|"Judgement Time" by Chezidek [JahSolidRock - 2010]|
It may depend on the genre, sometimes, but when I hear a song that I really love, like one of my favourite songs, I get this feeling which I would liken to a small adrenaline rush. It's a fantastic feeling. I love it. I'm addicted to it and while there're a few things in life which offer similar feelings (WHAT!) (biggup my Wife), I have to say that when it occurs musically - it is very special and downright intoxicating. Like I said, however, at times it can depend on the genre of music that I'm listening to. Unsurprisingly, my greatest source of musical intensity is Soca, which is almost its most basic of purposes, but it doesn't end there, as today we take a look at an album which is probably on the complete opposite end of Soca in sound, but has been offering up excitement to me and many others who have been lucky enough to hear it for three years.
Recently (yesterday or the day before if I can finish this today), we talked about a brilliant new album from veteran singer, Chezidek by the name of "The Order of Melchezedik". If you have yet to pick it up, definitely do so as it's a full-on winner and sure to be one of the year's finest come December. The album, which comes via JahSolidRock is the second of Chezidek/JSR albums to reach - back in 2010 artist and label, along with Not Easy At All Productions, would link up for the very first time and the results would be absolutely unforgettable and, although it's taken me a bit of time to actually grasp - it was one of the best albums that I have EVER heard. It was not Soca music. It was not Dancehall. It was not some amplified type of Zouk and it wasn't even the most dynamic showcase of Roots Reggae music that I'd ever heard. It wasn't even close to being that. What it was, was a shining display of the talents of a singer who has, seemingly, at such an advanced stage in his career, now found a label who can bring out the best in him and listening to the album, now, gives me that infectious rush of emotions each and every time I hear it. Today we reopen the classics and add to them the beautiful and exhilarating "Judgement Time".
#1. 'Ganja Tree'
With hit songs such as 'Herbalist' and, of course, 'Leave The Trees', already to his credit, the fact that the album's opener, 'Ganja Tree', was very good should not have come as a surprise at all. Making sensational ganja songs is a specialty of the singer and this one, to my opinion, ranked highly even amongst his very best and, personally, I'd say it was every bit as strong of a song as 'Herbalist', which I absolutely love and is one of my favourite Chezidek songs. Listening closely, what you had here was a tune which was so well written. It was so well crafted and arranged, lyrically, that you could drop in at any time and be impressed by what was being said. On top of that (or beneath it, actually) was this incredible sound which led us into the second track on "Judgement Time".
Best Lyric: "If a man was going to commit a crime, and burn a spliff same time - him nah go bodda dweet. Put on a pot, go look some food and go eat. The tree pretty and ah glisten and ah shine. Positive thoughts I want in my mind. So mi waan di bag a weed. CHALICE HAFFI LIGHT BEFORE THE NEWS READ!"
#2. 'Ganja Tree' - Version
So cool. So nice. So comfortable. So relaxing! The riddim track for 'Ganja Tree' was arguably the finest instrumental of the six on the album and, regardless of what it was, it was also seriously one of the single best songs, period, this project gave us. I really like that it was significantly longer than the actual song (by almost a minute), which kind of separates it from the tune with the vocals and gives it such a large opportunity to make changes and it took great advantage of it. The largest thing, obviously, is this GOLDEN guitar, which plucks in, initially after about half-a-minute in. For me, it stands as the signature moment on a signature riddim. Outstanding.
#3. 'Live and Learn'
The experience driven 'Live and Learn' is a tune which I certainly liked from the first listen, but these years on, I've gained more of an appreciation for the song. I think most of that has to do with, again, what Chezidek says on the tune and how he says it exactly. The song is not only one which is about daily life and going through and experiencing it, but it is also a social commentary, in the more typical sense of the descriptor, and a substantial one also. It's also a GORGEOUS song which we'll address more directly in just a second.
Best Lyric: "The multi-billionaire, is standing so tall. He'll never hear when the hungry-belly pickney dem ah bawl. He never cared, never answered to that call. STILL I KNOW ONE DAY THE BIG MAN WILL GET SMALL"
#4. 'Live and Learn' - Version
One Blood Riddim medley
Like I said, gorgeous! 'Live and Learn' actually utilizes the One Blood Riddim, which is on a full and vibrant display as its instrumental is also included. Not as much as on the piece of 'Ganja Tree', but there are also fine various guitar sounds here but dominant is the horn. What really stands out in this case, however, are the effects. It starts just like the regular tune with the vocals well on board for quite awhile, before we ascend into a powerful instrumental.
#5. 'On The Move' featuring Dean Fraser
What I used to give 'Live and Learn' credit for being, fully, 'On The Move' really is. It too carries elements of what one would refer to as a comment on the state of society, but at its core, it really is a tune about maintaining and persevering in life and not remaining stagnant. It also speaks, very nicely, of things such as family and tradition, although indirectly so. Chezidek speaks of following in the footsteps of what he grew watching his Father do and how he's doing it for his children. When you express something like that, it immediately becomes relatable to your audience and is a most sublime and subtle lyrical touch.
Best Lyric: "The harder you work - the less the pay. Buy dinner last night - no food for today. Tomorrow I must be there, searching same way. My Father did the same til he was old and gray"
#6. 'On The Move' - Version featuring Dean Fraser
Where Chezidek starred during 'On The Move', also present are the legendary saxophonic riffs of Dean Fraser who plays an even more pronounced role on the tune's riddim track. Surely I really liked this one, but listening to it now - it's much better than I remember it being! A beautiful and SOLID one-drop with effects that work in its case and one of my personal favourites, now, from "Judgement Time".
#7. 'Walk With Jah'
Speaking of personal favourites. To my opinion, the single best song on this album and maybe even the best song that Chezidek has ever done, is 'Walk With Jah'. It is somewhat difficult to explain, but this song is a CLASSIC. From the very the first words uttered:
"Walk with Jah
HE's I protector
Talk with Jah
In I daily prayer"
I get that rush of feelings I alluded to and you won't mistake this for some overly animated track at all, it is the direct opposite, but it has wholly thrilled me for three years now. To my opinion, at the center of its strength is a very calmed PASSION. While the song never really gets out of hand in terms of emotion, if you listen to everything that goes into it - the way it is sung and the lyrics - they meld so perfectly, that you (or at least I do) tend to think that someone was really careful and precise in what went in here, but it also doesn't come off as overly programmed either. Whatever the case, 'Walk With Jah' is, for me, THE highlight of and the tune which most immediately comes to my mind from "Judgement Time". Why? WHY did this song have to be so damn good?!
Black Lyric: "When I and I journey inna serious places and I and I see all dem serious faces. See how dem fight di righteous and push up their evilous faces. Try to make us look like criminals, in the eyes of the ignorant"
#8. 'Walk With Jah' - Version
Backing 'Walk With Jah' was actually the Collie Weed Riddim, which gets its own featuring as well, as the instrumental track from the tune on the album. While there isn't anything too major which sticks, singularly, as a total composition, this thing was flawless and in its stripped and streamlined version, you don't wonder too much how it backed a song so mighty.
#9. 'Chant Dem'
It is, but I do hesitate in calling the somewhat joyful 'Chant Dem' a social commentary because it well has another element to it and it even does when compared to songs with a similar topic, specifically. What we have here is a tune on which Chezidek calls on the masses to stand up for ourselves and what is right and, then, to stand up against those things and those people that are wrong. The most fascinating part of that is the song's disposition. The singer seems to completely suggest, by his mood, that chanting down nastiness and filthiness should be a JOYOUS occasion. You should have fun and, hopefully, if you're able to do that, you could write about it and… maybe make such an excellent song as this one.
Best Lyric: "They made themselves so fat. Then put their-selves on top. But the fire will be burning hot. Everything ahgo tumble down back"
#10. 'In My Heart'
Unless I'm REALLY forgetting about something, 'In My Heart' is the finest love song that I have ever heard from Chezidek. It's never fully been a penchant of his to turn such songs, but he struck gold in this case and did so to the tune of pushing one of the best songs on this immaculate record. It was a very serene and just MATURE love song and one which definitely did its share of damage. It's probably still his most identifiable love song to this day and deservedly so. 'In My Heart' was fantastic.
Best Lyric: "Woman you! Gotta place forever! In my heart!"
#11. 'In My Heart' - Version
My point of reference for the bubbling old school riddim of 'In My Heart' has always been a song from Naptali's amazing album, also from 2010, "Long Journey", by the name of 'Seven Miles', which featured the legendary Luciano and it has been this pair of tracks (and I don't even know if anyone else voiced it) which have kept this sterling composition alive. Minus a few effects, its version on "Judgement Time" isn't too much different than it is on the vocal track - which is good - because it was delectable and checking in at a very healthy ~five minutes, one of the strongest instrumental selections.
12. 'Jahsolidrock' featuring Benaïssa
Artist and producer (who takes a producer's credit for the album), Benaïssa, joins Chezidek on the label-statement 'Jahsolidrock' which was, seemingly, built around the label's slogan - "music from the highest region" (which is as wonderful of a slogan to be found in the history of all music) - as somewhat of an identification tune for the label. Now, were it just that, that would have been one thing, but the slogan only really serves as a foundation for a great tune which ultimately develops around it and is used in a very clever way to fuel a piece about unifying the world on more 'firm' terms. Also, I should say that I always got the feeling that this was the type of song which was kind or born out of the moment between producer and artist. Very organic (would have SO MUCH loved a version for this one as well)
Best Lyric: "Rastafari is I true foundation. Rastafari is our Rock of our salvation. The righteous coulda never go to waste. Mount Zion - Jah prepare a Holy Place. That secret place of The Most High, where the upright shall abide. Music it ah play from the highest region. This is Jahsolidrock"
#13. 'Burning Fire'
To my opinion, if you really break down 'Burning Fire' and get into the song, it is a composition about finding and then following your passions in life. This is one of the more broadly written tunes on board "Judgement Time", so it fully opens itself up for interpretation, but the one kind of uniting theme is about passion. Of course, Chezidek hopes that what you eventually find and follow is a positive and proper form of enthusiasm and he does his best, and a damn good job, to convey that precisely.
Best Lyric: "Can't be the one to mislead them. Not like the heathen. You better free them"
#14. 'Burning Fire' - Version
As the final clean instrumental track on "Judgement Time", the composition for 'Burning Fire' continues and concludes the impressive streak from this wonderful idea. The thing that I remember about this one was that I was pretty sure it was familiar to my ears and it was because it sounds just a little like an old track called the No More Will I Roam Riddim, which is probably best known in its more recent form where it, most notably, played background to Capleton's WICKED 'More Dem Try'. This doesn't exactly start at a low point, and it gets MUCH better as it progresses with a very confident style.
#15. 'Uplift Yourself'
Chezidek strikes a strong inspirational note on one of the final selections on the album, the sweet 'Uplift Yourself". This is song which is almost a process - it's like an instructional. Early on, the artist kind of tries to establish and solidify what an individual has going for them (even if it doesn't seem like very much at the time) and then he later goes onto push forward in terms of what you can then do with what you have. Throughout it all, however, is a very comfortable and inevitable belief that he seems to have in what he's saying and that's a great thing to have when you're trying to inspire as… no one wants to take motivation from someone who seems to be going through the motions.
Best Lyric: "Sometimes it feels like things just nah work. All of yah forward plans, dem gone inna reverse. But you can't keep standing, you've gotta move. Get inna di motion. Get in di groove. I know you got the powers now to improve. Got to make an effort - nothing to lose. Why sit and wait? A man can only take you to the gate. Its up to you to get yourself in the right place"
It isn't fully on that same level (but it kind of is), but I get almost the same feeling from the anti-violence set, 'Wartankers', that I do when I listen to both 'Walk With Jah' and the next song I'm going to tell you about. For its part, I think that 'Wartankers' was terribly overlooked and was so even by some who heard the album. That's unfortunate because it was poignant and splendidly created to my opinion. It also was a powerful display of passion and you can totally see that Chezidek had a very high level of interest in the subject. I also should mention the latter stages of the tune which, unfortunately, only makes you wish, even more, that JSR and Not Easy At All ("NEAA" just seems kind of odd to look at, so I typed it out) had included an instrumental for this one as well as the riddim gets heavy and dominates the final bit of this amazing selection.
Best Lyric: "Sending out your troops. Everyday - new recruits. New bombs and guns to shoot. Destruction: Absolute"
#17. 'Jah Love'
TEARS! The final song on "Judgement Time" is one which, when I first heard it, was definitely a winner for me and something a bit more and it now is farrrrrrrrr greater than it ever was. Its title is the only thing 'simple' about 'Jah Love'. The song is SPECTACULAR! Such a vibrant and beautiful composition underpins a song in which Chezidek gives a massive amount of praise to His Majesty and is, easily, one of the most memorable pieces not only from "Judgement Time" but his entire career.
Best Lyric: "Jah love is the real thing. NOTHING CAN COMPARE!"
Normally when I do these things what I do in closing is to attempt to find some prevailing message of what I feel was the intent and the pillar of ideology supporting the album. It is almost always something different and while I could certainly do it in this case - "Judgement Time" is largely a brilliant spiritual commentary on the world as Chezidek sees it - I wanted to do something different quickly here and answer a thought because such an album opens itself up to it so finely in my opinion.
Why do I like this album so much?
Ostensibly, "Judgement Time" was the type of album which seemed prepared to kind of fade away into Reggae album oblivion and just be another record from Chezidek's catalog (Discography: Chezidek), but it, most thankfully did not, and I think I've identified a couple of major reasons why it has stuck around and been so prominent. First of all, if you are a fan of Reggae music then there is one aspect of this set which I believe is even above question and that is its consistency. Even we stopped there (and I'm not going to), that's definitely a big trait to have. To my opinion, however, I would say that it is consistently stunning! There exists not a single point on "Judgement Time" where I find myself able to stop and NOT be some kind of fully impressed by what I'm hearing and that occurs not only on the obvious 'surfaces', but on the less glaring as well, which is the point I was trying to make in reference to 'Wartankers'. Songs. Instrumentals. The singing. The musicianship. It is all highly impressive material and it has yet to dwindle.
"Walk with Jah"
The other thing I LOVE about "Judgement Time" is its presentation. When you say something like "presentation" you can mean a variety of different things, especially when speaking about an album. You can be referring to its cover or its liners or videos or even the way in which it was promoted to you and/or that you became aware of it. What I am speaking of directly, on the other hand, is the musical presentation of the album. We can look at it and say that there're only eleven songs and, technically, there are only eleven. HOWEVER, this eleven-tracked album plays for more than an hour and now I think that its length, which has been THE critique here for three years, is truly an advantage because having that number of songs make it possible to have those instrumentals which so much have become a large portion of what the album is known for and not just on paper. They are one of the nicest and most unique and characterizing features of "Judgement Time" and, again, they really add to its musical presentation and display. Additionally is something which I've tried to talk about throughout the years, which really contributes something excellent here - the SOUND. If you have the proper equipment, at some times in listening to "Judgement Time", it literally sounds like Chezidek and his band are playing right next to you! The sonics are so clear and so definitive that it sounds like you, as a fan, are directly involved in what is going in. They're playing the music for you (and they are). Now! When you go back and take into account the instrumentals and how some of them are so seamless from the tune which they follow (there almost IS NOT a delay from song's end to instrumental's begin in some of these cases) and they are just really one big song, that gives it something else. The 'band' (the riddim in this case) is just as important as the vocal artist (depending on who you're listening to, they can be even more important) and both come together to make for a scintillating experience of an album which can confuse my mind (albeit, that isn't very difficult to do) into thinking that Chezidek's full Roots Reggae album, "Judgement Time" is capable of generating, providing and maintaining a similar emotional response as some fantastically wild and chaotic piece of Soca music. Or maybe it is just one of the most exciting albums of its type that I've ever heard. It Is also a bonafide Modern Reggae Classic!