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.

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