Sunday, March 17, 2013

Rewind!: "Holding Firm" by Ras Attitude

"Holding Firm" by Ras Attitude [Zion High Productions]

Much like an album from his good friend, producer and oft-collaborator, Ras Batch (more on him in a minute), Ras Attitude has had an album in his career which took its slow time to do so, but eventually wore me down and took hold of my attention. Back in 2005, the aforementioned Batch would release an album in, "Jah Guidance", which I would think okay, but really only register because many of the compositions on it were sublime, but as an album… I just didn't think much of it. A few years later that had changed completely and now, I regard it as one of the single finest albums that I have ever heard. Most coincidentally, that very same year Ras Attitude was at work on releasing his own project, via Zion High Productions, which would, years later, also awake and activate in my mind and although I don't know that I'll ever come around to regarding it as highly as "Jah Guidance", I wouldn't at all be surprised. If/When that occurs, I'll gladly come back and write a 'Modern Classic' feature for it, but until then, we still go back and have a look and a listen to an album whose quality, at least for me, was wonderfully time delayed and REWIND! "Holding Firm" by Ras Attitude

1. 'Why?'

It is that familiar blaring organ sound on 'Why' which signals in my mind that we're dealing with the "Holding Firm" album (which is most interesting that I immediately associate it with this album and then this song, in particular). The opener was a very straight forward, yet GLOWING, social commentary. I can recall when I initially kind of began to change my mind on this record and how I began to take a 'slower' appreciation of it and it started with this song. What was once kind of boring and uninteresting started to light up for me and it hasn't dimmed even a bit these days.

2. 'Wrath of Jah' featuring Batch

Anytime you can link together Batch and Attitude, you're potentially working with something special and, off the top of my head, I cannot come up with a moment where they would have failed (most recently they did a bit tune, 'Vampire Slayer', for West Coast Studios) (in stores now). Here, I guess I can call 'Wrath of Jah' a 'spiritual commentary' as the duo push a track which reminds that when you live nasty, there is nowhere you can hide from His Majesty. BOOM!

"How dare you - diss The Conquering Lion?
How dare you - build your planes and drop your bombs?
How dare you - try stop marijuana from bun?
How dare you - punish the youths with all starvation?
How dare you -  stop the movement of repatriation?
Just beg Jah mercy for your sanctification 
Rastafari shall ease di nation
Rastafari is I occupation!" 

3. 'Where Did They Come From?'

Next Attitude is wondering exactly 'Where Did They Come From'. The "they" of note in this case would be those who stand in the way in Rastafari and, by extension, righteousness in general.

"Where did they come from - trying to fight Rasta down?
A who fah name dem ah call pon?
Must be ______
Where did they come from - trying to fight Rasta down?
Who fah name dem ah call pon?
Caah be The Almighty One

Dem ah fight Rasta!
When they, themselves, don't even know dem ah fight di Rastaman fa
Dem no research di natural way of life
Dem listen to the media!
Just because you don't love life, don't bring dem dutty vibes bout ya

This piece has a very nice aggressive 'shine' to it and it isn't one which kind of hides. But, simultaneously, it isn't the kind of 'fire blazing everything' type of approach. Instead, Attitude burns an INTELLECTUAL flame, although I do not know if those for whom it is intended are smart enough to comprehend.

4. 'Let Jah Be Praised'

For as long as I have had an opinion on the matter, 'Let Jah Be Praised' has been my favourite song on "Holding Firm". HOWEVER… no… no it still is.

"Let Jah be praised -
For the rest of your life
Let Jah be praised -
In the morning when you open up your eyes
Let Jah be praised -
Let Jah be praised -
Jah is the only way out in dis ya time

Cause HE is the Lily of the Valley
And HE is the bright morning star
You've got, to give up everything to Jah and keep the faith in HIM too
You've got, to clean your physical, and mental and spiritual vibes too
Know and see the blessings Jah has given unto you
With every breath that I take, I know His Majesty is powerful
I have faith in my God, only HIM will get me through
I trust in thee, oh Lord, there's no other that's greater than you

Let Jah be praised -
For the rest of your life
Let Jah be praised -
In the morning when you open up your eyes
Let Jah be praised -
Let Jah be praised -
Jah is the only way out in dis ya time

Cause HE blessed me with HIS mercy
I thank you, Jah, for giving me the breath of life!
Judge me, oh Lord, and ah bless me so I shall not slide
In the grace of Jah love and kindness, I will abide
What a joy!
What a joy!
What a joy!
For the miracle HE's done for I
The King of Kings shall be praised, worshipped and glorified!
Praise HIM and fear HIM
HE's The Most High
Elect of HIMself, so we hail HIM:
King Selassie I"

There is giving 'thanks and praise' on a song and then there is a song like this, which takes the generic approach and tactfully disarms and then rebuilds it. It remains, in my opinion, not only the finest moment of this album, but easily one of the best of Attitude's entire impressive career. TEARS!

5. 'See My Point'

The very clever 'See My Point' is the obligatory ganja tune on "Holding Firm" and it was a good one. This song has always sounded like kind of an 'expanded' freestyle to my ears. He may've written it, but what he wrote was more of an approach and then he kind of followed the formula, rather than the words. Altogether, however, the song is a big testament to the lyrical and approach dexterity of Ras Attitude [reason #11,362,783 to like this man's music].

6. 'Bad Bwoy'

I may be the only one in the world who, upon hearing the riddim on 'Bad Bwoy' IMMEDIATELY begins to sing the MASSIVE 'Nothing To Prove' by NiyoRah. The tunes share a riddim and while Niyo's version is already a certified modern classic, Attitude's tune is also quite strong. This is somewhat of social commentary, but it is one which is pointed at the individual. Instead of saying that 'society has done…', Attitude takes his ire to the actual people taking violence to the streets.

"Seh that dem a bad boy, but dem a bad boy fi no reason
If you a real rude boy, rude boy no terrorize poor people"

7. 'All We Need Is Love'

Although my mind is spinning over another tune from NiyoRah when 'All We Need Is Love' comes in (NiyoRah is one AMAZING artist) (so is Attitude), Attitude hits a level which is rare here. This song is GORGEOUS! If you listen to Reggae to any amount at all (especially enough to read a feature such as this), you're familiar with this type of song and well familiar actually, but this is one of the better pieces of its kind as Ras Attitude makes a plea to infuse a bit more LOVE throughout the world.

8. 'Smile On Your Face'

If the goal here was to make me angry and feel like breaking something, then 'Smile On Your Face' was an utter failure of a track. It's horrible! But if it was actually to… I don't know… put a smile on my face - it was a big, big success.

"Put a smile on your face - Kings, Queens and Princess
Put a smile on your face - little youths don't be depressed
Put a smile on your face - Jah bless with your royalness
Put a smile on your face - let's all live in happiness

No frowns!
Even when your up times go down
Happy people all around
Black or yellow, white or brown
From the east, west, north and south
There's lots of joy to share out
If you don't know then you must go find out

9. 'Life Of Love'

Definitely the biggest revelation of 'Life Of Love' is my newfound appreciation of just well SUNG this tune is. Attitude sounds nearly spectacular with his vocals, but it isn't the type of where the delivery immediately leaps out at you. However, years and years of hearing it has gotten me to the point where I am so appreciative of Attitude's ability to turn on the singing voice and spring an excellent song with it.

10. 'Holding Firm'

"Holding firm inna di gideon
Ready fi go trod up outta babylon
Holding firm inna di gideon
They tried their best but still can't stop the Rastaman"

'Holding Firm' is another big moment on the album named after it. Despite its title, which is very straight forward and not hard to decipher at all, the actual song is a bit complex and I mean that in a good way. From this tune I take so many different things, but I think that where I am with it today is the thought of not allowing negative influences to take too much control of your life - or a general level of control at all, really. While Attitude allows that you may have to endure some things and go through some things you don't want to and you know are bad for you, he presses all to stay the proverbial course and do EVERYTHING in their power to maintain themselves.

11. 'Ethiopian Eyes'

Ras Attitude takes time to pay a PILLARING level [BOOM!] of respect and tribute to Afrikan women everywhere on what is definitely a signature tune from the "Holding Firm" album. This song isn't necessarily one which I would refer to as a 'love song', although it certainly does have those type of elements, instead it really is more of a cultural one. In the most actual sense, you can't really show love to society, to spirituality and to a particular culture, without showing love to its nurturers and that is precisely what we have here.

12. 'Truths & Rights'

"As I stand before you, I seh Rasta!
And don't 'pologize
From I sight Rasta, I saw something special in my eyes
Rasta gave me the path to walk and then show me towards -
Jah Jah light!
I know Rasta is there to guide I
And show I & I wrong from right"

Things take a splendidly old school turn on the HUGE 'Truth & Rights', a song which really gets into the JOURNEY (and it is a journey) of Rastafari. It is likely a very personal track as Attitude describes how he came to walk the path in life and embrace it. It is a beautiful piece on that side, alone, but you also have to get into the delivery. Again, Ras Attitude shows a great singing voice on the almost Luciano-esque 'Truths & Rights'.

13. 'Without You' featuring Marcia Ball

Attitude linked veteran vocalist Marcia Ball for what is, directly, an actual love song. There is also something very 'old school cool' (biggup my Wife) about 'Without You' and the song still retains a kind of a duet quality, which is nice and I love when the genre makes room for someone like Ball to make songs. Though seemingly not very active at all, nearly every time you see her name, it guarantees a certain level of quality awaits.

14. 'Greetings'

'Greetings' is a tune which requires almost no explanation at all (but watch me try, anyway). One of the most dynamic compositions on the whole of this album, the tune is just Attitude giving a very direct praise to His Imperial Majesty. It is almost entirely a spiritual place and that hasn't changed throughout the years (and it never will). What has changed, however, is how I hear it. I don't remember this song sounding THIS good. Its arrangement makes for a very FUN moment on the album while simultaneously developing such a crucial message as well.

15. 'Pay The Cost' featuring Binghi ItesJakada

Binghi Ites and Jakada join Ras Attitude to stress the point that, eventually, someone will have to pay for the state of the world. While not a favourite of mine, I do have to say that something hear recently did grab my mind quite a bit:

"Somebody's gotta pay the cost

That second line in particular is very interesting because it is almost like Attitude gives the powers that be the opportunity to choose some type of a representative, but what I took from it was the notion that with great power comes a great responsibility. So, if you fight your way to the top, when the pile beneath comes tumbling down, your fall will make the greatest of impacts. And if you can't tell, yes, I am very much still working on this one… and enjoying it.

16. 'Olive Tree'

The closing piece of "Holding Firm", 'Olive Tree', has become a favourite of mine and I so much look at a song such as this one as being a selection which would not have done very much for me when this album was released (and I was 23-24), but is downright GOLDEN to my ears just a few years on. Yes, I'm getting old[er] and I hate it, but if it sounds this good, I probably shouldn't complain too much… yeah I'm going to keep complaining, but big tune still.

This is a completely evolving project for me. Each and every time I spin my way through this album, I'm fully expecting to either hear something that I didn't previously, at all, or to appreciate something that I hadn't been able to previously and, like I said, I still compare that range to the "Jah Guidance" album and, how perfect is it that those two artists have given me albums which continue to register in that same way. So, whatever I write about this (EVER), figures to be, at best, a report on the progress that it has made for me, but I wouldn't at all be surprised if, in a little while, it too is one of my favourite albums of all time. I don't know about that yet though, ask me again in a few years. Until them pick up one Ras Attitude's best releases, "Holding Firm" and hear for yourself.

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