Thursday, August 30, 2012

Discography: Junior Kelly

Although he isn't likely to be remembered in the same way, Junior Kelly is an artist who very much belongs to the same class, in terms of both class and era, which produced Reggae greats such as Capleton, Sizzla Kalonji and Luciano. His music has reached the furthest corner of the Reggae listening world and has made him one of the more respected acts of his day. He's also someone who has very much paid his proverbial dues. As we examine today, his chosen road, although not always the clearest, has lead to a career which will never be forgotten. And although he is generally hailed as someone who hasn't necessarily gotten a proper amount of respect, I think in the case of Junior Kelly - the respect and the acknowledgement is well on its way. Today we take a look back at the work of one of Reggae's most stalwart and resolute of entities. Discography: Junior Kelly.

{Note: We intentionally did not include "What Will It Take"}

The music of Junior Kelly

"Rise" [JetStar Records - 2000]

Hail the uprising. Looking back, I think Junior Kelly's debut album, "Rise" is an album which has actually aged quite well. In its day it was certainly held as a bit of a disappointment, because of one glaring omission which its label, JetStar, would never actually correct, but it's hard to not be able to appreciate a great deal of the songs which actually did make it here more than a decade on. Besides the rumbling title track, standouts included the likes of 'Purified', the gorgeous 'More A Dat', 'Let It Be Me', 'Let It Grow' and my favourite tune on the album, 'Be Blessed'. 

"Juvenile" [Jetstar Records - 2001]

Remember. The "Juvenile" album is a pretty strange one in retrospect. That definitely isn't in terms of the music here (more on that in just a second), but as far as what has become of it. Out of all the work Kelly would do with JetStar Records (who had actually signed him to a contract) throughout his career this is the single best remembered album of them all. That's made even more curious when you accept the fact that it wasn't exactly packed with songs which would go on to be hits. Of course that isn't to say that it wasn't nearly stellar because it certainly was. The title track headed a group of thirteen which also included winning moments such as 'What Will It Take, which was a hit, 'Poor Cry', 'Ethiopia', 'Whoa Lord' and the MASSIVE 'Living Hell'. 

"Juvenile In Dub" [JetStar Records - 2001]

Companion piece. JetStar wasted absolutely no time in continuing the push of the "Juvenile" album as they would very soon later offer up its dubbed out counterpart, which was, and remains, a fairly unusual play. This album, although less crucial than the original (obviously), "Juvenile In Dub" served up a dub version of ten of the album's thirteen tracks and while this is a set which has, essentially, vanished these days, it's not a bad release. I've never been much of a Dub head, but something about the version of the title track a few other pieces on board this record really works for me.  

"Love So Nice" [VP Records - 2001]


'Love So Nice'

BOOM! There's so much to say about the "Love So Nice" album that I probably (definitely) can't get into even most of it here, but what prevails in the memory of this one is that - it was FANTASTIC! It was a modern classic [#8] in Junior Kelly's debut for anyone besides JetStar. To the surprise of hopefully no one it was VP Records stepping in to capitalize on the huge success of the title track (which would have been a couple of years old or so, already, by this point) and the would surround it in some truly masterful work as well. Songs like 'Clean Heart', 'Boom Draw', 'Hungry Days', 'Juvenile', 'Jah Nuh Dead', 'Standing Firm', 'Jewel of The Nile' and 'Go Down Satan' were ALL of a very select and super high class and really have degenerated in any sense through the years.

"Conscious Voice" [JetStar Records - 2002]

Bless. I may be almost completely alone in my full on LOVE of this album, but to some degree "Conscious Voice" is very much a personal modern classic for me as it contains music which has become very useful over the past decade from its release. The album may just be the most lyrically impressive that you'll find on this list and it's somewhat of a more compacted version of the album we just told you about because it is crawling with genuine BIG tunes throughout. 'What A Worries', 'Push A Fire', 'My Only Joy' alongside Chukki Starr, 'Dem Should A Know', 'Bun Down Rome', 'Jah Live On', 'Come One Day', 'Word Power' and others are HUGE tunes, but even they pale when compared to one of the best songs I've ever heard from anyone which is present on this album - the unending 'God Bless'.  

"Smile" [VP Records - 2003]

Never let them see you frown. The "Smile" album, easily, is one of the finest of Junior Kelly's catalog and it's just as simply one of the best remembered offerings you will find here today. It's even held in a significantly higher esteem than its two follow-ups for VP Records, which is a very good quality (and you could even make the case that, sans title track, it's better remembered than its predecessor as well). Besides its own title song which was GLOWING, 'Just Another Blend', 'African Bound', 'Nah Bow', 'Till The Soil', 'Can't Meditate', 'Trod' and 'Black Am I' highlighted an album which is a champion in this group. 

"Bless" [Penitentiary Records - 2003]

Real??? "Bless" is an album, exactly like the next album on this list that you now wonder about greatly because it arrived right when the entire madness of Penitentiary/Charm/Rude Boy Records would have been starting and its liners, complete with barest of credits (which were actually incorrect in some cases) across one page, definitely hint toward it being a machination of that woeful group of imprints (which I'm still very much convinced was ran by a dolphin). The songs came from pretty much everywhere with many different producers, so I'm inclined to say that this album is well within that makeshift project madness. It wasn't horrible (they usually weren't), but surely the excitement for most of its finest moments has all but vanished today. 

"Creation" [Penitentiary Records - 2004]

And another one. Everything we just said about "Bless", you can quote it, almost verbatim, for the "Creation" album. This album is a bit more solid than that set, but again, you kind of feel a little DIRTY for liking it, as a whole, these days, because it was almost certainly just thrown together for mess-like purposes. Like the last album, it too wasn't devoid of good moments (I'm sorry, but I LOVE 'Burdens Heavy'), but it's now a lost album and . . . It's probably for the best. 

"Tough Life" [VP Records - 2005]

Blaze. Taking out my allegiances to the "Conscious Voice" album (another album which came via a 'Penitentiary Records', but with JetStar legitimately on board), "Tough Life" is the second best album that Junior Kelly has ever done and I don't know that I'd completely shut out an argument for it being better than "Love So Nice" (even though that case would be an incorrect one). This album just exuded CLASS in so many directions and as the direct 'descendent' of the "Smile" album, you'd hope for nothing less and, in its time, it was a well received and appreciated set. That's no great shock - it was excellent. The MASSIVE hit 'Receive' was featured here alongside several standouts included the title track, 'Blaze' which was the title track for Pow Pow's huge riddim of the day, 'Satan Throne', 'Ease My Pain' 'Youths Dem Nah Cool', 'Rasta Should Be Deeper', and a couple of remakes featuring help from the immortal Dennis Brown and JC Lodge

{Note: "Tough Life" & "Smile" featured the same 'Give Thanks' sections from Junior Kelly}

"Live In San Francisco" [2B1 Multimedia - 2007]

& Direct. Just in case you've forgotten at all how useful the people 2B1 Multimedia were in their day, they also got around to doing a project for Junior Kelly before they left the business, which is something that is SO NICE and they deserve a big credit for it. "Junior Kelly Live In San Francisco" wasn't the greatest of their batch (biggup Batch), the crowd response was never great here, but the fact that Junior Kelly has a live album in his vault is just an excellent thing. Dean Fraser, Mikey General and Luciano (who also had one of these) made appearances.

"Red Pond" [VP Records - 2010]

In motion. And lastly (this didn't take long at all to write) - Junior Kelly's most recent album release, "Red Pond" from VP Records in 2010 is one which I don't think has quite gotten to where it's going yet and it may very well be a few more years before it does (but I think that it will ultimately). The album has gone somewhat overlooked, but the more and more you listen to it, it 'unravels’ very much into the type of project which will take awhile. It's kind of interesting now because this is the type of thing I lament over - going on and on about how people neglected in REALLY listening here - but I'm almost sure that someday they will come around to the realisation that "Red Pond" was excellent. Let's just give them a minute.  

So! While some of these (two in particular) are best left as a part of a history which is summarily forgotten, Junior Kelly has had a fine catalog and one which continues to deliver from years back today, into the future. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Coming Soon #54: TIME

"TIME" by Bunny Rugs [Raw Edge Productions/VPAL]

First up this week is a project which we definitely expected to be dealing with last year when bonafide Reggae legend, Bunny Rugs, pushed a solid EP featuring a trio of selections from his forthcoming album. Obviously success from Rugs' 'day job', frontman of the venerable Third World band, who had also released an album in the calendar year, the apparently quite successful "Patriots", had prevented him from making the solo move, but a year and half or so on, "TIME" is nearly upon us. The album comes via Rugs' very own Raw Edge Productions and is distributed through VP Records' distribution arm, VPAL. You should already know what to expect in this case from Rugs and when you learn that he links on this album with a list of downright deafening maestros such as Sly & Robbie, Dean Fraser, Mikey Bennett, Richard Bell and even Dean Pond & Eno Stafford (who lay, WONDERFULLY, the title track from Danny I's "Unchangeable" album for 'Thinking Bout You' as well as producing the album's title track) it should only add to heavy expectations of what should be one of the CLASSIEST sets from 2012. The first single from ”TIME", the very well received and timely 'Land We Love', is currently available on digital single as well so check it out and surely pick up the full album when it reaches. I have a very good feeling about this one. 


Potential Rating: 4.5/5
Releases on September 11
CD + Digital

The Soon Come Riddim [JahLight Records]

Next, we make a quick return back to JahLight Records from out of Trinidad who, following the August release of the debut EP from their artist, King Solomon, returns in the first half of September with their next riddim release, the very interesting (and appropriately titled for this post) Soon Come Riddim. JahLight is very much a label known for pushing modern Roots Reggae music, almost exclusively, through prior releases such as the Passover, Final Chapter, and definitely the Mount Zion I (which was absolutely STUNNING in retrospect) riddims, respectively. But this time they're changing things up a bit. The Soon Come is a composition that is probably equal parts R&B and a neo-Gospel of sorts, with just a taste of Reggae thrown in as well. As it is set, the tunes on the riddim also reflect the nature of the riddim with the vocalists going in the direction of a more inspirational and lover's type of vibes. Which vocalists??? Featured are JahLight staple Roxy Singh alongside Rich Angel, Soul Feat Heart and, to no surprise, the aforementioned King Solomon who gives the Soon Come is crowning moment in the form of the hypnotically uplifting tune, 'Dreaming'. 

Releases on September 10
Digital

The Yard Rock Riddim [Special Delivery]

It's been a minute from last we've heard from the boys and girls at Special Delivery (at least I think it has been) and fortunately they've been at work and in this same post they have two entries. Firstly is the impending Yard Rock Riddim, which I know I've heard somewhere before, but here is the full album. This riddim is an excellent and colourful Dancehall oriented track which serves as a fine backdrop for the likes of Kiprich, Delly Ranx, Teflon, of course Gappy Ranks alongside Winky D and others. When at their best, Special Delivery has very few in the way of peers and it's a joy to see and hear them back at least at some type of consistency this month. 

Potential Rating: 4/5
Releases on August 31
Digital  

The Refresh Riddim [One Wise Records]

I don't think that I've heard of One Wise Records (although they do apparently have some type of working relationship with M9 Entertainment, who we do know from working with Winstrong) and if I haven't they're doing a very nice job of making a first impression on us in the form of their new riddim, the very curious Refresh Riddim. This riddim has so many different things going on in it that I don't know where to begin in describing it, but I'll just say that 'refresh' or . . . Really anything containing the term 'fresh' is a pretty good way of doing that. Providing the vocal ventilation on the riddim is Winstrong, Ishi Dube, Stevie Culture with the title track, Bugle, the inescapable Delly Ranx and others. 

Releases tomorrow
Digital

 Dynasty Records

And finally coming soon this week is a pair of releases from the formidable Dynasty Records who is currently still riding high from the release of the winning "Journey of 1,000 Miles" album from Perfect Giddimani - the Bubbling & Beginning Riddims, respectively. For its part, the former is very . . . bubbly and is basically a groovy Soca set featuring Bobby Hustle, Kranium, Zamunda and - someone called Delly Ranx. The Beginning (as you may gather from its cover) is a bit more electric, in a Pop-ish kind of way. Longtime Dynasty staple Dway pops in here as do Reggae stars Gyptian and Sizzla Kalonji

Both release tomorrow
Digital

In Stores Now
"Kingston Story" (Deluxe Edition) by Vybz Kartel [Mixpak Records]

Last year, the extremely controversial Dancehall DJ, Vybz Kartel (who I believe is nearing an unfortunate anniversary), stood up with an album release by the name of "Kingston Story" which, to give him his credit, was very well received by his huge fan base for the most part. I'm not someone who really stayed around as  a fan of Kartel's following his distinct sound change, so I didn't pay it much attention, but I was, as usual, in the small minority in that instance. A year on the album is re-released by its originators at Mixpak Records in a deluxe version and once again is drawing a substantial amount of attention. And there you have it. 

CD + Digital 

"SWA: The Sleep With Angels Riddim" [21st - Hapilos]

Next is a big time blast from the past as we go back to the late 90's or so and mine a classic in the form of Sleep With Angels, the LEGENDARY from ace DJ Spragga Benz, and bring it screaming into the present, indirectly. The tune, in name only, serves as a base for a GORGEOUS update from Spragga and now a full riddim project courtesy of the ever-present 21st-Hapilos (and it may just be the very first actual production from the digital juggernaut) (it's always a good day when you can casually mix in a word like 'juggernaut'). Joining The Benz (who did produce the original himself) is a damn impressive roster of artists which includes Tarrus Riley, Bugle, I-Octane, Stein and more. Spragga's tune, unsurprisingly, has also been released as a digital single and I'm happy for it - anything to keep up the name of the glorious original sounds like a good idea to me.

Digital

The Longtime Riddim [Special Delivery] 

As I alluded to, Special Delivery does the double this week as, along with the soon to arrive Yard Rock Riddim, they're also turning out the full version of an unforgettable composition which well has my attention. The Longtime Riddim is best known as having played the main supporting role for a tune of the same name which proved to be a sizable hit for UK star, Gappy Ranks and it's also made quite an impact working for the likes of Ziggi Recado and J-Boog, all of whom appear on its finally actualized album project. Also on board are Peetah Morgan, Chukki Starr, the gifted Million Stylez, Thriller U, Fiji and even Bajan Soca head, Rupee. Also present is a remixed version of the title track, featuring Gappy alongside Beenie Man. This riddim is beautiful, like most of Special Delivery's work and they may serve up their single finest riddim album to date in its full blooming. 

Digital

"New Day Dawning" by Pato Banton [Gwarn International] 

Also checking in this week is another 'longtime' veteran of the UK scene, Pato Banton who has a new album for himself, "New Day Dawning". Pato is yet another artist who I think people really underestimate in terms of just how popular he is. He has a very large and faithful audience and this album is going to be a big deal for a lot of people. Personally, while I never have been a significant fan, Pato Banton is the type of artist I always mean to go back and try to listen to, so I may just take a listen to his new album. Beat me to it and pick up "New Day Dawning" right now. 

CD [I THINK] + Digital

'Work' by Uwe Banton & Mikey General [Al.Ta.Fa.An.]

Strong German veteran, Uwe Banton links with the mighty Mikey General for a sublime big new tune courtesy of Al.Ta.Fa.An., 'Work'. This may be an unusual or unpredicted pairing (and it is in the case of the latter), but the two, in their own ways, have always made really upful and inspirational music and, as I'll say every chance I get the opportunity to do so (and sometimes, just completely randomly), Mikey General is really one of my favourite artists today, so the fact that their respective paths cross on such a nice song is really something special. So check it today. 

Digital 

'Touch You' by Da'Ville & Bunji Garlin [Supersonic Sound] 

Another pair of esteemed vocalists, gifted Dancehall vocalist Da'Ville and Soca lyrics champion, Bunji Garlin, unite for a predictably infectious moment for Supersonic Sound from out of Germany, 'Touch You'. The frenetic tune features two artists who have never shied away from stepping a foot in the genre of the other and both are really continuing to do big things as they have both released albums for 2012. Definitely one for the dance floor, so if you feel like moving, don't keep your fucking hands to yourself and check 'Touch You' today. 

Digital


'Listen To Di Styl' featuring Ward 21 by Mighty Ki La [MKL Productions]

And lastly - While we're still waiting for his new album (and may have to wait for the rest of the year) (that's fine) (not really) the oft-agitated, but extremely talented Mighty Ki La from out of Martinique served up a HUGE tune from earlier this year (and maybe even late last year) when he dropped the heavy 'Listen To Di Styl' alongside Ward 21. The tune has just recently reached the digital side as the latest in a steady stream of predominately impressive singles from the DJ (including at least one more featuring this same cover) and it may just be the finest of them all to my opinion. It's time to do an album and with just a few more tunes like this (which he definitely does have) (biggup Regine), it should be a career's best moment from Mighty Ki La. 

Digital

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Discography: Bushman

Next up in our running series of taking looks back at the album discographies of some of the biggest names in Reggae music, we go in the very familiar direction of someone who, although probably hasn’t secured a proper amount of credit for the work he's done in his career, certainly isn't someone, at least these days, who ranks as one of the more underrated singers around. Bushman is extremely respected as being a model of consistency and solidity and while his career, at times, has lacked an element of the spectacular, he has also managed to deliver the proverbial BOOM often enough to keep a bigger attention, simultaneously thrilling more hardcore heads by providing some of the most reliable and strongest Roots Reggae music of his era. Discography: Bushman.  

The Music of Bushman

"Nyah Man Chant" [VP Records - 1997]

Lyrical medicine man. The legendary Steely & Clevie were behind "Nyah Man Chant", the debut album of Bushman (who was previously known as Junior Melody) which would include tunes on which the outstanding singer would originally build his name. Along with the title track, this set also included 'Man A Lion', 'Cannabis', 'Grow Your Natty', 'Black Starliner' and, of course, 'Call The Hearse'. This album has very much gone onto receive a pretty large amount of attention and respect, but it isn't really even nearly as good as some of the material which would follow it (it's either the fifth or sixth best album you'll read about here today). Still, it manages to retain a very nice nostalgic appeal and one which very much continues to keep it alive today.  

"Total Commitment" [Greensleeves - 1999]

No problems. no worries. Imagine a young singer being so fortunate to have the work which would eventually go to light up his first album by Steely & Clevie, then having another excellent stroke of encouragement by having his sophomore set done by King Jammy! That was the set of circumstances for the Bushman as "Total Commitment" was steered by the camp of the legendary King. This album was absolutely fantastic and it still is, thirteen years on from its release and it still features songs which are arguably some of the vocalist's finest as well. 'Worries & Problems', 'Fire Bun A Week Heart' and 'Mr. Gunis' highlight a tracklist which also feature winners such as 'Give Jah The Praise', 'Live Your Life Right', 'Babylon Dead' and the WICKED 'Sen Dem Come' alongside a flaming I Lue.  

"A Better Place" [Artists Only Records - 2000] 

No meditation. I can still, very vividly, recall reading an interview with the Bushman in which he mentioned that his manager at the time, earlier in his career, had gotten for him an opportunity to go to the UK to record with a pretty reputable label (even more so today actually) by the name of Stingray Records. He said that he just wasn't into the situation or the idea of it and it was something that showed in his work. That session, as it turns out (and most unfortunately), would go to produce TWO of his albums (only one of which you'll find here for obvious reasons), "My Meditation" from Jetstar and "A Better Place". When  you know what I know about this one (that the artist himself doesn't like what went into it), it certainly makes it a bit harder to appreciate, but I do have to say that neither of these projects were HORRIBLE. They aren't the worst albums you're going to hear (although 'Back Weh Vampire', may just be the artist's worst song ever) and in 'King Selassie I', 'Fill My Cup' and other songs, they actually had a few memorable moments.

"Live At The Toronto Opera House" [Kings of Kings - 2001]

He burn. Looking back, Bushman's first of two live ventures, the forgotten "Live At The Toronto Opera House", was very, very good. I don't find myself going back to this album more than once or twice a year and I really don't have a large problem with that, but for what it is, like I said, it's a very nice live album and one which would look so nice in the digital medium today. The album included many of Bushman's hits of the time and the crowd reaction was solid throughout - you can't really ask for significantly more than that from a live album and this one delivered in both arenas with room to spare.  

"Higher Ground" [Greensleeves - 2001] 

Highest ground. Once again produced by King Jammy, "Higher Ground" was . . . just something else. I've told you about a very good album previously in "Total Commitment" and there is another one on that level to come next - "Higher Ground" is CONSIDERABLY better than both of them - it's one of the finest albums I've heard altogether in fact (Modern Classic Vol. 5). I don't know that I can point to a single aspect of this one which makes it stand out from even a mighty lot, but somewhere in the midst of songs like 'Yaad Away Home', 'Robbery Aggravation', 'Fire Pon A Deadas', '100 Percent [The Highest]', the divine 'Make A Change' and others is an album which has no peer on this list and very few others.  

"Signs" [VP Records - 2004]


'Lighthouse'

The sanctuary. I remember one of the major (if not THE) selling point of an album which is likely the Bushman's second best offering to date, "Signs", being the fact that it was recorded, entirely, as a live album. Meaning that the vocalist was singing in front of an actual live band playing at the time and not over a riddim track. While that certainly made for a very nice auditory experience (and still does) the prevailing actuality of the album is that it . . . was an amazing album. Some of these songs have probably gone forgotten at this point, but this is an album which hi find so many people (not myself, I know remember it well) not really recalling just how strong it was! When you combine tunes such as 'Sanctuary', 'Creatures of The Night', 'Every Day', 'Light It Up', '77 Times 7', 'Pleasing People' and the BIG hit that was 'Lighthouse' on a single release, you have something very significant and more than eight years later, it has lost a bit of its steam. It never will. A must have.  

"Get It In Your Mind" [Burning Bushes Music - 2008]

My song. By no means was "Get It In Your Mind", which Bushman helmed himself on his own Burning Bushes imprint, a GREAT album. It doesn't register on the same level as three albums on this list and it's not remembered as having done so. HOWEVER, given the timeframe of its arrival, when Bushman had already made such a powerful contribution to the music, I do think that it has gone slightly overlooked in the four and a half years following its arrival. Also, as I've said in the past in regards to several different albums, "Get It In Your Mind" is that type of release that kind of makes you think that you're not really taking it all in and each time I come back here, I do so, at least partially expected to hear something HOW I never have before. These days it's the ever wicked 'Born Fi Di Ting', if ever it's the rest of the album, I don't know that I'd be entirely surprised.  

"Live In Paris" [Ajang Music Productions - 2009]

He burn again. I don't know a great deal of the "Live In Paris" release and surely that has to do something with the fact that it was never actually released on form and was a digital only set, but I can say that, although the Bushman's earlier live set was noticeably stronger, this one clearly wasn't without a power and attraction of its own. This album, while it lacks the fire of "Live At The Toronto Opera House", just seems like a more personal recording and there is some value in that. It is also, of course, more recent, so you see a newer batch of tunes mixed in with some of the earlier classics as well which is always nice. Not a mandatory listen, but a very nice addition to a collection nevertheless.  

"Bushman Sings The Bush Doctor" [VP Records - 2011]

The mirror. Not only had Bushman been a large fan of the legendary Peter Tosh for his life, but in many instances he had been compared to him as well. So much so was Tosh an inspiration that, last year, the Bushman finally put it all together in a much anticipated album release which was picked up by VP Records, "Bushman Sings The Bush Doctor", which featured him covering songs of the immortal Red X, something he had said he was going to be doing for a few years by that point. My problem with this album, which I still hold in a fairly high esteem, is that Bushman just didn't really PUSH it too much. Obviously these are songs which are not only tested by time and history, but they're also very well known and if you listen to Bushman sing - if you REALLY listen to him sing - you know that his vocals are, when at their best, some of the finest this genre has EVER seen and I hoped that he would have used them to PUSH some of the music. Instead, he seemed to approach them in a more of a 'reintroduction' type of manner which, for more hardened Reggae fans, isn't as useful when speaking of undeniably timeless and classic material such as Peter Tosh's catalog. Still, this was a good idea and a very large credit to Bushman that it materialized and has gone on to become, arguably, his most high profile set to date. 

Bushman
So. In there, in my opinion, you have three albums which are GREAT of some sort, including one which is a bonafide classic to my opinion. Bushman has produced much timeless music, many everlasting songs and if you've missed out any of them, definitely pick up something from the singer today. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

"Stand Alone"


"No need friends fi war, yes, I’m on my own" [Biggup Bramma]! Opinions are as varied and are as different as the number of minds in which they exist. Specifically when dealing with something as polarizing as music, opinions, as we see constantly, can be as different as notes in a song. But that’s a good thing! If everyone liked the same type of music, there would probably only be one genre (which would be Soca, of course) and no one wants that (even though Soca is absolutely amazing, eventually you need a break) (I said "YOU" need a break) (not me). Surely you can relate: Sometimes you'll hear something and you'll find it FANTASTIC and then you look around and notice that you're the only person who thinks so highly of that something. That happens extremely often for me, be it an artist or a song or, in this case, a full album. I've been the biggest, and sole, cheerleader for so many different things and it's something which I LOVE. So today, we're going to celebrate a difference of opinion. Here are ten albums which I like a lot more than you do! "Stand Alone".

{Note: Everything goes, but I tried to only select one album per artist . . . So I guess that means that everything really does not go}
{Note 2: Albums appear in no particular order}
{Note 3: Steven biggup yourself}

"Rastafari Teach I Everything" by Sizzla Kalonji [Greensleeves Records - 2001]

Surely it would take another eleven years or so to convince myself of it, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if at some point before I exited the planet that I'm prepared to call "Rastafari Teach I Everything" a 'Modern Classic'. I'm not saying that it IS, but I wouldn't be surprised if I did say that some day. Many found it too varied and too Dancehall (and Hip-Hop in some cases) oriented, given tracks such as 'Yes I Get High', 'Planet Earth', 'It This' and others, but what I heard on this Xterminator helmed release was, at least at times, downright DAZZLING! Obviously the best track was 'Beautiful', but even after all of these years, I'm still unable to find a track which I steadfastly dislike. I once called it the tenth finest album of Sizzla's career and today, for me and maybe only me, it's still that good and maybe even a little stronger. 

"Silver" by Lloyd Brown [Cousins Records - 2007]

You can call up "Against The Grain", you can call up "Deep", you can call whatever you like - to my opinion sweet singing UK veteran crooner, Lloyd Brown, didn't before and hasn't since released a better album than his 'sterling' 2007 set, "Silver". The album was in celebration and tribute to the artist's one quarter-century mark in the music business and he definitely pulled out everything for the occasion that you would hope for such a sizable event. The album came via the once mighty and prominent Cousins Records and, as most of his recent work, was produced via Brown's own Riddimworks Productions imprint and, for me, it's the signature piece of what his label has done also (and they do a whole heap of things or at least they did at one point). Tunes such as 'Charcoal Bridges', 'Show Me That You Love Me', 'Can't Keep A Good Man Down' and others register as near classics for me these days and while I don't grab it us a much as I probably 'should', "Silver" is an album which has actually yet to find its way off of my players from since the very first spin.  

"Mr. Merciless" by Merciless [VP Records - 1995]

BY FAR the biggest and most gruesome piece of nostalgia that you'll find on the active side of my collection is and has been for a year or so now, "Mr. Merciless", the first, and technically only, album of the infamous Merciless (he did have "Len Out Mi Mercy", which was a very similar album to this one, although one of the differences was the WICKED 'Scotland Yard') (so let's say he has an album and a half). This one I can't explain very well! Merciless, though clearly talented, really has never been a consistent favourite of mine, although he has played the role of the 'Dancehall Villain' quite well in his career, but there's so much he has done which does and likely will always distract from the fact that he has skilled and he has skills which don't HAVE to be exhibited only during the presence or potential presence of a clash. Definitely the biggest example of that here was the hit 'God Alone', alongside Little Hero and Action Fire (WHAT!), but the album also carried 'Selassie Live' and the woefully underrated 'When The Almighty Come'. Still the highlights largely included . . . what they normally include from Merciless and nearly two decades later, we're left wondering the fate of the person to whom Merciless lent his mercy (in terms of his career, no one has EVER done him a greater service). 

"Troddin To Zion" by Ikahba [Afrikan Roots Lab - 2004]

Although I have not gotten around to writing it, "Troddin To Zion", the first and only album (I THINK) from Virgin Islands veteran Ikahba Stone, is a modern classic. It is. It's amazing and it's an album which has completely faded away now, nearly nine years following its release. The attraction here, ostensibly, is that the album is produced, entirely, by Midnite and Ikahba gave them something else which would bring up words like 'genius', as if they needed more of that. The thing I always come back to in regards to this album was just how well it displays the artist's versatility. Ikahba can do it all here and through MASSIVE moments such as 'Love Is Jah Jah', 'War Monger', the title track (which features Dezarie) and the single best tune on this album, 'Wha Happen To Dem' he shows that. The album, which was pushed through Afrikan Roots Lab is well befitting the standards set by the lab's usual 'scientists'.  

"Comin' 4 You" by Elephant Man [Greensleeves Records - 2000]

It's been buried under tons and tons and tons of . . . Strangeness, but Elephant Man's debut remains a favourite of mine on many levels. First of all, there were eight-hundred songs on the album which means that, if you like Dancehall (in its natural state in ~1998-2000), you're going to find something on "Comin' 4 You" to like. Also, and again this is a fact which may've been veiled from the miles of other things Ele has busied himself over the years, but he was an EXTREMELY gifted lyricist and while there were gimmicks here and there, this album pushed top notch deejaying from one of the genre's best. Check the hilarious 'Caan Trick Me', 'Replacement Killer', '$1000 Bill', and a few stellar combinations featuring the likes of Mr. Vegas, Delly Ranx, Beenie Man and Ward 21.  

"The Burnin Melody" by Lion D [Bizzarri Records - 2009]

The general thought was that he best Reggae album of 2009 was "Montego Bay" by Queen Ifrica, but fortunately I don't deal with generalities. If I did, it probably wouldn't have allowed me to think out of the proverbial box and in doing so lift up an album from a previous virtually unknown chanter from out of Italy by way of the UK, Lion D, whose debut album, "The Burnin Melody", topped anything from that year to my opinion. Although clearly rough around the edges and lacking in a more polished and refined way, the Lion well made up for all of that with a style which was as naturally pleasing as it was exciting. It just seems like he was meant to do what he did on that album and if he never manages to do it on that level again, he'll still be remembered . . . At least by me. 

"Lady Sweety" by Lady Sweety [Columbia Records - 2007]

It's pretty easy to remember someone that you've been waiting to return for . . . A billion years or so with consistency, but thankfully I remembered the huge impression made on me by someone who, in a completely ridiculous and nonsensical kind of way, remains a favourite of mind -- the divinely talented Gwada Dancehall DJ, Lady Sweety. Her self titled album (which was her second, I believe), placed her on my radars in a heavy way following the success of the single, 'Chewing Gum', and while she hasn't been hurried to follow it up (IN ANY WAY), I'll still be waiting for her - Yes, this album was that good.  

"Matsahyel" by Ras Iba [Outpost Music Workshop - 2010]

Listen to anyone else constantly and you probably would never know that the album even existed. Listen to me and you probably consider it a classic (because it is). "Matsahyel" was an album by Ras Iba, produced by the incomparable Tuff Lion which has just done some SERIOUS things for me. You simply won't find an album which really is more of a satisfying project, as far as really just providing the listener with an all-encompassing musical experience as was done in this case. I still go back to this quite often (and hopefully it can come up as an MC before our next break) and nearly every time I do, I find something else to concentrate on - a  very significant point - which even further grows the reputation of this one for me, regardless if anyone else was paying attention.  

"Stage One" by Sean Paul [VP Records - 2000]

It's become so fashionable and a trend to throw shots at Dancehall poster boy, Sean Paul, in recent years, particularly by the more hardcore heads, that I think, much in the way that Ele's flare has distracted from his, maybe all of the attention that Paul has gotten over the last decade has made people forget just how talented he could be. If you are one of those people definitely pick up his debut and still finest piece of an album, "Stage One". For what it was, the Jeremy Harding steered piece is probably one of the most entertaining Dancehall albums EVER, from anyone. On top of that, between songs such as 'Infiltrate', 'Check It Deeply', 'Haffi Get De Gal Yah' with Mr. Vegas, 'Mek It Go So Den', 'Next Generation', 'Faded', 'No Bligh', 'Strategy' and 'Deport Dem', you just has SO MUCH here worth enjoying on an album that was a CLASSIC.  


"Join Us" by Turbulence [Kingston Songs - 2003]

And finally - I just don't care, I still love this album. "Join Us" was just another album in a stretch of a few, produced by Kemar 'Flava' McGregor, by Turbulence which came up and, on the surface, there wasn't very much to get excited about. Beneath the surface, most would agree that the same sentiment prevailed, but my Mother never named me "Most". I heard something completely different on tunes like the title track, 'Look Wock', 'Give Praises', 'Based On A True Story', 'We Are', 'Universal Struggle' and others which, to me and probably only me (FOREVER) made this a special project and one which STILL manages to hold a special place in my memory.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Discography: Lutan Fyah

Today we take a look at the album history of an artist who has definitely become a favourite of mine throughout the years and someone who I feel may even have a 'next level' waiting for him when history begins to examine his work, the fantastic Lutan Fyah. The Spanish Town chanter has, at least for me, largely made his name based on being a very sizable model of consistency and a SPECTACULAR lyricist (probably the best in Roots Reggae to emerge largely after the turn of the century). When you take that into consideration, while you end up with catalog which may have a few soft-spots, there is ALWAYS something significant to be said and watching him develop his skills over the years has been an absolute joy. But let's take a closer look. Discography: Lutan Fyah.  

The music of Lutan Fyah

"Dem No Know Demself" [Minor 7 Flat 5 - 2004]

Starting line. Minor 7 Flat 5 was an ultra active label based in Spain, if I recall correctly, and while they didn't stick around, they definitely made an impact during their day and had several rather outstanding distinctions. Definitely something of significant note is the fact that it was they who actually released Lutan Fyah's debut album, "Dem No Demself" to the masses, just a month or so ahead of what would turn out to be his more well known second set. I've had such an interesting 'relationship' with this album as I REALLY liked it when I first heard it and later not so much, but again, these days I find it rather nice. Surely that means that it's a few hairs better than average (as far as Lutan Fyah goes) and that's fine for a debut. Still, you have to credit an album like this which not only got things started, but it also gave us two sterling combinations, 'My Reputation' alongside Al Pancho and the unforgettable 'Black King' featuring Jah Mason

"Time & Place" [Lustre Kings Productions - 2005]

Perfect time, perfect place. "Time & Place" wasn't the first album Lutan Fyah did, but it was definitely the first one he did which was undeniably GREAT and one which showed that he was even capable of such a winning moment. This album, for me, remains so wonderful because it's a record which is literally full of GREAT songs. It may not have that kind of seamless appeal that the album I'm going to tell you about next, but song after song was spectacular. 'Don't Waste Your Time' with Yami Bolo, 'No More War', 'Fire In The Barn', 'Speak Softly', the title track, definitely 'Upliftment' with Jahdan Blakkamoore, 'Rise & Shine', 'Ithio First', 'Woman Of Principle' . . . all of those are bonafide CLASSICS in my mind and every other song isn't far either.

"Phantom War" [Greensleeves Records - 2006]

The modern classic. I don't know where I'd rank it, but I think maybe in the range of four or five or so - "Phantom War" is one of the best single best albums I have EVER heard . . . From anyone! It says a lot in how much I loved this album that when we began our "Modern Classic" series, the first edition was for this album. I've even thought about going back and writing a sequel with different trains of thought now for the music on this album which was something more than great and was in the category of being landmark and lifelong favourites. AMAZING! 

"Healthy Lifestyle" [VP Records - 2006]

The aftershock. The "Healthy Lifestyle" album is one which hasn't aged very well in terms of how popular it would ultimately become. Being released in the same calendar year as "Phantom War" surely explains some of that, but 2006 was a very good year of firsts for the Fyah, so where the previous album was the first for him from Greensleeves Records, this was his debut for VP Records (iconcidentally, Jah Mason did the same thing in the same year with "Princess Gone … Saga Bed" and "Wheat & Tears", respectively), so it would figure to have some type of longevity. It wasn't a bad album either. 'Thief In Jah Garden', 'Rough A Yard' and 'Natural Herbs' are probably the most lasting favourites. 

"You Bring Blessings" [Cousins Records - 2007]

Solidly. SOLID is definitely the word which comes to mind when I think back to the "You Bring Blessings". It did have it spectacular moments, but throughout it was just . . . well, solid! The album was one of a handful produced by In The Streetz around the same time and it came via the solid Cousins Records who had a very solid operation going for a few years (before they vanished from the music making business and preceded to vomit up their vault digitally, which I think they still may be doing actually). 'Never Stop Hailing Rastafari', for me, is the signature moment from this album, but it had several more, including the closer, 'After All', alongside Norris Man. These days, I hear a heavy correlation in terms of sound, between this album the "Time & Place" set. Obviously this wasn't as good, but it may have been a lot closer than most gave it for. 

"Live In San Francisco" [2B1 Records - 2008]

How nice. I still find it some kind of remarkable that Lutan Fyah actually has a LIVE album to his credit. Although they're no longer around the EXTREMELY useful 2B1 Records served the role for several artists. "Live In San Francisco" was amongst their very best. The lineup of tunes included big, big moments as well as a bonus track, all of which , retrospectively, served as a bit of a forecast of what was to come from the same label next.

"Africa" [2B1 Records - 2008]

Over us all. I've said SO much about this album and I could continue to do so and be very happy doing it. "Africa" was a compilation - that's it. It was a two disc compilation of some of Lutan Fyah's popular and best work around the time that 2B1 Records pulled together and pushed and seriously changed the status of the artist for a lot of people in putting him on so many different and new listeners' radars. Looking back, it's kind of weird, because really this isn't a 'greatest hits' styled release, it's just a basic time-centered compilation, in the middle of an artist's career. I can't think of something like that, perhaps the closest would be the "Words Of Truth" by Sizzla Kalonji, with the obvious difference being the second disc was a live one (extremely interesting on its own). Obviously there're too many tracks to name, but THIS was the album that carried both 'Mightier Than Them All' and the power surge that was 'Watch Over Me'. 

"African Be Proud" [Rastar Records - 2009]

The changeup. Rastar Records had a plan to change things up and that's exactly what they did with their album from Lutan Fyah, "African Be Proud" and . . . I wasn't ready for it. If I recall correctly, this was an album which was literally YEARS in the making, it was forthcoming for quite some time so the anticipation built and when we finally got it, it showed itself to be a Hip-Hoppified set from someone who doesn't really fit into that style well (and I'm not a fan of Hip-Hop either). My passionate dislike of this album, however, has died a bit, but these days I don't have much of a prevailing feeling for it at all outside of a couple of moments, all of which can be found on the album's first half, unsurprisingly. 

"Justice" [Philadub Records - 2009]

Mighty. I actually haven't gone too far from "Justice" the still very much MASSIVE album from Philadub Records (who needs to do something new these days) back in 2009. It hasn't left my players for more than a month or so in the three years of its existence and I think that, in total, a great case could be made for it being somewhat underrated, but I still have a very healthy appreciation for this album. Although it was recorded years earlier than its release date (thus, you have the version of the artist who wasn't necessarily at his prime in terms of melodic capabilities), this STERLING set features arguably the finest lyrical display of the Fyah's entire catalog, outside of "Phantom War" (of course). Lasting highlights are numerous but are pinnacled by potential classics such as 'Show Some Love', 'Selassie I Within', 'Battlefield' (which has grown on me substantially over the years) and 'Plant the Herbs'. Nearly essential (and by "essential" I mean 5/5). 

"The King's Son" [John John Productions - 2009]

HIM first. Much like the earlier "Healthy Lifestyle" album we dealt with, I think that "The King's Son" is a record which has kind of faded away in many respects, despite the fact that, at least ostensibly, there're so many qualities here which make it a standout. John John produces (thus making it an album also FOR the king's son) with a vault of riddims at his disposal and Lutan Fyah made a powerful usage of several of them here. The prevailing opinion of this album, which could have gone in so many different directions is that this album, while lacking in the EXCEPTIONAL department, is so solid that it eventually pulls itself up into the  top half of albums you'll read about here. And it should also well be said that I've personally identified this one, in the nearly three years of its existence, that "The King's Son" is an album which very much grows on you and I have a greater appreciation of it and for it today than I did in December of 2009. The title track is HUGE, but also check a pair of mighty combinations, 'The Motherland Calling' and 'Hail Him First', which feature Ras Shiloh and Natural Black (who "hail King Selassie I The First"). 'Praise Jah' and 'Jah Works Must Be Done' also light up the album which I probably like more even now than when I started writing this paragraph. 

"Music" [No Doubt Records - 2009]

Digitally speaking. I didn't know whether to include this basically lost album now (literally, it doesn't really exist anymore, though "Choices" is essentially the same album, if you're looking for it) but I ultimately decided to (because Bredz had already included it in the picture) (biggup Bredz). The flatly titled "Music" is a compilation of songs produced by No Doubt Records and although, as you might expect, it isn't the best album he's done, it is still pretty good. Released at virtually the same time as "The King's Son", this piece, which never arrived on CD (neither did the next, very very strange, album I'm going to tell you about) has/had one major selling point to it and that was the fact that it contained 'Gun' a MASSIVE combination featuring Roots princess, Etana.

"Rising Up" [2009/2011]

Real phantom. Where do we begin??? I got this album way back in September of 2009 and it was supposedly being prepped for release and a few pieces from the same label, Kickoff Records, did actually materialize, including a very nice album from Empress Robertha, "Solid Ground" - but "Rising Up" was nowhere to be found (which lead a lot of people to link us to ask where it was from. It did eventually pop up a couple of years later (last year) and did so in a different form and was apparently released by the artist, himself. Also, some of the tunes appear on a next release by the name of "The Best of Lutan Fyah" and ANOTHER release by the name of "Lutan Fyah Meets Prince Jazzbo". Somewhere between all of them, you're likely to find the original version but this album, clearly, is best remembered for its odd arrival and departure rather than its music. It wasn't the best, but there were some pretty big tunes . . . depending on which version you track down. 

"A New Day" [Starplayer Music - 2011]

First real love. It had been a couple of years from last Lutan Fyah delivered an album and definitely anticipation was running high by the time "A New Day" jumped up. Much like the last time such a thing happened, however, just ahead of the "African Be Proud" album, I don't think that people (Me) got what they expected here. Starplayer Music would push a project almost entirely built of love songs. That's a very unique approach and while I'm not thrilled by what was to be found on the album, I'm not going to bash it either, because I think it's a pretty good idea and, by this point, it was fine for someone to try and stretch Lutan Fyah's vibes just a bit. They did hit the mark on a few occasions here, most notably in the album's second half where tunes like 'First Real Love', 'Home', the fiery 'Give It Away' and 'Tangled Up' could be found. 

"Truly" [OneDrop Productions - 2012]

My purpose. And lastly and most recently is an album which hasn't found its way off of players from sense it found its way onto them. Looking at the list now "Truly" is the third finest studio album Lutan Fyah has ever done (which excludes "Africa" obviously). This album which brings back the memories of "Time & Place" and "Phantom War" and it may have a better melodic command than the latter (which also gives one an idea of how POWERFUL that album was because it wasn't high on melody and still absolutely fantastic) - it's a very entertaining Roots Reggae album. 'Selassie I No Partial', 'Nah Trim' and a whole heap of others highlight an album which also included features of VI Reggae stars, NiyoRah and Ras Attitude

So! As I said, there may be one or two less than stellar moments in the lot, but in full, Lutan Fyah has put together a fantastic catalog for himself to date and, simultaneously, he's given the entire genre of Roots Reggae music in the modern era one of the greatest albums that it has ever seen. So definitely fill in the blanks of your collection and enjoy the music of one of the most consistently impressive artists of the day, Lutan Fyah.