Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Best Reggae Compilation of 2012: "Jah Golden Throne"

In our final look back at the bests of the wonder that was 2012 (unless I think of something else) (and I might), today we take a look back at the single finest compilation release that I heard in the calendar year, "Jah Golden Throne". The fine Roots Reggae anchored set came via Zion High Productions as a production of the Zion I Kings collective (and you can see their respective logos lined across the back cover of this album, ZHP, I Grade RecordsLustre Kings Productions). Just as was in the case of the artist albums, there were so many fine compilations and riddim albums and projects in 2012, so when we tell you that "Jah Golden Throne" was the best of them all, that's definitely saying something, but as every label in the ZIK has previously shown, it really should come as a surprise to no one. Today we take a look and listen back to "Jah Golden Throne" from Zion High Productions - The Best Reggae Compilation of 2012.

#1. 'Empress Omega' by Chet Samuel

Though I know he's remained active as a performer and I may be wrong (again), but I think that, looking back, 'Empress Omega' may've been the only new tune I heard from Chet Samuel in the last year. That's really very bad because, as you can tell if you've heard this song and/or any of a great deal of his previous work, he's excellent. Hopefully someone was really paying attention and Samuel gets busy in the studio in 2013. As for the opener for "Jah Golden Throne", it didn't seem to get quite the response as a few of the songs on the record, but to my opinion it was at least as strong as most of them, as Samuel gave well due credit and love to the wonderful Women of the world. 

"Empress Omega -
Beauty and generosity she have ain't got no equal
Ain't got no sequel"

#2. 'Fall On Me' by Glen Washington

The reigning world's coolest man, Glen Washington wasn't at all hard to find in 2012. Besides appearing on "JGT", the venerable vocalist would also make an album on Zion High Productions, one of the finest anyone did in 2012, "Masterpiece". My single favourite tune from that album and one of my two favourites (but the first), was definitely this GEM of a song, 'Fall On Me'. I still feel all kinds of joy in listening to this song and it hasn't lost a bit of steam in my mind. It is a praising tune at its core, but it's sung like a love song and, I suppose, that was the point. 'Fall On Me' basically is a love song - it's celebrating the love of the blessings of His Majesty. The sound is… divine or something like that and, despite its softness, is as powerful and resolute as anything I hear on the album. 

#3. 'Make It Work' by Tippa IrieLloyd Brown

"Well everyday wi get up, wi ah try
Cause everyone outta road ah look a bligh
Mi si it clear, through mi eye 
Well tribulation no stop multiply
Well the economy is on the decline
And it's just a sign of the time
But with our hearts and our mind combine -
Wi just might si the sunshine
Because it really kinda hard out deh
You know
Tings ah run slow out deh
You know
Wid famine and drought out deh
You know
Well every artist ah fight fi stage show 
Cause a free download out deh
You know
No artist nah mek no doe
You know
It really kinda tough down yah
You know
Fi all di people dem in di ghetto

How we gonna make it work
If we don't try
To show some love and overstanding?
Yes we gotta make it work
Shoulder to the wheel
I know that my request is not demanding

Well The Father HIM bless mi wid a gift
That's why I write lyrics like this
And it's not just for my benefit
It's for all the people dem inna di district
Where I come from, I've gotta promote
I love my people dem without a doubt
Because we striving for the same goal
But wi not gonna sell our souls"

Longtime UK Reggae pillars Tippa Irie and Lloyd Brown link-up = big results. Not the first time. It wasn't be the final. Always excellent. 

#4. 'Race Of Life' by Lutan Fyah

There're maybe two or three that I've heard in the entirety of his giant catalog, but I think that 'Race Of Life' is a tune from Lutan Fyah that I have personally underrated to a degree and I really do like it already and have from the first spin. HOWEVER, every time I listen to this song, I get just a kind of a 'surface' feeling that I'm listening to something really special. Picking this album up and going through it again for the sake of this post has brought it back for me and I'm still working on it and you can be sure that I'll get it, whatever "it" is, someday (and probably soon, because I've been listening to this one more than almost any other tune on this album lately. 

#5. 'Babylon Yuh Wrong' by Cornel CampbellU-Roy

If I recall correctly, the cavity-causing 'Babylon Yuh Wrong' which featured the legendary U-Roy alongside the equally mighty Cornel Campbell, was the very first tune I would have heard from "Jah Golden Throne". The tune was released back in 2010 as a single, which Zion High was obviously very proud of (and they had very good reason to be). The link here, alone, should be enough to suggest what type of quality you're dealing with, but really if you haven't heard this tune by now then you are just a really, really awful person. 

#6. 'Set A Way' by General JAH Mikey

'Set A Way' is a tune which I now regard as fully SPECTACULAR. It's an amazing song and easily registers as one of the finest moments on an album full of absolutely nothing but 'fine moments'. Its star, General Jah Mikey, was another person who we didn't hear from nearly enough in 2012 (but he's never been the most active of artists, unfortunately), but what he did bring, highlighted by this sublime tune, was hard to forget by year's end and it continues to get better and better. 

#7. 'World Needs Love' by Jahdan Blakkamoore

Light it up. The big, big 'World Needs Love' by ZIK veteran Jahdan Blakkamoore (who should really think about giving us a new Reggae album in 2013) definitely brings a different tone to the album - a bright one. This infectious tune also carries a very poignant message which is, perhaps, lost because of the 'glow' of the tune, but it's really a piece appreciable on a wide variety of levels: It sounds superb and it makes high level common-sense. Not to be missed. 

#8. 'Y Should Yee' by Arkaingelle

'Y Should Yee' by the Arkaingelle is yet another tune on "JGT" of which I've well grown to have a greater appreciation for these days and, in this case, I think that has a great deal to do with the fact that I've REALLY gotten into the lyrics of the tune. It's a song written with a grand biblical inspiration and one which Arkaingelle carries with such a fine amount of detail and 'high perspective' (which is a really nice way of saying "pride") that it is incredibly difficult to ignore and one of the SMARTEST songs on the album to my opinion.  
#9. 'Just So That You Know' by Lloyd Brown

"Jah neva want I to fail
In my devotion to HIM yeah
From you got love inside
I'm on your side
Just so that you know"

The beaming 'Just So That You Know' from a returning Lloyd Brown, like Glen Washington's 'Fall On Me' before it, is a song which very much walked in two different circles. This time around, this tune was also THE prevailing highlight from Brown's most recent album, the phantom-like "30" (best album cover of 2012) (biggup Bredz), and also like Washington's effort, it has only grown in stature from after appearing on both projects. This song was one with a fine message wrapped up in this SWEET package and, in typical classy Mr. Lloyd Brown fashion, really made itself standout on the compilation and probably for no other substantial reason than what Brown normally brings to a tune. 

#10. 'Culture Inna Yuh Face' by Pressure

Speaking of standing out, Pressure Busspipe (who I think is about to have a MASSIVE 2013), also made his presence known on "Jah Golden Throne" with one of its biggest moments, 'Culture Inna Yuh Face'. Today I'm under the line of thinking that this tune may just be one of Pressure's biggest tunes over the past two or three years (and if you've followed his career to any length, you know that's saying quite a bit in his case. The lyrics here were supreme, but when you combined them with this gorgeous kind of 'stepping' riddim, what you ultimately had here was a just as ruling tune altogether.

#11. 'Towerful' by Prezident Brown

Reggae/Dancehall veteran, Prezident Brown, had a strong year in 2012 with the releasing of some really nice tunes as well as a new EP and album. In there somewhere was this very clever  tune, 'Towerful' which I think went somewhat overlooked as far as being on this album, but it was no less mighty because of it. I hadn't heard it in a minute or two before diving back into it for this post and, maybe because of that or maybe because it's excellent (and it is), I found a new level of affection for the HEAVY track. Join me! Have a listen back. 

#12. 'Nowhere To Run' by Marcia Ball

This is well the type of an album which would get a critique out of me if there hadn't been anyone representing with a tune for females, but that's taken care of by underrated veteran Marcia Ball. She not only shows up for the festivities, she also manages to impress (and she always does when I'm listening) with her offering, the cool social commentary, 'Nowhere To Run', which deals unfalteringly with those who don't have their priorities in a proper order.

"There's no hiding place from Jah
HE will find you no matter where you are
So find yourself

#13. 'Life To Live' by Messenjah Selah

Still breaking the curse, Messenjah Selah (any day now Selah) infuses a bit more energy into things with the inspirational set, 'Life To Live'. This song may just be one of the better Selah has done from the release of his last album (also check the wicked 'Be My Messenjah') as he tells all to make the most of life, IN THE MOMENT, and stop fearing certain things which're beyond your control. I really like the direction of this tune and not because it is so rare or unique, but I just so much love when the MOOD of a song matches the lyrics. When you sing certain things with urgency, the same way you would say them when speaking, that really adds a new dimension to a tune and adds to its overall PRESENTATION and, at least in that aspect, not too many people on this album, if anyone, gets it better than Messenjah Selah. 

"Life is to life
Don't be afraid to die
Don't be afraid to live" 
#14. 'Showers Of Blessings' by Mr. Mention

BOOM! Mr. Mention seems to build directly on the same notion previously explored on Glen Washington's 'Fall On Me', when he goes on to speak of the 'Showers Of Blessings'. I don't think that anyone will ever confuse Mr. Mention's music with more seemingly finely tuned vocalists such as Washington or Beres Hammond, but for what he does --this really rough and kind of wonderfully unrefined and inherently coarse style-- it can be as IMMACULATE as anything any of his peers is capable of, when at his best. For example??? Check out what has become my most favourite tune from Mention ever, OF ALL TIME, 'Showers Of Blessings'.

#15. 'Crown I Got' by Toussaint

TEARS! Unsurprisingly Toussaint's MAMMOTH 'Crown I Got' has been amongst the most popular selections coming from "Jah Golden Throne". The song, which is, basically, a title track of sorts for the album, represents one of the very few times that I can say that I have actually been overwhelmed by a song. And I've probably heard millions of songs in my life at this point and maybe 10-15 of them have really just overpowered my senses. This was one of them. Of course Toussaint has been no stranger to ZIK, as his wonderful solo debut album, "Black Gold" arrived in 2010 under the same set of maestros (and hopefully they do that again someday), so the 'blueprint' of musical chemistry had long been laid, but I didn't think they'd do something like this which is only separated from being a 'classic' by time at this point. Unforgettable.

#16. 'Highway To Zion' by JAH Bless

Lastly and fittingly, "Jah Golden Throne" would come to its conclusion in the more than capable hands of saxophone player, Jah Bless with 'Highway To Zion'. I was thinking, from since hearing this tune, how fantastic it would be if the ZIK would do some sort of instrumental/Dub release someday (preferably with a great deal of Tuff Lion music on it) and this tune, as it is here, would be a great addition to such a project if it should happen. 

To my knowledge, "Jah Golden Throne" was only the second compilation worked on by the Zion I Kings. It followed a release from 2009 which was… probably the greatest release of its kind in the entire modern era, "Joyful Noise" and it, too was excellent. The real lasting attraction here, besides being sixteen song which were, at least, exceptional, is just how well done it was carried out. With these two sets and albums from the aforementioned Glen Washington and Toussaint as well as others from Ras Batch, the Nazarenes and probably someone else who I'm forgetting now, I think that's become a significant statement of the Zion I Kings. Yes, they make incredible music, but they also find a way to present it to the listener which, generally for more seasoned fans, is hard to not pay attention to. If you were looking in 2012 you got something really special from Zion High Productions and the Zion I Kings in "Jah Golden Throne"

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