Even if he decided to hang up his microphone, pen and paper today, one could rather easily make the case that current Reggae superstar, Tarrus Riley, has already had one of the most decorated and distinguished careers in the whole of Roots Reggae history. His impact has been so great that not only has his become the face of a rising (and now risen) group of artists representing yet another mighty 'Roots renaissance' over the past few years, which has also included the likes of Etana, Queen Ifrica and others, but the son of veteran Reggae vocalist, Jimmy Riley, also exists as one of the single most recognizable Roots Reggae lights today, altogether. This has been due, in large portion in my opinion, to a beautiful and wonderfully accessible style which may one day see Riley and some of his peers cross a seemingly long established (but quickly eroding) border of CONSISTENTLY presenting authentic Roots Reggae music to a full on adoring mainstream audience. Today we take a look back at how he arrived at that point and to the point of being one of the genre's most SPECTACULAR practitioners. Discography: Tarrus Riley
|The music of Tarrus Riley|
"Challenges" [Ya Man Music/VP Records - 2004/2008]
Can stand. Before Tarrus Riley began… taking over the entire world, and was still largely known as being the son of Jimmy Riley, he would jump up with his debut set, "Challenges", for Ya Man Music. The album was produced by the musical genius, Dean Fraser (who produced every entrant on this post) and would mark the beginnings of what has proven to be one of the most productive artist/producer links in recent Reggae music. While not at all his best work, the 2004 release wasn't wholly without its good points. The two opening selections, 'Larger Than Life' and 'Jah Will' have become quite popular as has 'Who Can Stand It' [aka 'Devil's Appetite']. "Challenges", originally, also bore two of my own personal favourites, the SWEET 'Take Me Higher’ ["lift me up, lift me up, lift me up!"] ["up, up!"] and 'Barber Chair'. Unsurprisingly, a few years later when the rest of the world caught on that there was potentially something special here, VP Records came (as they had years earlier in the case of Richie Spice's "Spice In Your Life" album) and re-released "Challenges". In its new form, the album would feature a pair of bonus tracks, 'Save The Children' and the MASSIVE 'Love Created I'. The former was very strong and the latter has gone on to become the most popular song ever associated with the "Challenges" album.
"Parables" [VP Records - 2006]
So royal. I think that it is safe to say that a great deal of Riley's fan initially took the greatest of interests when his wildly popular sophomore set, "Parables", reached back in 2006. The album would become one of the year's most popular Reggae albums and, from then, hasn't dipped at all in terms of its popularity and, arguably, has become even more so. The "Parables" album is also one of the most RESPECTED albums of its time (and I don't know that I've ever said that about an album before), as fans and critics alike treat with such a powerful level of reverence, that it is quite difficult to think of a comparable point to anyone else without bringing in the names of unquestioned classics. All of that came with good reason also, "Parables" was stuffed with big tunes. 'System Set', 'Beware', 'Microchip', 'Lion Paw' [TEARS!]. 'Africa Awaits' [TEARS!], the remake of the SWEET 'Stay With You', originally by R&;B star, John Legend, and, of course, the album's most popular moment, 'She's Royal', all appeared on "Parables" and that wasn't all either. Although not the best album of this post (that comes next), "Parables" was a landmark release in announcing the presence of an absolute genius in Reggae music who had, obviously, just reached the highest level of the music.
"Contagious" [VP Records - 2009]
Never before. Tarrus Riley's third album, "Contagious", was his absolute finest in my opinion and is a 'Modern Classic' just waiting to be written. Where its sublime predecessor was kind of dark at points (and I mean that in a good way, obviously), the "Contagious" album was vivid at times. The aforementioned Etana, Konshens, Duane Stephenson and others would make appearances on a set which would include certified big moments such as 'Good Girl Gone Bad', 'Living The Life of A Gun ', 'I Sight', 'Superman', 'Start A New' and others. "Contagious", personally for me, also stands out so far in my memory because it just happened to carry my own favourite Tarrus Riley tune ever, the MAMMOTH [!] [BOOM!] [TEARS!] 'King Selassie H.I.M.' ["never before has the world seen a King like HIM!"]. The set would come at a time when Riley's popularity was at an incredible height and while it may not have been as well known as "Parables", it made a very large impact which still resonates to this day for its brilliance.
"Mecoustic" [Soulbeats Records - 2012]
Larger. When 2012 began it seemed to be much of a forgone conclusion that Riley would deliver an album in the year, having been three from his previous studio project and he did make that delivery, but in a most unusual and unique way. Billed as his most personal release to date, "Mecoustic" was an album which largely featured the artist going through his shining catalog and picking some of his own favourites to do in an acoustically BEAUTIFUL and streamlined style. The results were, nearly without exception, outstanding and it made a way for someone who now almost seems UNABLE to NOT impress - even if he tried really, really hard. It also gave an unneeded new life to some of these songs whose original versions were still experiencing a surplus of lustre. Songs such as 'She's Royal', 'I Sight', 'One Two Order', 'Love Created I', 'System Set' and others (some with different titles than their earlier versions) all got a royally acoustic treatment on "Mecoustic" which has now even further set the course for what is sure to be yet another amazing year in 2013 from one of the greatest Reggae artists on the planet, the brilliant Tarrus Riley.