Monday, July 16, 2012

'Unexpectations': A review of "Meditation Time" by Anthony Que

The step up. Just recently, specifically in the cases of people such as Ras Attitude, Glen Washington and definitely Mark Wonder, we've been dealing with artists who really seemed primed to do something truly special. In the case of Mark Wonder, he did exactly that with the releasing of his opus, "Working Wonders", via Oneness Records and, generally speaking, these are musicians who either seem to be on such a great and impacting streak in their careers, respectively, that it leads you to think that some significant moment is just on the horizon. Similarly, as we've said, they're also individuals who may just seem to have elevated their quality to the point where, again, such a powerful moment is unavoidable. Magnificently, however, great things don't always send a 'warning shot' in some way when it comes to music and that's even more accurate when it comes to Reggae music - sometimes things and people just don't do what you expect them to. Washington, in a way, is a perfect example of this. Why is he still so damn good? Why hasn't this man become some sad Reggae derelict that you hear from once every other year or so and is, instead, all of these years later, right in the prime of his singing career? It's really shocking, but it's so solid that we now expect, and receive, greatness from him (everyone pick up Glen Washington's new album, "Masterpiece", in stores now). That's one type of a shock and it's an example which is very much still in the process of unfolding. Another type would be from a few years back when both Michael Rose and Junior Reid suddenly re-became hitmakers and did so for quite some time (with the latter arguably still within that set). Similarly, you can also come up with a few different and somewhat unlikely names who have done surprisingly good things at times in their careers. Now, with that being said, I know that I'm generally pretty good at coming up with examples and relatable moments because I feel like it gives you something to equate a situation to and if you didn't know about the example -- you do now -- but this time I'm having a most difficult trying to think of a situation in which an artist who I'd previously known of quite well, but hadn't been impressed by on the highest level . . . Suddenly rolls out with a potential CLASSIC!  

If you're committed to read a review this long, chances are pretty good that the name Anthony Que isn't one which is completely foreign to your eyes and ears. The singer has been around for maybe a decade and a half or so now and has had a very good career. He's had hits of varying sizes throughout the same world which he has also traveled extensively in doing and promoting his music and he's worked alongside some of the biggest names in Reggae music and he's done several albums as well. Que has also, at least in my opinion, kind of existed in his own type of category. He's not the most active of artists, traditionally, so you don't necessarily come across his work 'routinely' at all. Personally, as I said, I don't have a one moment [song] that I look at in 2012 and say THAT was a shining moment. So while, I don't want to short him in any way, he hasn't been one of my favourites throughout the years. 

Sometimes it's a good idea to reassess things like . . . favourites. I was fully under the thought that we very much would hear from Anthony Que in 2012 on an album as I figured (and I still do, actually) that he may be a player in the sudden eruption of releases from the Spanish based ReggaeLand Productions. But before we get to those things (if we do), the Kingston native had a bit of a surprise to play of his own this year as he delivers a SHOCKINGLY strong set in "Meditation Time". This album comes via 149 Records and the Babyclone Band from out of France with whom I am familiar as they've done some very solid riddims over the last couple of years or so. They've also worked with some extremely big names such as Mark Wonder, Earl Sixteen, Ras Mac Bean [BOOM!], even Prince Koloni and a certain piece of royalty who I'll tell you about later. The label/band certainly does make good music and them linking with just about anyone was very likely to bring about stellar results and Anthony Que, to my knowledge, becomes the first artist with whom they've done a full project. Previously, Que has always the top of his work on European labels. Prior to their fall, the singer pushed at least one album for Jet Star Records, as I alluded to, he's also worked extensively (and may still be working) with ReggaeLand from Spain and his last album, "One Day" was also linked with a French outfit in the Dreamah Art Family (incidentally, having gone back to listen to that album for the sake reference in this review, it was quite good). Something else of note that may've shone some type of light of excellence on this project prior to its actuation, besides the fact that Que seems to do some of his best work in Europe and that 149, inherently, makes really good music - Anthony Que is very unique because, as a singer, you come into hearing his music with a few preconceived notions and one of them it TOTALLY incorrect. He is someone who makes MUCH stronger Roots Reggae than he does Lover's Rock. When you look at his background and see that he's a former protégé of the Legendary Coolest Man in The World, Beres Hammond, it would certainly make sense that Que would head in the direction of singing Lover's Rock (as Hammond, himself, has been partially responsible in the births of probably thousands of people, singing his cavity inducingly sweet brand of Reggae), but as you'll hear on STUNNING tunes such as 'Burn Babylon' and others, Anthony Que's own power reveals itself in a different way. So who knew that if you could capture THAT, predominately, on a single album that the results would be as beautiful as "Meditation Time" ultimately is? It wasn't me. Let's examine!

Album Teaser

Generally I'd say that the closest vocal approximation for Anthony Que's delivery would be, unsurprisingly, Beres Hammond, but on this album (and on many of the other tunes that I've heard as of late) that's not the case. His voice is an WEALTHILY textured sound which works perfectly for the music you'll hear here. "Here", of course, is the brand new album young veteran Anthony Que for 149 Records, "Meditation Time" which waste none of its precious time and places the GORGEOUS 'Chosen One' at its head!

“I am from
I am from
I'm from the cradle of civilisation
I was a chosen one
I was a chosen one
I was chosen by the Holy

So Rasta knows -
The good and bad we've got to face
I share my thoughts with you, while we're here in time and space
I hear the voices of angels, filled with divine power and grace

We all belong, to The Creator
In Jah I know, I'm a firm believer
The only thing I seek in this world is knowledge
I say wisdom gives me courage -
To trample the beast with words
All the medicine I need is in the natural herbs" 

The song is the first of several BRIGHT moments on the album which, besides just being really good and considerable music, also really just bring a smile to your voice. Both of those qualities on a single tune are marks of something special (it also sounds a lot like, in my opinion, 'Lion Rule' by Aima Moses). Que then purchases a ticket on board the 'Freedom Train' and offers you one as well (I'm going!). The setup on this song is very SIMPLE - it's leaving behind all of the ills of society and heading to a much better place and, while you may take the TRAIN as a literal symbol, taking it in the figurative sense is just as powerful as you can make the choice not engage in all types of negative behaviour. The vibes here just build and build also to the point where, later in the song, it's a downright dynamic sound and another special piece! And rounding out the opening of "Meditation Time" is a familiar sound in the way of the wicked social commentary, 'Ease Up The Pressure', which you may know from 149's Datta Records from a few years back. Here, things are fairly straight forward, but still top notch on a song which already had a run, but figures to be experience a well deserved reincarnation of sorts. 

When I listened through "Meditation Time" the very first spin, it was like I kept waiting for the album to flop and it never did. At a sturdy fifteen tracks, it kept offering sizable (and better) moments! It is OUTSTANDING! The biggest of them of all is also the one which is guaranteed to be an ostensible attraction, the album's only official combination, 'Hold On', which features Anthony Que alongside the previously alluded to "Royalty", the celestially gifted Queen Omega. I'm the one who goes through albums like these and has critiques such as 'It was good, but I wish that they'd tapped a female guest', I can't do that here, because Que and 149 tap arguably the most talented on the scene today in the single finest Reggae export from out of Trinidad who DOES NOT disappoint. 

"During tribulation, only Jah you depend on
HE's the one to see you through
Along life's journey, it wouldn't be easy, Jah will show you what to do 
Just seek HIM daily from you rise up early
HE's the one who keeps you strong
Just singing praises to the Rock of Ages
The King who sitteth on the throne!
Hold on, no give it up 
Rastafari will full ya cup
Keep on going, don't you stop
Hotta lava, ready fi erupt
Burn out di evil, dem too corrupt
Dem kill di shepherd, mislead di flock
Rasta children got di city lock - 

Anthony Que also more than holds his own on the track which is THE signature of this album to my opinion. You know that the title track will also stand out a great deal and that's not always a good thing, but in the case of 'Meditation Time', there're no worries. This selection comes through over what would probably be my choice as 149's biggest composition to date, the Speaker Riddim, What's most interesting in this case is how the song is written. It's sound is . . . AMAZING, BEAUTIFUL . . . Call it whatever you like, but what Anthony Que does with the wording of the piece is to suggest that meditation and just a general more laid back and careful approach is the source (or a large part of it) to becoming more aware of the world around us and comprehending where we've come from and what it is we must do in our, respective (yours is yours and mine is mine), time on this planet. And there's a pair of tunes which should also gain a great deal of initial interest, just from checking the album's tracklist, 'Ghetto Youth' and 'Come Come'. The former is another extensive social commentary and, really, one of the finer songs on the whole of the album as it stands up for some of the most forgotten members of society. The latter, on the other hand, is THE love song on "Meditation Time" and it's a brilliant one. Sounding like something out of the catalog of Daweh Congo, 'Come Come' is so simple and flare-free, that it goes all away around - it's now both complicated and FLAMING! The thing about these two songs is that they both come with accompanying dubs, 'Ghetto Dub' and 'Dub Coming', which chase the original track. 'Come Come' comes (did you catch that???) to its actual end with a stirring stretch of music largely sans continuous vocals which is one of the best such developments on this album. It is not to be missed as Que adds bits here and there ["like the waves go crashing into the sea"], but you can just enjoy this big riddim.

'Ghetto Youth'

And while you may not be immediately guided in the direction of the remaining song on "Mediation Time", missing out on any of them is just a really bad idea. Check the LUSH 'Survive', which may just have one of the strongest choruses on this album outside of 'Come Come' and the rest of the song, a big inspirational call to action, is just as strong. 'Words of Wisdom'? Yet another big tune.

"I'm walking in the way of the righteous
And alone in the path of justice
Yes I'm walking in the way of the righteous 
And alone in the path of justice

Wisdom dwells together with prudence
I possess wisdom and discretion
Cause I hate all pride and arrogance
Evil behaviour and perverse speech
Al counsel and judgment belong to Jah Jah
So I man will never judge my brother

I have understanding and power given to me by The Holy King Of Kings
HE leadeth me in the path of justice
Oh, I was here from the beginning of time
By eternity, I was so divine
With the words of justice" 

BOOM! This may just be the type of set which is destined to go largely unnoticed, but if it is, that's really too bad, because this is a splendid piece of work. The same could be said for 'Herb of Life' (although I think people will pay attention to this one), the obligatory ganja song on this album and another certified winner. DO NOT OVERLOOK the riddim on the antisocial number 'Shootout' which I'm sure I've heard somewhere before, but I can't quite pinpoint it. New or old, however, sonically this song is completely FAULTLESS and its message, which is couldn't fail if it tried to, really goes so well with nature of it all. Que is well improvisational and 'flexible' on the tune, but you can also feel the urgency in his tone as well. The vocalist goes all Bunny Wailer on the people with 'Roots Man Skanking' as the album winds down. I suppose you could call this one a changeup of sorts because it's a 'dance song' (by definition) but, again, I'm having a hard time finding something wrong here. Lastly, the album runs its course via the drum heavily intoxicating and sterling 'It's Another Day'. This is one of those rousing 'look ahead' type of pieces and I'm not complaining. It is somewhat folksy, but taken in as a complete package, this is . . . Another big tune! 

I do want to say something about the SOUND of this album before we wrap it up. I make points, a lot, about lyrics and rightly so in my opinion, but words without sound is something else. The sonic makeup of ”Meditation Time" is about as appealing and satisfying as you'll find on ANY Roots Reggae album from this well decorated year. It's like they covered every aspect of the music and I don't know who they have in mind (although I'm hoping it's a woman and her name rhymes Dween Shomega), if anyone at all, to deal with these riddims for a future release, but I think it would be really bad if they didn't give them to SOMEONE! BEAUTIFUL! 

Anthony Que
Overall, as for himself, Anthony Que stands as tall as I've ever seen him stationed and probably taller than I would have thought he could prior to getting this album! It is BIG and there's nothing I can point to as a consistent, or even semi-consistent and permeable flaw with "Meditation Time". I will say that I would recommend it slightly more to the crowd that has an ear for the old school. This year we've seen more and more Roots releases which I wouldn't put in that category, they've been largely MODERN sets, but this album clearly is pointed in the direction of an era of the past. But it belongs to us of 2012. I was wrong! I didn't think Anthony Que could do something like this and I look forward immensely to what he does next if it is to sound ANYTHING like what is to be found on this album: Unquestionably one of the best albums of the year! 

Rated: 4.9999999/5
149 Records
CD + Digital

Review #380

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