Tuesday, July 3, 2012

'The Guide': A review of "Truly" by Lutan Fyah

Listening on all sides. I can't speak for anyone else, obviously, but I like to think I'm someone who listens to music well and I think that a large part of the reason why is because I know HOW to listen. What I mean is that, depending on who I'm listening to at any time, as a fan, I kind of adjust my expectations, what I'm focusing on and what I'm actually hearing, as a result of that, changes. For me (I'm a nerd), this is by far one of the most fascinating aspects of the complete process of the presentation of music. And it's not only on form. If you were to go to a concert, you're probably not going to react to someone like Etana as you would to . . . let's say Skinny Fabulous (just a random example) (WHAT!) and I think that you can also translate that situation to listening to a song or an album. Actually going through that experience, alone (before addressing whether or not the music is any good), is something which can be such a great moment for a fan of music and that's because there are some TRULY interesting artists who make it so. The main example here is definitely, again, Vaughn Benjamin. When I write a Midnite review (such as for the last album, "Children of Jah", in stores now), I try to make some allusion to the fact that many reviewers won't cover them to the degree that 'they're' active, despite the fact that Midnite is, easily, one of the biggest names in Reggae music. That's not something that you can say about anyone else - If Sizzla Kalonji does ten albums this year and you write Reggae, you're probably going to cover ten Sizzla albums in 2012. I think part of the reason why that is, is because Benjamin is a bit more arduous to listen to. A notorious mumbler (biggup Bredz) (WHAT!), you have to work hard to hear him and then to place together what he actually means is another story, but as you can tell, it's one I often love to read. Someone else who provides a thoroughly interesting listening experience (although one very different from Benjamin's) is Lutan Fyah. I've FINALLY come to the realization that one of the main reasons why the chanter's music appeals to me so much is that, when at his best or even near it, he provides such a powerful and completely challenging listening journey that he's become both one of my absolute favourite artists and one of the ones who I most look forward to hearing from. 

And you don't know what you have until it's gone. Unlike Benjamin, who takes his listener on a voyage unlike anyone around today (or ever before), what makes Lutan Fyah's 'route' so attractive is just a HEAVY lyrical foundation. As I've certainly said previously, he is one of the most talented wordsmiths that I've EVER heard and when you're fortunate enough to hear him at it, his work is STUNNING! Also, while he may not (he does not) have the melodic command of some of his peers, I think he is underrated on that front. His music is entertaining as well. So, while it doesn't seem like it, it has now been nearly three years since Lutan Fyah delivered a satisfying studio program - 2009's "King's Son". Last year he did the decent 'street album', "A New Day" (which reportedly did quite well), but the REAL piece came back in 2009. So I've been going through a bit of withdrawal which has been magnified due to the fact that the Fyah didn't slow down at all. He's been making big tunes all along. 

The music of Lutan Fyah
Let's hope he continues for at least the next seventeen. In the last review I wrote, we dealt with Ras Attitude who had, rather surprisingly, pushed a new album of his own through a new label from out of California, OneDrop Productions and that album was part of a duo of releases which, essentially serve as a 'HELLO' for the imprint. The other half of the pair is a BRAND NEW LUTAN FYAH ALBUM, "Truly". DAMN! That is a wonderful way to make an entrance and now we can hope that one Leslie Carlton and company stick around to see the two projects to a full fruition (I haven't seen any actual promotion for these just yet, but I would assume (and HOPE so much) that it is forthcoming). A new Lutan Fyah album for me, regardless of who's done it, is a very big deal and I'm very happy that I can now confidently say that Lutan Fyah is 'complete'. He's now at a point in his career where the size of his audience and fan base have finally caught up to his talents. So many times we look at these artists, and correctly so in my opinion, as being underrated and overlooked and under-appreciated. The Fyah, now, is none of those things. He's become one of the most in-demand Roots Reggae artists of the day and I'm damn happy for him after all of this time. And he's also still, seemingly, in his prime and at the height of his musical powers and because of that (and the fact that he is WICKED), we're going to continue to demand and expect that he turn in excellent performances and for an album like "Truly", despite the circumstances surrounding its most unusual and IMMEDIATE publishing I am TRULY anticipating one of his finest sets to date. It helps (or hurts, depending on how your looking at things) that the Fyah has also dropped three undeniably GREAT albums to date in my opinion in "Africa", "Time & Place" and of course "Phantom War", which adds even more petrol to this and any other album he'll bring in the future. I'm someone who will DROP any and everything to run and listen to a new Sizzla Kalonji album, but I have to say that now, Lutan Fyah's music isn't very far behind so hopefully Carlton & OneDrop Productions deliver another winner. Do they? Yeah. It's very, very good. 

You can generally do a good job of dating an album from Lutan Fyah based largely on how it sounds. The closer to current that the music was actually recorded: The more LIVELY version of the Spanish Town chanter you'll encounter. Throughout "Truly", for the most part, we hear a very committed delivery. It may be one of his most intense albums to date and because of that, I would guess that it was recorded in the not too distant past. Regardless of the date of its origins, this big album introduces itself in a mighty way, through its HEAVY and OUTSTANDING title track. Here's a tune which makes its point in a very clever way by saying that no matter where you go and no matter who lets you down, The Most High is the most dependable force in your life. It is SPECTACULAR! 

The Most High really love us all
Wi overcome dem trespass
The Most High really love us all
Remove di shackle when di system coming hard

I and I bear di sacrifice fi real - you no seet
Struggle wid oppression seven days of the week
Di system devise a plan to kill off di meek 
I’m no easy victim in di streets
Selassie is my armour, my sword and my shield 
Di wicked try to keep us down, poverty a dweet
No chain upon my neck, no shackle deh pon my feet
Emmanuel send dem deep

They tried to lead us astray
They want us to crumble and be dem footstool 
I and I will never stumble, King Selassie I rule
Babylon junk and dem a fool
Hypocrite dem want to treat us like some doormat
So wi could be saturated just to show wi seh wi flop
Ride wi back -
Like a mule inna di boiling sun hot
I and I plant di seed and a they reap di crop
Babylon will neva cease to set up roadblock 
But Haile Selassie intervenes of all dat
Rastaman find a way to rehab di harlot and -
Sweet redemption [!] to di flock
Babylon deh bun dung flat!”

Next in, 'Youthman' doesn't miss a beat and may even take things further in some respect. I hesitate to call this one a 'social commentary' (even thought that is exactly what it is) because it's more like a recommendation to the youths of the world to be wary of what and whom they come into contact with on their journeys through life. Certain things with which they come into contact are headed for an imminent destruction. Then Lutan Fyah goes all biblical on the people as he tells the story of 'Doubtful Thomas'. BIG tune! You can probably envision the direction of this song, but I'd tell you that while it does run the expected course, it does so in a very twisting way, so while it maybe, ostensibly, one of the most simple of moments on the whole of "Truly", definitely give it more than a cursory spin. 

The same tune, 'Trouble Inna Yard', which appeared on "Hold the Vibes" by Ras Attitude also appears on "Truly" were it's the first of three combinations on the album. The second of them, 'Dem See Me' features Webbie (someone who, I think, is pretty close to Lutan Fyah) and actually comes through on the same riddim as the strange 'Do Re Mi' on Attitude's album. This tune is well enough but the real treat comes in two tracks on from it as 'Ghetto Sweet' features Lutan Fyah linking with the supremely talented NiyoRah for one MASSIVE point of interest on the album. 

“I know poverty bring no stress
Wi need di hardness of life because we grow blessed
Wi come from di garrison, but wi no worthless 
Wi got no blame for the lifestyle wi live, no regret
 A just so The Most High set it , yuh get it

This unstoppable pair turn in a combination for the ages which makes the case that there're benefits of growing up in not the greatest set of circumstances. 

There is some really strong material throughout "Truly" and I'm now hoping so much that this album really gets a nice opportunity to be turned upon the masses because I think that it may have some real HITS in its body of work. For example? Take a listen to the excellent 'Rasta Is My Purpose'. This song brought out a strange little occurrence on this album - so many of the songs aren't given the obvious title. If you listen to this song, which is an inspiring one, you'll want to call it 'Don't Cry'. 

“Children don’t cry
Live in love and keep that smile
don’t be afraid to speak your mind
We’re living in a testing time
Don’t cry
Wake up and come alive

You may be rushed inna situation 
Love is my only affirmation
Don’t be caught up in illusion -
Even though we were brought up in confusion
Don’t you be a troublemaker or a nuisance
Play ya part, make a firm contribution
Wake up and live
Don’t be running away from yourself
Inna everything be positive
Life worth more than material wealth
Hey, stay calm inna sticky situation
Life got a rules and lotta regulation
Put away your ego, as we all know -
Wi deh yahso fi protect di creation
Many people got secrets, so put away your ignorance
Don’t be guilty, be vigilant
I nah play no hide and seek
I ah tell yuh from a distance”

This happens a few times and may make you think that album is programmed incorrectly, but it all comes through properly and concise with just a bit more thinking. Check the comforting 'Friends' which, while it doesn't require very much in the way of an explanation, is still an excellent track and one which I could well see making a greater impact. And I don't want to breeze over t either (even thought that's basically what I'm doing). Like I said, it's a very big tune! 'Conspiracy' is another winner of a moment from "Truly" and a sizable one. Lutan Fyah goes across the board on social and political issues on this one and places them in one of the most beautiful of shining packages on this track. Also 'Endless World' which is a nice tune but comes with a surefire 'hitch': You're going to have to spin this one quite a few times before you REALLY get to its source. If you go through it a one time and think that it's GREAT, trust me it's even better than  you think it is! And also check the two tunes on the album in tribute to the beautiful Afrikan women of earth, 'Woman U Clean' and 'Hold You Tonight'. By the slimmest of margins I'd say I favour the former, although both are 'truly' excellent songs. Biggup Lutan Fyah, over the years he's deservedly acquired the reputation of being this heavily socially conscious chanter, but he's been careful to do very solid love songs which goes to show that his talents are more vast than was originally thought. 

Now, with all of that being said, for me, not including the opener and 'Ghetto Sweet' (both of which are included in these ranks), the real class of "Truly" is to be found in a quartet of MASSIVE tracks. 'No Long Argument' which registers much later on is absolutely STERLING! You well have to pay attention to the lyrics on (every single song the Fyah has ever done), on this song which zeroes in on several things the artist has a problem with in an extremely scathing manner. There's also the LUSH 'Warning' (with is STUNNING preamble). BOOM!

“People inna danger, living in fear, satisfy dem curiosity
Entertain di stranger, wi no need no animosity
Fyah to di fuel, wi burn babylon authority
Wi living in a world of technological atrocity
These coming days - no man can prevent 
You caan find food without di dollars and cents
You rely upon a system dat don’t make a sense
I give account only for myself 

This is a warning, warning!
Hypocrite neva believe Haile Selassie send a judgment from di east 
Come ya wid a warning, warning!
Let’s trample di beast -
For winds, earth, sky and sea!
I tell yuh dis a warning, warning!
Let’s take it to di street
Wi fight for justice, won’t accept defeat
Let’s take an advice from di meek 
Wi speak di word, whether famine or feast

Hey, don’t live a life to please di devil’s 
Withdraw yourself from babylon unknown perils
Repel satan send him back go dung a hell
Haile Selassie I seat up in di heavens
People walk in di shadows of death without dignity
Dem wanna take di life The Most High give to me
And it’s a joy to show dem love, even though dem think contrary
Tell dem di truth and dem nah hear me” 


And why is that not the best song on this album? Because on two selections here Lutan Fyah absolutely loses his entire fucking mind. The first addresses a topic which has suddenly (and unfortunately) become an issue in Reggae music today (biggup Mr. Black), 'Nah Trim'. There're so many ways to look at and address this topic, but the side that I fall on, thankfully, is the same one that Lutan Fyah does: That there is a certain road that everyone walks in life and when a next person deviates from his own road, if you take that same path, it's nothing for you. If it does anything, it strengthens your commitment to your journey and makes even more special. This beautiful song details that perfectly. And finally is the album's best song in my opinion, the full-on HUMBLING 'Selassie I No Partial'. On this song brilliance meets passion and it does it to the tune of one of the finest musical offerings Lutan Fyah has EVER made to my ears. I'm calling it a commentary of life and one hypnotically powerful piece of music on "Truly". That same song closes the album later as it's afforded a Dubbed out version, which is also very nice. 

Lutan Fyah
Overall, maybe this album is even better than I gave it credit for when I started writing this review. What you have here is Lutan Fyah near his best and while I can't (at least I don't think I can) say that this album rolls in the same circles as "Africa", "Phantom War" or "Time & Place", it's better than anything else I'm thinking of . . . damn, I guess it is. It should go down as his most passionate set to date and "Truly" is LARGE, it's a big piece of an album from an artist in Lutan Fyah who continues to spellbind and produce some of the most gratifying musical experiences to be found in Reggae music today. VERY, VERY strong and not to be missed. 

Rated: 4.80/5
OneDrop Productions
CD + Digital

Review #377


  1. where can we get the digital of this and other albums like ras attitude?

  2. ^itunes and cdbaby