Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Vault Reviews: "Bless Go Roun" by Midnite

In some aspects, I definitely think that things would be so nice if we had more connections such as the magic that is performed between superstar, Tarrus Riley and musical genius, Dean Fraser. To have a link like that, which prevails from an artist's earliest of years and leads him directly into superstardom and beyond, is amazing and something increasingly rare in Reggae and probably most other genres as well. With that being said, however, taking a route which is directly opposite of that situation is also, arguably, just as remarkable. Take an artist who can musically pour themselves into a variety of different maestros on a large scale (speaking of albums, of course, as Riley also will voice tunes for a wide array of producers), and definitely just as many different styles and opinions, and still have them excel and thrive is a wholly interesting occurrence as well. Call that yet another fascinating aspect of one of the most fascinating careers throughout the history of Reggae music, Vaughn Benjamin & Midnite. If you look at their catalog (and we did, "Discography: Midnite"), what you see is not only such a diverse group of different names and labels involved in production, which is a testament, first and foremost, to 'their’ activity as we've said in the past, but also their popularity and talent. Who doesn't want to do a Midnite album? Apparently that list is quite short because as every few months what you see is either a new label doing a new Midnite album or a familiar imprint becoming an even more reliable stop along the most impressive of musical journeys. More interesting still, in many cases, is when you look at the work of some of those 'stops' further. I Grade Records (more on them in a second) and Lustre Kings Productions have different identities. They've done a ton of work with many people and you'd never get to the point where you singularly identify their music with a single person or group. Almost everyone else, however, who has ever done a Midnite album either has not done very much else or, even if they have, they're almost completely associated with their work with Benjamin and co. We've dealt quite a bit with Rastar Records lately and despite voicing bonafide superstars of the genre, and doing full albums for the likes of Jah Mason and Lutan Fyah, I don't think they'll ever not be known, mostly, for their stream of Midnite albums (and, clearly, they enjoy it that way. The same could be said for less active stations such as Natural Vibes, Full Grown Records, Fifth Son Records ["I hold His Majesty in awe"] ["in awe"] ["in awe"] and, of course, Afrikan Roots Lab (new album, "Lion Out Of Zion", coming soon) and Rastafaria. All of them, no matter what they do, are unlikely to ever be most known for doing anything other than Midnite albums, regardless of how many they've done, and I think all of them love that fact.  
Having done, now, three albums in about five and a half years' time, definitely one of the more dependable of these labels is Higher Bound Productions. As we sit now, in the early stages of 2013, the label is still well within the minds of Midnite fans, being less than a couple of months from the early January delivery of the increasingly WICKED "Free Indeed" album, which was probably their most high profile set to date, from anyone. Prior to that, HBP would deliver a pair of albums which, although they weren't the most well regarded of Midnite albums, definitely showed that there was a building rapport and chemistry between artist and label and that something of the quality of "Free Indeed" was on its way. In 2010, in conjunction with Lion I Music, they would do the "Ark A Law" album and three years prior, HBP would make its Midnite debut with "Bless Go Roun"

By comparison, the "Ark A Law" album (which I cannot wait to review, because I didn't like that album and I'm wondering, greatly, if I review it, will it open up more to me now) has faded considerably. It wasn't the most popular album even in its day, and as far as recent albums go, that album, in particular, is definitely one of the least popular they've done. As for its predecessor, "Bless Go Roun", on the other hand, has enjoyed a relatively decent 'lifespan'. It is arguably as popular and well regarded as most of the albums from Rastar Records and probably ranks, very solidly, in the lower top half of well known Midnite albums. Personally, "Bless Go Roun" has been an album for me which has, as its title suggests, gone through my tastes and opinions several time. When I very first heard it, if I recall correctly, I actually enjoyed it, but soon thereafter it had faded, only to come back, then go away then come back again and, before I decided to dig into it for the sake of this review, I had a generally nice opinion of the album. As was the case during our last look back at the work of Midnite, "Better World Rasta", "Bless Go Roun" was afforded a pretty nice set of circumstances in which to succeed. Once again, the album was primarily recorded at the studios of the aforementioned I Grade Records and Laurent 'Tippy' Alfred also did some production and a great deal of musician work for the project as well. Most of the work on the album was done by Ishence, an accomplished artist himself, who also did his own album for Higher Bound Productions in the same year. Also, and this has absolutely nothing to do with the music to be heard on "Bless Go Roun", but I may be of the opinion that it has the single finest cover of any Midnite album to date, it is really something special. How about the music behind it? Do I still enjoy it and how much? Let's talk about that.  
"Ark A Law" [2010] & "Free Indeed" [2013]
"Bless Go Roun" was very much an album defined, musically, by its versatility in sound. That doesn't tend to be a running trait of many Midnite albums (although the more I do go though, I see that it isn't a concept which is completely rare), so when it is actually worth remarking on, you know that the sound has to be quite varied. And I do not necessarily mean that in terms of leaping outside of a genre (or two), but it's just a very interesting and colourful sound throughout. For a vivid example of this, check the album's opener and likely signature (signature, not best) tune, 'Ye Lands'. This tune is as about as COMPREHENSIVE of a piece as I've ever heard and Benjamin hits new heights of delivery, even for himself. 

"Israel know The Lion pon di flag
Yes, this is the true Judah
Judge and judiciary, jurisprudence and jury 
All thee are simultaneously claiming Ithiopian legacy
These are not aspirers
These are not converts in Ithiopia
These are the ancient bloodliners -
Kinsman, blood relatives of the biblical entire
Selassie I, I night all the law, who nah hear
Oh hey you inna Aksum and dem in Geneva -
All are still being punished, from dem no listen to dem Dada, yeah
Geneva Convention, still refer to inna mass media
Just to remind dem of dem treachery, inna di same Geneva said
After dem sit down and smile up and speeches and toast to The Most High
The governing body deserted the lord of house only to be forced to come forward to be helped meet upon Selassie I course
When they hear, when they look, they see relevant dynastic ability information for them to ignore
To dem own decimation come 360 make reason come stand" 

Benjamin, as focused as you're ever going to hear him (which is saying something), does what he tends to do and ignores the track (which is quite nice) behind him at all times during the tune outside of the chorus, but in doing so, he delivers a scalding lyrical performance and one for the ages. Next we have a tune in 'Nomo', which I've never been a large fan of, but is a pretty nice song. Coming from what precedes it, it's a definite change in emotion and focus (to a degree), but is clearly a better song than I used to give it credit for being. Things pick back up, significantly, on the next tune as the fire returns for 'Starting From', which is backed by a downright majestic track I know I know from somewhere. The delivery and scheme of this song is all kinds of impressive. You listen to the first line and know that every line following it, in pattern and in cadence, is written the exact same way. The results make for one of the most pleasing and full-on DAZZLING tunes on the whole of "Bless Go Roun"

Although 'Ye Lands' has probably overtaken one of them, historically (all six years of it) (that's a lot of history Achis) two songs on this album have really stood out for me. The first ("probably overtaken") is the album's sterling title song. This selection is just a pure knowledge piece and when you compare it to a few other songs here (including the opener), it stands in a favourable light in my opinion, even now. 

"Rastafari ah seh bless go round
Yeah, bless go round
Rastafari ah seh bless go round
Yeah, bless go round

As if it hasn't been enough
Look, ya soul combat inna di clutch 
And dem, dun know how things dun rough 
Hey, it could be anything, I suppose, but it usually impulse
Upon di principals of heaven and earth circuits and run gone make it up
Gone make it up
Enough is enough
Enough of the pointing of finger which make all of the times stay hard
Stand up
As emotion stuck, yeah
Inna di age of chaotic dispersion
All kinds of relish war stories of when neighbouring clan clash up and who did get mash up
And when di chips are down Selassie I, Jah come rinse with equated residue inna earth -
Rinse out the dirty cup, yeah hey
But suppose you assuming wrong -
When it's just to receive the fullness and re-store the cup
He who sitteth with equity in judgment, come forward
Selassie I come forward
Stand up yah, open up
HIM who open and ah relay the thunder and upon the lightening, come forward
Selassie I come open up
As never before an Ethiopian Emperor make all the eyes of the world, and all their hearts swell up
Make even the faith of all come stand up" 

Still, my single favourite tune on "Bless Go Roun" is and has always been the MASSIVE 'Giddeon'. That song has quite a bit of BITE to it and really hit's a point, with a riddim behind which is almost painfully captivating and KNOCKING and it also brings a well crucial message ["Each one haffi mek all dem owna decision. What is fi left out dem life conversation. Inna di gideon, it's sufferation, Greedy multiple choice haffi blow up dem vision. Inna di gideon is naked and degradation"]. I'll also add to this lot a longstanding favourite of mine from the album which is still quite nice in 2013, 'All Out', a very nice song. 

Again, when I beat down an album for the sake of a review, I really just start to over-listen to it which, as we've seen, really makes it more pleasant (at least so far) to an over-thinker like myself. Because of that, I now find JOY in songs which I'd previously left as mediocre. Along with the aforementioned 'Nomo' (although to a lesser degree in that case) I'm really now taken in a very varied pair of tunes in succession on the album, 'Exodus' and 'Mawai'. The former, basically, is a Hip-Hop song and while typically I don't enjoy that type of tune (which makes it an obvious one to have gone around my tastes), I do like the delivery here and even the riddim. As for 'Mawai' - you can call it a spoken word piece (biggup Etana). Now! That's interesting because you can call almost everything Benjamin does 'spoken word' and while it does have a melody (and may be one of the more melodic efforts on the entire record), to me it stands best as a kind of a presentation of lyrics (brilliant lyrics) with words behind it. The very curious 'Homing Zone' is another which has grown on me a great deal in listening to it for the sake of a review. In this case, however, I'm now wondering what I was thinking for the past few years. This is a special song and one right on the kind of style of Midnite song I typically enjoy. "Bless Go Roun" comes to its end with two more songs which have done a bit of 'traveling' for me throughout the years 'Here On' and 'Raining King'. The latter (and simpler, by farrrrrrrrr), is a very clever and straight forward and acoustic piece about the 'rain' [reign] of His Majesty and how far it stretches. The listening experience here, even as far as acoustic songs go, isn't the greatest, but I do now hear things from this song that I didn't before as a result of tuning directly into what Vaughn Benjamin is saying here. It's beautiful. 'Here On' will almost certainly never be a favourite of mine, but that doesn't make a bad song. It is not. With a computer-ish riddim which does not alter itself or change very much throughout the tune, but again, its saving factor is how the song is written. The delivery isn’t the greatest (he even appears to stutter once or twice), but you cannot go around what is being said here when the tune reaches its pinnacling moments. 

Finally is another pair of songs which I also have liked for the majority of the time I've been listening to this album. First was 'Victory' which is beautiful in almost every way. I wouldn't necessarily call it SPECTACULAR, but it has a lovely arrangement and is a solid composition. And then there is the even stronger 'Ancient' which easily ranks as one of the best songs that you'll find here. 

"When dealing with more now than then
If it's Selassie I - no blasphe-men can approach to -
HIS sovereign whim
Where the thoughts bring, to earth - heaven
If you feel life and confidence, bring out your insight - pure implement -
Chastisement, destruction and compliments all include -
Temple of decadence
So if you're welcome - bring happiness
Seek precept of the spirit of happiness
And make yah whole day - feel balance bless
Over heathenness and sheathenness

Jah Rastafari speech reappear the address of this addressed to 
The wrong authority make mess
People crying for knowledge and leadership
Only Selassie I, come through all the test 
Whole heap a one now contesting for his place
Even with this holy name ashamed

BOOM! The song is another piece of lyrical mastery on an album whose actual identity I don't think resonated within me until I took it for this review (which means that certainly there is more to come).  
Overall, what do I say? Looking back now, "Bless Go Roun" was much better than I've given it credit for being for the past half decade and a year. I'm not going to go to the lengths and say that it is one of Midnite's finest lyrical efforts, but that's the course of thinking that I currently have. From a lyrical aspect, this was a GREAT album, even by Vaughn Benjamin's most lofty of linguistic standards. And, when you combine that with a diverse and colourful musical arrangement, you have a winning formula for an album which, although it did receive a nice amount of attention, probably didn't get as much credit for its quality that it deserved. Albums like this, of course, come beneath ones which are truly great and are widely lauded as being so, but they come in the 'body' of a catalog which has had so many interesting stops along the way and only gets bigger and stronger as time passes. "Bless Go Roun" from Midnite was a blessed set and still is. Well done and let us continue… 

Rated: 4.20/5
Higher Bound Productions
CD + Digital 

Review # 417

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