Thursday, September 6, 2012

'Waiting & Smiling': A review of "Celebration of Life" by Turbulence

Fun again? When it comes to albums, especially in 2012, I find myself almost constantly adding new projects and new artists to lines of lines of not only things that I'm looking forward to in the short term, but for the future as well. It's gone from the point where my musical world might only reach a pause if someone like Sizzla Kalonji or Capleton decided to release new albums full of good work, to now being a rather healthy group of names joining those two legends (and a couple of others) for my most concentrated eagerness. Maybe I'm getting too damn easy to please in my old age or maybe there's just some really strong music being made at the moment. Now certainly I'd have very little problem in sitting here and bringing up recent examples such as Ras Batch's new album, "Know Thyself", and then I could bring you more allegorical cases - such as the next time Sara Lugo or Gappy Ranks have new work - but what we're going to look at today is the exact opposite of those instances. In the case of the  almost unnecessarily gifted Turbulence we have someone who has pretty much fallen out of that line in recent times for me and I don't know just how many passionate fans he has left (although I'd LOVE to become one again). I'm trying to come up with someone who has taken a similar tumble in terms of my appreciation for them… really ever and I can't. Oddly enough I can think of someone like Norris Man (who is related to Turbulence in some way), of whom I've been an 'off-and-on' fan for a long time now and it's become so familiar that it's not even something bothers me in the slightest bit anymore. I could also maybe say someone like Richie Spice, but in terms of being consistent, I was never as big of a fan of Spice's, however one would have had to been something much greater than deaf to ignore the roll he was once on. No one quite matches Turbulence in my mind, who went from being a potential KING of Roots Reggae music - and has shown himself, admittedly, to be significantly more talented than certain people who I cheer greatly about on these same pages (and will continue to) - but just hasn't shown it with any type of 'stability' in recent years. With someone of his capabilities, being anything besides amongst the very best is underachieving.

"The Journey" [2010]
And he has continued to try. To my knowledge, Turbulence is a year older than I am, which would make him 32-33 now and certainly nowhere near being over the proverbial hill for someone making the style of music he makes. But that's what he's sounded like, despite doing nice tunes here and there and, more importantly, it's been a very long time from the last time that he showed himself to be the young and up and coming sensation, that many (named me) had lodged as being 'the next big thing' in Roots Reggae music (and he was that in many respects, but he just didn't continue to be it). As far as albums, the once ultra-productive Turbulence, pretty much like everyone else, has certainly slowed down. His most recent release, "The Journey", came a couple of years back from Sajay Productions and while it was pretty good, especially when compared to what immediately preceded it, it didn't have the type of longevity as did his truly best. And I do want to reassert that point: It was a decent album and one which I would recommend listening to if you haven't. Still, the search for the Turbulence that we used to hear, earlier in his career, who was sensational continues, as does the hunt for someone who can draw it out of him -- if it still is in there.

Leaf of Life Productions, step forward. Being around as long he has been, Turbulence has spent his career working with just about everyone through the Caribbean as well as Europe and he's released full albums for a very wide variety of imprints as well. His latest stop is with the Kingston based LoL which has featured the chanter on several of its productions across the past couple of years of so. Not too long ago Leaf of Life began to make a noise trumpeting the forthcoming of a full album working with Turbulence and it didn't take much time to appear as Turbulence and LoL now bring forth his most recent studio album, "Celebration of Life". In its time on the scene, the label has made itself known as one specializing in operating in modern Roots Reggae and spiritually uplifting and inspiring music. Along with Turbulence, LoL has also voiced the likes of Lutan Fyah, Perfect, Zamunda, Mikey General and other really talented and respected vocalists who have made their talents well known. Obviously, they've taken a very large interest in Turbulence and it can be to no wonder why. You may have not been paying attention (and I may not have been in some respects either), but Turbulence has already made some pretty strong material for LoL. So if you were to have a preference as to whom his next album 'should' come from, whenever it may come (hypothetically speaking, of course), I think what ended up happening, albeit very quietly, would have been a proper choice. When it comes to Turbulence, although I've very much been unhappy with his output for a long time now (we're really like five or six into it at this point), I'M READY TO BE IMPRESSED! I'm ready to go back to being a great fan and ready to, for the first time, have the opportunity to talk about how great he is and can be on this blog. So even if he gives me a little, I'm going to be happy with it and, as I just said, going by some of the earlier work between artist and label, "Celebration of Life" has a pretty nice vibes going into it, which is excellent. Does it live up to it is the question. While it isn't a 'great' album, nor a vintage level of Turbulence, this 'party' proves to be his liveliest in a few years. 

For the most part, Leaf of Life's style is one which is much more laid back. Although you do hear some deviations sprinkled in throughout the album which is a very nice touch. Turbulence is someone who has shown himself, at his best of course, capable of doing just about anything and the label certainly does afford him the opportunity to put this on display on the new album. Said new album, "Celebration of Life" gets up and going via one of its absolute strongest moments, the lovely 'All My Praises'. This song isn't one which is immediately going to grab you in its favours, nor is it the type of tune, I imagine, which is going to become significantly better with a larger amount of time, but it's a solid and sonically pleasing praising track which well sets the foundation for what is to follow. What is to follow, straight away, is the similar but stronger 'Jah Is Forever'

"Ain't never gonna change my mind
I'm gonna be a Rastaman for the rest of my time
Tell me why you choose to be blind
When Jah can make you see" 

The first of the stanza above is said in such a POWERFULLY casual manner that it really just made me smile a great smile and the balance of the tune doesn't at all detour from that course. This selection is a more involved one which later finds Turbulence going purely biblical with his thoughts in a spoken style. It's also worth mentioning that the tune is almost a minute longer than any other on the record at nearly six minutes long, which definitely shows that someone thought a great deal of it and their ideas weren't unfounded in my opinion. Wrapping up the opening set of the lot is a track which gives us just a bit more of an edge, 'Feeling Good'. Although it is somewhat generic in how it's written (more on that later), I have no real problems with this track and, when it does really hit its stride, although it is full of clichés, it's a pretty exciting tune and one which well draws you in. 

Building on the firm opening of "Celebration of Life", the 'body ' of the album really offers some very nice moments which clearly aren't likely to be featured in any great way, but if you don't focus on them, yourself, you'll also not focus on some of the best material to be found here. I'm directly thinking of a tune such as 'Words of My Mouth'. This piece, much like the opener, is one which just goes to establish Turbulence's commitment to His Imperial Majesty ["and if HIM seh 'jump', mi seh 'how high?'. Babylon you caan punk Rastafari"] and it does so across what is a GLORIOUS riddim from LoL. Also fitting in here is the next tune on the album, the curiously titled 'Starvation'. Typically, at least to my opinion, a song is named after its punchline (which would have made this one called 'Life's Not Over') and that isn't the case here totally as there're several songs which just don't take the most obvious choice in names. This song is really an inspirational piece/social commentary and a damn interesting one which finds Turbulence speaking to and offering hope to an assortment of different types of people struggling in life - which is excellent. There's also the very nice herbalist track, 'Chocolate', which has a vibes to it that very much portend what is to come later on during the album. 'No Heart' is another song which you may not be drawn to early on from the tracklist, but even a cursory listen will show the album's obligatory 'Mama tune' to be amongst its very best. 

"Some bwoy no fi talk -
Cause dem gal ah drive, and dem Mother ah walk
Some bwoy nah no heart
Dem no clean inna Jah sight
Dem no real from start
Some bwoy no fi seh nuttin 
How yu fi beat up yah Mother -
Youth perish the thought 
Some bwoy nah no heart
Hey Natty Paul, nuff a dem no got no heart

Alright then -
You fi hug up and kiss yah Mother
And how dare you fi kick up and fist yah Mother?!
Fi a likkle gold-digger you go diss yah Mother

A couple of pieces here which're likely to grab a great deal of your spins through of "Celebration of Life" also feature my favourite song on the album. The first is, as always, the title track, which is delightful across LoL's Entitlement Riddim. This song has (I THINK) gone on to become the official first single from the album and it's no great mystery why that is or why it was chosen to be the title either. Of course it would have made a better choice and more sense than naming your album 'Baphomet', despite the fact that it's the best song on the whole of the album. This is EXACTLY why I mentioned that Turbulence has had successes doing many different things as the very first definitive changeup during this celebration is its BOOMING moment. This a thunderous Dancehall record and one which I've heard a bit before we got the album, as Turbulence chants down negativity and EVIL in an extremely direct way. Not to be missed. 

"Celebration of Life" begins to wind down in a most unusual and unexpected way. When you arrive at track #9, 'Market Place', you begin head through a channel which I think has somewhat 'shook' Turbulence's career to a degree - the LOVE SONG. He's literally made albums full of these things despite it being clear, at least in my opinion, that they aren't his strongest attribute as an artist. This one isn't bad actually, but I get pretty nervous, really, when I hear him singing like this, at this point. Next is 'Not To Break Your Heart' [aka 'I Promise You a Thousand Times' on top of the Gum Tree Riddim]. I don't like this song at all. The riddim is attractive, but the tune over it is unexceptional and predictable. I cannot say the same, however, about the next effort in, the wholly unpredictable and remarkable (and I don't necessarily mean that in a good way), 'Love With Your Heart' (as opposed to with your foot). I had in my mind a very slow and unevenly boring love song when I saw this title and I was completely OFF! 'Love With Your Heart' is an electric, auto-tuned, Disco-ish tune which is sure to get your head moving, which is its intention, but that's about it. I would have had as much fun with it were it a total riddim track with effects over it undoubtedly. It is, by far, the strangest thing on this album. 'History', featured on Leaf of Life's Evalution Riddim, really falls in line with the others in this area of the album. There's nothing really special on the uptempo piece. There's nothing completely great or awful about it which is, generally, how I feel about Turbulence's love songs (it's when you have YEARS and YEARS of them where the problem comes exists). And finally things take a turn for the (much) better with 'Si Mi and Nuh Si Mi' which closes our celebration. This song is somewhat funny, but it's Turbulence speaking on a pretty serious subject - individuals who you know who you wish you really didn't. 

"Mi gotta couple ting mi buy from wah day 
Mi si some fool ah try from wah day
Di bwoy dem alla spread propaganda and ah lie from wah day
Seh dem waan mi die from wah day
Ah wah do dem?!
Dem fool yah ahgo lose from wah day
Waah draw out mi crew from wah day
Dem mussi waan mi link mi warriah friend dem Salem, Mobay
Cause Rasta nah fear dem no day

Mi owna friend dem ah plan fi mi 
And alla send man fi mi
But dem man weh dem send a mi shotta friend from Maverley 
And when him tell mi, it marvel mi 
He seh di youth weh you help, teach him fi trod
Hice up di banna and bun out di flag
Him same one - waan buss mi throat like hog
Waan put mi inna body bag, toe-tag"

This tune which ends us up is definitely one of the real highlights on this project and, much like in the choice of its name, is a very good idea in its placement on this album. 

Overall, the main prevailing critique I have in regards to "Celebration of Life" (excluding four of its final six songs, of course), as I alluded to a really long time ago (actually it wasn't that long ago, this is the easiest review I've written in awhile), is that it features, even in otherwise good moments and tunes, a bit too many generic and routine moments. That's a critique which is valid, in my opinion, when you're dealing with the supremely talented and that's what Turbulence is and should be. Here, however, also as I alluded to (I'm pretty much a psychic at this point… in regards to myself), I'm willing to overlook those things and because of that, "Celebration of Life" is a pretty good album. If you use the obvious comparison here, which is the "The Journey" album, I'd say it's at least on the same level with that (despite the scores) and that was, at least, slightly better than most things Turbulence had done in leading up to itself. So, while we're still waiting for Turbulence to be great again, and may have to wait into perpetuity, "Celebration of Life" isn't an album which is leaving me with a bad taste really. At its end it is a partial glimpse into one of the most talented artists in Reggae today who we're hoping to REALLY here from again someday. Not bad.

Rated: 3.75/5
Leaf of Life Production
CD [I THINK] + Digital 

Review #384

No comments:

Post a Comment