finally is the only stop here which I didn't too much enjoy, 'Give I Strength'. This song may just be one of the better sounding present and it has also one of the better choruses, but it also very much sounds like a freestyle of sorts when the full lyrics come in. It's a pretty good one, but compared to the level of music you'll hear on the rest of the album, it's not up there in my opinion. The Jazzified riddim, however, is another story. Gorgeous! 

Avaran
Overall, it may have taken my seven or eight months longer than I would have liked, but I'm finally here and "Danger Zone", looking back, is about as impressive as I may have hoped Avaran would have done for a followup to "Short Rope" (about a decade later, but who's paying attention!) (besides me, of course). My only significant complaint is . . . Maybe it could have stood a love song or two, something to change the mood, but with a title like that, you pretty much know what you are getting into (a combination would have also been nice as well). Since this album, I've come across a couple of new songs for 2012 from Avaran, including more new work from Goldcup Records and, hopefully, he manages to stick around consistently this time and we can look back at the "Danger Zone" album as sort of the foundation for a re-ignition in Avaran as an artist. Someone who is so skilled at singing should be singing as much as possible and their songs shouldn't be so hard to keep up with either. Well done. 

Rated: 4/5
Hungrybelly Records/BluFire Productions
2011
CD + Digital

Review #381

Happy Earthday to The One