Sunday, June 16, 2013

Rewind!: "Much More To Life" by Norris Man

"Much More To Life" by Norris Man [Tiger Records]
Today we take a quick look back at a an album which definitely ranks as one of the best from the first half of 2013 and one which, I'm slowly thinking that I may have to elevate to the status of being its star's best ever as well. Norris Man is someone who can be quite polarizing. He can be inconsistent and there're many who do not enjoy his delivery as well (I'm not one of them). HOWEVER, I've always maintained that if you can get him at or even near his best, the chanter is as capable as almost anyone in Reggae music in the current era. Also, for the type of music that he does - with this image of a constant struggle - his voice is exactly what it should be and it adds to what he does. The question, when it comes to Norris Man albums, for me, is whether or not he is in a good form. If you catch a good Norris Man, there is a no ceiling and  he can do almost anything, as previous releases such as "Persistence", "Home & Away" and others have shown. In recent times Norris Man has demonstrated that someone who routinely draws the best out of him is the Tiger Records producer, Sherkhan who, over the past few years has recorded a great deal of strong material with the Trenchtown native. Earlier this year, they put it all together and turned in a memorable set which now take a look back at and Rewind! "Much More To Life" by Norris Man.

#1. Intro

"Haile Selassie I"

#2. 'Murdera'

"Murdera - your judgment set
I see that it's coming up on you right now
Slaughtera - for all the things you've done -
I've seen your world and your kingdom going down"

Grrrr! When I think back to the opener of "Much More To Life", one thing definitely still stands out greatly and that is just how much it turned out to be. It is a song whose display and presentation is nearly perfect and it BUILDS and BUILDS, matching the intensity and the emotions of Norris Man throughout the song. Seriously, this may just be one of the best songs he's EVER done and I don't think I'm overrating it at all. It goes from being this nearly melancholy type of piece near its nascence, into being this absolute powerhouse of a social commentary by its end. BOOM! 

#3. Skit 1 - Life

"We just have to be strong. Life Is like a battlefield, you know. There is good and there is evil and - the choices that you make, that's the direction you will go". 

#4. 'Much More To Life'

The title track for this record is one which I've actually dealt with closer and closer from the first time that I heard it and, like 'Murdera', but in a different way, it's also done a bit of blossoming for me. While broad and somewhat general, like the skit preceding it, 'Much More To Life' eventually kind of ties itself up in two ways. First of all is the fact that of all the different directions that it does go in, there is one unifying theme - that of enjoying life and giving praises to His Majesty. Secondly and somewhat quietly: There is a great deal of SKILL exhibited here - lyrically and in terms of the delivery, making for one of the most memorable moments on the album named after it. 

#5. 'Warning'

"Caan seh mi never warn you" 

On 'Warning' we find Norris Man a bit agitated and a bit pissed off at things that are going on in the world and he's making everyone known at his frustration on this BIG tune. He seems to reserve his greatest of fury for those who insist that they live positive and 'righteous' lives, but their actions show a different case. The chanter says that he's already told you what might happen and this song appears to be the final 'warning' shot. 

#6. Skit 2 - Rasta

"They don't look on the love and the joy and the righteousness and consciousness within one. Dem look on the outer appearance; the long hair, the bearded face".

#7. 'Oh Jah'

TEARS! I've kind of also taken 'Oh Jah' in a different way recently and it comes in tandem with the skit ahead of it. One this level, with just the song, you definitely get this sense of humility and freedom and LOVE, but when you listen to the skit along with it, it also becomes infused with a great deal of PRIDE. This isn't just a song giving thanks and praises, it's also one saying to all not to be ASHAMED of the path you take in life. Whatever it may be and whoever may stand against you - know that they don't you. They stereotype you and that your road is no less YOURS because of what others may say or do. 

#8. 'Jah Rule Always'

Another song for His Imperial Majesty, I think there is a very nice difference with 'Jah Rule Always' and several of the other similarly guided pieces on the album. That difference is that this tune, 'always', finds a way to tie the spiritual into the tangible. At its core, I think Norris Man is saying that giving honour to The Almighty MAKES THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE. You do not get more concrete than that. Also, you can't ignore that this song is dazzling from beginning to end and definitely one of the best sonic experiences to be had on this release. 

#9. 'Let Love Control'

While it may not be the single best love song on this album (that comes next), 'Let Love Control' really does earn a high place here, still, because of just how good it sounds. Though certainly not bereft of substance (it is the opposite, actually) at all, it is so damn easy to get caught up and lost into the vibes of this piece. If you can narrow down the meaning, however, you'll notice that it isn't a 'love song' in the typical sense either. It isn't merely about the love within a relationship or between people. This song is about loving LOVE for the sake of love. A lot of love and a lot TO love. 

#10. 'My Feelings For You'

TEARS AGAIN! DAMN! WHY?! Why must this song be so good! Maybe it's just the riddim, the Dutty Foot or maybe it is everything, but 'My Feelings For You' had something special about it all the way through.

#11. 'Woman of Virtues'

Though not my favourite song on "Much More To Life" (although that does come next!), I do have a slight greater appreciation for 'Woman of Virtues' and I probably got it from its display. It sounds like a nice song and though there's much better similar material on the rest of the album (like both of the previous tunes), it does have a quality which keeps you coming back and I wouldn't be surprised if I came back so much that I really did start to enjoy this one tremendously one day. 

#12. 'The Soul'

"They tried to touch the heart
Cannot touch the soul"

Yes, 'Murdera' has closed the gap from my first passage through this album - but at the top remains the same tune. 'The Soul' was MASSIVE! It was a tune which was about inspiring people going through difficult times in life and, essentially, saying that going through these things were a NECESSARY course of life. In a sense: Definitely going through (or existing IN) the darkest of times makes it so bright when even a small amount of light comes through and that's what this song is about. It's the same thing you've probably heard dozens of times… but it almost NEVER sounds this good! 

#13. 'Anytime You Need My Love'

Still not one of the highest ranking tracks present here, but hearing my Wife singing the simply infectious chorus of 'Anytime You Need My Love' has raised it just a bit for me! 

#14. Skit 3 - Positive

"Trouble is out there, stay away from it. Always try to think positive, so you'll never be on a negative track".

#15. 'Read Between The Lines'

"You have been abusive, crossing the lines now
You show no compassion -
Out taking lives yes
Read from the scroll now
Then you'll know how -
Every reaction is a reaction"

'Read Between The Lines' was actually a song that I was familiar with prior to hearing it on "Much More To Life" and I'm glad that they included it here because it has definitely giving it something of a 'second wind' for me, personally, and I'm sure that I am not the only one who feels that way. What I take from this song is that it is one speaking about the negative behaviour of the world and how it isn't just an outward problem. You don't just live fucked up and do nasty things and walk away from it without a scar. What Norris Man is saying is that sometimes when you see sad people and people "crying" it isn't always because someone or something has done something wrong to them. If you 'read between the lines', what you may notice is that THEY were the someone doing wrong to others. A very deep song and one which strikes to the very personal presentation of this entire album in my opinion.

#16. 'Trying Man'

Sherkhan, Norris Man and company also grab a huge amount of my appreciation for adding this sublime track, 'Trying Man', which was Norris' cut of the Wharfedale Riddim. So many times this happens in retrospect: Where there is this giant song on a riddim which doesn't eradicate every other song on the track, but kind of draws your attention in that direction ALWAYS. I had forgotten that Norris Man had even voiced the Wharfedale because Tanya Stephens basically tied it down and had her way with it (and she did), but you put it on this album and a wonderful older song gets a much deserved rebirth. This was the second best song on that riddim and it wasn't that much behind what Stephens did either.

 #17. 'We Are the People'

If you think about it, 'We Are the People' was actually in a similar situation as the song before it on this album because its track, the Box Guitar Riddim, was also dominated by someone, Junior X, but because it was far more fresh in my mind, I did recall that Norris Man had a fine showing on it as well. However, again, listening to it these days and it sounds even better than I remembered it. The vocals here were probably underrated. Norris Man is someone who, in general, probably has an underrated voice because if you take it, alone, it can be somewhat awkward at times, but when he focuses it and he has a great backing to work with, the results are always something impressive. You hear that several times on this album, but as far as just pure vocal work, I don't know that this song has an equal on this album. Also, it wasn't just this high-powered Cure-like display, 'We Are the People' was a stirring social/cultural commentary which could have been TALKED and would still be worthy of many listens. 

#18. Skit 4 - So Much Things To Seh

"There's so much things to say because within this struggle, there's so much things happen. You only can tell from what you can remember but it's more - even deeper than that when it comes to politics and violence and gun shooting. Know that your Mother gone to Coronation market and you have to be there and then you hear gunshots start firing in that area. You wondering 'will Mama come back home alive?'- you know? So, you know we been living not only one month and two months, but like for fourteen, fifteen years of our life you know. So, you know being in the ghetto is like yow - is 'the fittest of the fittest'. 

#19. 'So Much'

'So Much' was a song, somewhat fitting given its name, which was all over the place. I don't know if there's anything that Norris Man DID NOT talk about in the less than four minutes of this song. He goes in so many different courses. However, in regards to this song alone, I've definitely come more into the line of thinking that the way the song is written and then carried out is all apart of the song's production. He absolutely wanted it to be like this. He wanted to provoke all kinds of different thoughts because it so much more makes the message of the subsequent tune stand out even further. That message, in the prevailing sense to my ears, was that in daily life we are pushed and pulled in so many different ways that it is most important to remained focus and diligent. If you don't, you're likely to miss so many things - including this song. 


#20. 'All Day Long' & #21. 'Dreaming'

'All Day Long' and 'Dreaming' have basically melded themselves into my head as a pair and, if I live to be one, I'll probably be a very old [er] man and that will still be the case because what happens between them on "Much More To Life" is just entirely fascinating and organic to my ears. The two songs share a riddim and the first of them is pretty standard. You hear 'All Day Long' and it fits perfectly into the landscape of the album surrounding it as a song which is about just how difficult the struggle can be. It is an unpaid twenty-four hour a day 'job'.

"While they're scheming
Overnight they're dreaming
We were toiling through the night
Making things so pure and bright"

And then there is 'Dreaming', again on the same track, which comes in and you see that… even when others sleep and are dreaming [!] it still isn't over! On top of that, I immediately noticed the way the second song comes through which was kind of 'on the spot'. It sounded like a vibe and something which just kind of started as a spontaneous idea, but ultimately both vocalist and producer fell in love with the results and for good reason. Of course, that was just my idea, I could be wrong -

#22. Skit 5 - End

But I wasn't wrong because Norris Man confirms exactly what I thought on the album's final skit on which he explains that "that song" (meaning 'Dreaming') was a spontaneous vibe and something that just happened in the studio. Of course you'll have your own ideas in regards to the skits, generally speaking, but I think that the final one ties everything together superbly. It's always fascinates me when artists speak about their own music and do so in so much tangible detail and though I haven't heard too many from him, in several of the interviews I remember reading and hearing of Norris Man, he does that! And he does it unprovoked as well - just what he's thinking at the time. Whatever the thought which led to these two songs was a powerful one and one which is placed in a fine context with this skit. Thanks!

#23. 'Ovastand'

And finally (this thing has taken no time at all to write and I only just started doing it as a mental workout which developed into almost a full post) (write an intro and a conclusion and we're done!) was the somber 'Ovastand'.

"All I wanna do is to be a better man
So I can help this world to understand"

Initially, I took this tune as one saying to the masses to cognizant of not only one's own situation, but that of others as well. These days I've taken it a step further and I also think that the message here is one which involves and incorporates the idea of ACCEPTANCE as well. If you have someone in your life and they're really in your life, you accept their good and you accept their bad. You can try (and we usually do when we really like someone) to separate the two, but really accepting the full WORST of someone is the only way to be able to fully have them as a part of your life. 

So definitely pick up the latest album from Norris Man and Tiger Records, "Much More To Life". As I said, the album has already entered a small group of others which have a legitimate claim as being the artist's finest to date and it may someday even eclipse them all. Until then, however, the album was a strong one and one which, again, gave us a GREAT version of Norris Man. Anytime that happens, the results are not something you want to miss. 

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