Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Vault Reviews: "Supplication To H.I.M."

Magnified. Besides getting the opportunity to listen to all of these wonderful albums in a slightly more educated and much more passionate light, going back and dealing with all of these releases from Vaughn Benjamin and Midnite has also afforded the chance to just appreciate the work of one of the genuine highlights of modern Reggae music. Even if you aren't the biggest of Midnite heads, if you are a fan of the genre in the current era of, 'their' music is something which is uniquely yours. No time before or after has produced such an unusual talent and while, obviously, those of yesteryear seriously made an everlasting impression and the future will do the same, Midnite's music is definitely a product of RIGHT NOW and will always be. Also, as I've always said, it is my opinion that history will receive their work in a very positive and adoring way and, despite being easily one of the most ardently supported entities Reggae music has every produced, I do not think that it is outside of the realm of possibility that we may see a day, decades from now, where the music carries and even heavier weight than it does today. That is hard to envision, but well possible in my opinion. When history does look back, specifically, I think those that will stand out most will be the Midnite albums from I Grade Records. Personally, they're my favourites and also I just really think that I Grade's music, particularly from now (The Songbird Riddim, in stores now) and the last couple of years or so, will just age very well and, collectively, will pick up steam along the way. But while Tippy (more on him later) and company do bring out the best of Benjamin to my taste, of course they aren't the only ones who do a good job and recently, as we've said in the past, if you have been following the work of Midnite, you've also been following the work of Rastar Records. Certainly it isn't done yet and even though my own work has suggested that they may have 'guests' (or at least two) (biggup Bredz), Midnite probably has no greater ACTIVE fans than Rastar Records. What they've done in recent years has been remarkable and if you really dig into it, they've provided us with quite a few unforgettable moments along the way.  
Rastar Records
Or at least one really, really big one. Looking back now, it almost seems as if the Rastar albums, in particular, kind of run together, in a sense, and they almost come through as one giant album as opposed to now eight different ones. Of course part of that has something to do with just how rapid they tend to appear. That’s now eight albums in six years, which is remarkable, and despite the fact that, when it comes to lyrics, Vaughn Benjamin is some kind of a genius robot, the albums do exhibit a great deal of uniqueness and individuality, but again, seem part of some type of a larger running story. 

The first chapter of that story came back in 2007, in the form of the very nice "Better World Rasta". A year later we'd get the second, which would prove to be one of the easiest 'reads' and most accessible they've ever written, the very open "Supplication To H.I.M.". Although the Rastar albums, in general, aren't amongst the most well promoted releases (although that may be changing given what happened with the most recent piece (not really) (there was the dub album), "Children of Jah", which was well hyped), this album actually went over quite well in its time if I recall correctly and, arguably, is THE most well remembered Midnite/Rastar Records album after "Children of Jah" from just last year. This is so despite "Supplication To HIM" being released relatively close to the very popular "Standing Ground" (as well as the very unpopular "Maschaana") album and though it may not be the absolute BEST album of Midnite (it isn't), it stood up well for itself on its own qualities, and has endured for more than a half-decade now. To my opinion this has something to do with just how 'available' the album was. That isn't in terms of how easy it is to find, but how easy it was to 'receive'. As we've surely said in the past, Midnite's music isn't for everyone (nor is anyone else's for that matter) and they're often critiqued for being somewhat veiled and cryptic and, perhaps, I would imagine that some of their harshest of detractors would even say that about this album, if you do have a bit of experience, and are not already inclined to believe that, "Supplication To HIM" is definitely an album which will strike you as being different from some of their more labourious work to date. Also, despite being a more of an amenable set, this album wasn't one which was some type of a large changeup and, instead, could simultaneously grip the attentions of both new and old fans alike (seriously, if you've never heard a Midnite album, I wouldn't at all hesitate in recommending that you might possibly start with this one) (actually "Better World Rasta" wouldn't be a bad choice either) (… "To Mene", on the other hand - NO!), which certainly wouldn't hurt in the area of longevity. And I might also mention the very unique quality of this album that, all along, it constantly seems to pick up steam in offering better and better tunes in its duration. While the results, as I said, may not be comprise to make the single best Midnite album that you’ve ever heard in your entire life (unless you did actually take my advice and made this one your first then, by default, that is exactly what it is), but they did come together for a very solid release and one which, five years later is still damn interesting and useful. A closer look awaits! 

Though its heaviest of hands do come well within its latter stages, the early portions of the album do offer up quite a few memorable moments as well, just not as immediate. Want an example? Check the opening selection of Midnite's "Supplication To HIM” album from Rastar Records, the acoustically vibed 'A Good Word'

"A good words with I
Waiting for the I
Humble to the Higher Life I
A good words with I
Waiting for the I
I humble to the Higher Life I

Face I grief, face I sorrow
Face I woes -
With courage in the event unfolds
To idealistically contemplate why it be so
WHEN IT WAS SO FROM BROADSWORD TO LONGBOW"

This song also features a very bright sound, while being acoustic, which gives it a great effect to the listener, so while it may not rate amongst my favourites from this album, it isn't to be missed entirely either. Next, things take a 'Brutal' turn as Rastar taps the classic Black Uhuru track for the decent 'Jah Is the Giver'. What I can most tell  you about this tune is that you need to be keen to pay attention to what is being said especially in this case. Vaughn Benjamin does some amazing things with the lyrics here and simply enjoying the riddim, as sweetly intoxicating as it is (and it is), will see you flop as a listener and miss the main attraction here. DAMN! And the third tune from the opening piece is definitely one of its finest. 'All and All In Order', regardless of album placement, is one of the best songs on the whole of "Supplication To HIM". In a typically complex and windingly exhaustive way, the chanter delivers a message of how His Majesty sets things as they are supposed to be ALL OF THE TIME… in the midst of giving us one massive history lesson at the same time. 

By the time the fourth song, 'Make It In Time', comes through, "Supplication To HIM" has become the album that it is going to be (with about three HUGE exceptions) and that is a decided highlight here. What I take from this one is that Vaughn Benjamin is dealing with the concept of time (DUH!). What I mean is that he's placing us, humans, in a finite time and saying that we have a set amount of time to make things right on this planet and, in doing so, finding His Majesty ["Make sure you reach in time. Make sure you LISTEN in time"]. I also should mention just how STERLING this track is. It is a fantastic piece of musicianship and although the artist isn't known for what he is capable of doing with melodies, he does them fine on this one. 'Vain Imagination' is another song which comes through as being very easy to listen to, at least on the surface. The riddim here (which is wonderfully allowed to continue along for awhile after the song's final vocals) has such an easygoing nature about it that it literally becomes very difficult to pay attention to what is being said, but you HAVE to in order to be able to appreciate it fully. And you also have to check 'Guide I Ababa' which may not be a favourite of mine here (it's somewhat awkward), but has become one of the best remembered and most discussed pieces from this album. It is, self-explanatorily, a praising tune, but for me what it does best is to set the stage for what is to follow.
'Supplication To H.I.M.' digital single [2012]
Such as??? First of all is the MAMMOTH title track which has either been the best song on the album named after it or amongst the best, historically (today I'm calling it the best, because it is).

"Use the vessel of our flesh, HE use the chariot of spirit, supplication to HIM
HE'S LORD OF LORDS AND KING OF KINGS OF A BLESSINGS TO HIM
Know seh the beauty of your spirit, vitality of your body is fi him to the brim
HE'S LORD OF LORDS AND KING OF KINGS OF A BLESSINGS TO HIM
Let the righteous sing out unto HIM, chanting ises til everlasting
HE'S LORD OF LORDS AND KING OF KINGS LET THE TRIUMPHANT RING
Let the living houses of trumpet exalt and praises come out from within
HE'S LORD OF LORDS AND KING OF KINGS MAGNIFIED IS HIM"

TEARS! This drummed up composition is about as pure and stripped away and streamlined of a praising song as you'll ever hear and it MAKES ME CRY! It's an explosive tune and although I'll rank one song on its level from this album, it well ranks as one of the best Midnite songs that I've heard (and I've heard A LOT of them). The tune which follows it used to be my choice as this album's best, but it has receded recently. Still, as its title does suggest, 'Healing Zion Place' is magical and not a disappointment. Also coming here would be the dazzling later effort, 'Youth and Youths'. I also LOVE this one and, for me, it stands with the title track and 'Healing Zion Place' as THE class of "Supplication To HIM". 

But maybe I should make room for a couple of others or at least one more. 'Brighter Meditation' is excellent. The song is actually the first of a trio, which also includes 'Youth and Youths' which features the work of the aforementioned Laurent 'Tippy' Alfred. Again, what happens here is a lyrical master class. You just don't do things like this, as a writer, and have them stand still: 'Brighter Meditation' moves and moves and moves!

"Whoa Jah we need a brighter meditation to strength our dispensation 
A whole generation is facing the cancellation
As deep trance in their institution, dem inna confusion 
The offenders decoy fronting - that we need to make a difference
The anchorman tried to look stern
Concerned and yet impartial 
Midget-mental to approach unto the Judah Lion Field Marshal
Dem have nothing to which dem allegiance and no one to hold dem loyal
They all backstab their friendship because of public-opinion
The outside looking in is always an electron
The charge is always negative because of want so hard
HAVE YOU SEEN A COPYCAT ADMIRATION TURN INTO DISSONANCE CHARGE?
Oh right now tell dem draw back the wanna-be card, seen"

BOOM! This song comes off as a (complicated) prayer or Benjamin just really thinking out loud (biggup Ambush). Call it what you will, however, it is spectacular and is so in the way you expect it to be in this case: With the word. There's the also Black Uhuru-ish social commentary, 'New Social Order' which is strong and, eventually, develops into the type of tune which makes me recommend this album to newer fans. And finally another excellent pair of tunes wrap up "Supplication To HIM". The first of them, 'Keeping A Livity' also features Tippy lending a hand (a certain CLASS seems to exude from everything that man does and his songs on this album are no exception), while the biblical based closer 'Zacharia' is delightful. Sounding like something remaining from the ideas enforced on the title track, 'Zacharia' quickly develops into a notion of its own but, as was the partial-premise of this review, it so powerfully compliments the MOOD of that song before taking us on yet another big musical journey.
Overall, while you wouldn't be greatly troubled to find a better album, the ultimate attraction to "Supplication To H.I.M." is its versatility. Though only checking in at thirteen songs (and I think that, in general, that is a nice number of songs for an album) (biggup Lloyd Brown) and with a playing time shy of an hour, the album manages to invent and reinvent itself in so many ways that you're likely to find something here which you like. If you're that person, like me, that studies and breaks down every syllable and note or if you just you're looking for something to get your head moving, you've found it in "Supplication To HIM". Furthermore, as I said, it is a record which has aged quite well and probably figures to continue to do so, so if you have it in your collection already and have actually yet to really dig into it, now seems like a good time doesn't it? The album stands as one of the most read-worthy chapters of one of the most interesting 'books' in the annals of Modern Reggae music from Midnite and Rastar Records

Rated: 4/5
Rastar Records
2008
CD + Digital 

Review #458

Monday, July 29, 2013

Check It #54: Flash!

"Roots Rocking Reggae Vol. 3" [Tad's Records]


'Gimme Likkle One Drop' by Tarrus Riley

First up this week is the most welcomed return of one of my favourite compilation pieces from a few years back, "Roots Rocking Reggae" from the always active Tad's Records. The first two editions of this series were outstanding and were done, largely, under the guidance of the mighty Al.Ta.Fa.An. and were just strong modern Roots selections. This time around things are entirely more varied -- with more "rocking" than Roots, but it's also a nice edition as well. I was well under the impression that the series had run its course, so I was damn happy to see it not only back, but on CD as well. The names aren't who would expect from editions one and two, but I don't think anyone at all will mind tunes from the likes of Tarrus Riley, Alaine, I-Octane, Jah Cure, Chronixx, Iba Mahr and others. Far better for casual fans but not terrible for more experienced listeners either.

CD + Digital
"All of Me" by Nikesha Lindo [Heavy Beat Records]

Extremely gifted vocalist, Nikesha Lindo, makes her debut with a delightful release in "All of Me", unsurprisingly from the wonderful people at Heavy Beat Records. Nikesha (like most people carrying the name Lindo who make Reggae music) makes an adorable blend of heavy old school and Lover's Rock Reggae and although she may not be a household name in Reggae circles -- at least not yet -- anyone who has followed her career to date knows that Lindo has a nearly overwhelming talent in what she does. Her new album figures to be a sparkling example of all of those skills and more and you'd be… kind of stupid not to pick it up.

CD + Digital
The Soul Free Riddim [Bombrush Records]

That guy from TOK and his Bombrush Records imprint are back with their first creation since their last one, and arguably the best they've ever done, the GORGEOUS Soul Free Riddim. Along with the cover, which is delicious, the track itself is a gem and it is given to a variety of talented vocalists who make the absolute best of it. Of course there's TOK, but they have a tune alongside Gentleman [BOOM!], Gyptian, Munga Honourable, Lutan Fyah, EscoJamelody and Wayne Marshall also show up for what proves to be an excellent riddim showcase.

Digital
{Note: The tracklist of the Soul Free Riddim may be incorrect, so be sure to check clips if you purchase individual songs}
"Soca In A Flash" [Faluma]

Biggup Scrappy ["Dust de ash! Dust de ash!"] [BOOM!] and that giant annual Bajan Soca compilation for, collectively, letting everyone know that Faluma is still in business and it's time for that compilation (which I'm pretty sure always has something to do with Blood). These things always have two-thousand songs on them (thirty-two this year), so it cannot help but have something for virtually everyone on some level or another and this year, obviously is not any different from prior years on that. Blood stars, as do Peter Ram, Hypasounds, reigning Road March champion, Mikey (with 'Ready Again', which is just RIDICULOUS!), Paula Dion and even Contone. Who would have thought that all these years after his car notoriously broke down, Contone would STILL be doing mad work?! A very nice set here.

Digital
The Selassie I Way Riddim [Israel Records]

BOOM! A big credit goes in the direction of Israel Records for delivering the classy Selassie I Way Riddim, which is probably the best of its kind in this post today. This HEAVY modern composition plays a perfect backdrop for some excellent Roots music from some of the best of the day. Most notable is 'Fly Di Gate', a MASSIVE combination featuring Tarrus Riley alongside Kabaka Pyramid, but Chronixx also features as does Zebi Lion, Pressure Busspipe, Lutan Fyah, Kelissa with the riddim's title track and the monstrous Jah9 who, as usual delivers a lyrical master class with her 'Divine Government'. An easy one - not to be missed.

"Jah is I sword and shield
Haile [!] give I everything I need
HIM alone is rightful divine government
Yes Jah, trod this earth as flesh
As the evidence of life conquer death
HIM alone I livity must represent

The final frontier, the real battlefield is within our consciousness
The prize to be won, the victory to be gained is within our heart!
THE LOVE WE REFLECT, THE HATE WE REJECT IS TESTAMENT TO WHETHER THE MOST HIGH IS PRESENT
And reigning on the throne!
Or if the enemy convince us we can go it alone

When Jah is I sword and shield
Haile [!] give I everything I need
HIM alone is rightful divine government
Yes Jah, trod this earth as flesh
As the evidence of life conquer death
HIM alone I livity must represent

HIM MEK ALL OTHER GOVERNMENT - IRRELEVANT -
Irrespective of material things
All other church and state - will have to abdicate
In the presence of The King Of Kings
The war we have to fight is for truth and rights -
The chains of oppression will be breaking
No weapon could stand a chance
With Haile Selassie I leading the advance!
The truth of I plan
The strength of I hand -
Are granted by The Mercy
Forgiveness from wrong and salvation are granted by The Grace
CONFUSION BECOME CLEAR, ILLUSIONS DISAPPEAR AND THE MORE I GET TO KNOW OF HIM
Revelation now has been made!
Cause I have seen HIS face!

And Jah is I sword and shield
Haile [!] give I everything I need
HIM alone is rightful divine government
Yes Jah, trod this earth as flesh
As the evidence of life conquer death
HIM alone I livity must represent"

Digital
The Broke Life Riddim [Larger Than Life Records]

Larger Than Life Records is back again with the very familiar Broke Life Riddim for 2013. The excellent, bouncy and somewhat old school composition may be recognizable to your ears because it carried the very clever 'Gimmi Di Ting' by Delly Ranx, which appeared on his stellar 2012 album, "The Next Chapter" ["Gimmi di, gimmi di , gimmi di - di same thing you Mother give yah Father"] and that tune appears on the riddim's features along with others from the likes of Bobby Hustle, Pressure Busspipe, Gappy Ranks, Jah Sun and Exco Levi. Very nice. 

Digital
The Magnet Culture Riddim 

Bobby Hustle also finds a place on the solid Magnet Culture Riddim from part time producer, vocalist and racecar driver, Matthew Gore and Tragedy Entertainment. Gore, himself, also pushes a tune on his own track and does decently with 'Time For Us To See'. Thunder Storm also appears as does, most notably, Laden and Sizzla Kalonji. Not every tune here has me amazingly excited, but there is good material, so check out the Magnet Culture Riddim from Tragedy Entertainment for yourself today. 

Digital 
The Dancing Machine Riddim [Evidence Music]

Evidence Music, Little Lion Sound and the wonderful people at Weedy G Soundforce all team up to give up the infectious old school Dancehall vibed Dancing Machine Riddim. It is Weedy G's, of course, which is most familiar and they almost always do excellent work and this latest track is no different. Any time you can get TWO songs from Wayne Smith, you know you have something potentially special and they don't stop there. Also appearing on the track are Mikey General, Spectacular, Skarra Mucci and Echo Minott. But to my early opinion, it may just be the burgeoning Triba taking top honours here with his scorching 'Killing Machine'. 

Digital
The Hs Riddim [Gwada Independa Recordz]

Tiwony, Cali P, Straika D and Slikee lead a strong pack of vocal talents who all (or mostly) make a proper usage of Kultcha B's colourful and downright hypnotic Hs Riddim. This thing exists somewhere between Dancehall, Pop and maybe even Soca at times which, obviously, makes for quite a few fun moments and an outstanding pickup if you're looking for something a little lighter. 

Digital  
'Life of A King' by Lutan Fyah [Grillaras Productions]

And finally is a tune from an album which we alluded to a week or two ago [I THINK] as Lutan Fyah has linked up with the fine Grillaras Productions to do a new tune, which is a nice one, 'Life of A King'. More importantly, however, the chanter is also reportedly working on a full album with the label of the same name for some time later this year and it may include a combination with  the scalding Chronixx (… which is excellent, but is there anyone else REALLY hoping that they do a Lutan Fyah/UT Ras tune???!). If you have not been paying a good attention to him, Lutan Fyah has been quietly having another big year in 2013 and its crowning jewel (or at least one of them, there's also an I Grade album still forthcoming) may not be too far off now. 

Digital

Also: "More Love" by Little Hero"Be Careful" by Matthew McAnuff

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Rewind!: "The Order of Melchezedik" by Chezidek

"The Order of Melchezedik" by Chezidek [JahSolidRock]
Now, finally, we get to take a look back at an album which I've been meaning to get back into for awhile now as one of the sitting best albums of the year thus far and one which is all kinds of interesting for so many reasons. A few years back, impressive vocalist Chezidek would link with Dutch label, JahSolidRock, and produce the single best album for artist and label in "Judgement Time", which has been deemed a modern classic on these pages. It was just an outstanding release and, again, I now hold it as the best piece of work of his career. But so many times something like that happens, it's the last link. And we're now sitting around waiting for some artist to work with some label again and we'll be waiting for the rest of our lives because THAT will never happen again. THIS, however, was a different story as clearly both artist and producer realized that, in each other, they had potentially found a goldmine of vibes, so THANKFULLY the musical union manifested again in an album which had something serious to live up to and did so without problems. Today we go back and take a look at one of the single best albums of 2013 and another step forward for a powerful pairing and Rewind! "The Order of Melchezedik" by Chezidek. 
#1. 'All My Life'

"All my life - in all my days
The joy of my heart is to give Rastafari praise
Put down that burden
Ease that pain
I & I trodding Rastafari way

Mighty Jah, I King who make all good things possible
To be alone, I call when my heart is in trouble
Keeper of my soul, Jah is in control
All ye weary souls - Rasta door is wide open
The love of Jah so great
Trod up and keep the faith
No time to contemplate or linger no more
Exalt Jah name!
For He is worthy!"

The lasting impression that the opener of "The Order of Melchezedik" has made, at least for me, is just how FUN and inviting the tune is. Presumably, because of the nature of the piece, you wouldn't automatically think of such a creation conjuring up terms like "fun", but that is what leaps into the forefront of my mind each and every time I hear it these days. Why exactly? First of all is just how immediately pleasing it is. As [I THINK] I said originally, this tune is a perfect one to begin the album because it really draws you in and it just sounds remarkable -- it sounds like something which would have fit on the "Judgement Time" album -- and furthermore, Chezidek sings it in a way which almost seems like he's smiling through the entire track. And really he does it in a way that you would imagine someone would while singing about the "joy of my heart", which is praising His Majesty. BOOM! 

#2. 'All My Life' Version
JahSolidRock then serve up an instrumental version of the album's first tune, 'All My Life', and it's golden. It is an absolutely lovely composition and something which, as we saw on "Judgement Time", is clearly a staple of theirs. To my opinion it really helps to showcase and define the music and just how much work went into not only writing and singing these songs, but also perfecting them, musically, down to the most minute of details. This thing could have went on for about three hours and I would not have complained at all. 
#3. 'Faya Pon Dem'

In retrospect, 'Faya Pon Dem' may just be one of the sweetest brutal songs that I have ever heard in my entire life (another good one like that is 'Annihilation' by I Wayne and Icoflamez) ["TOTAL ANNIHILATION! Straight to the morgue I ah send dem!"] [WHAT!]. On one side, it is delightful! The vibes of this song at least match the best work of Chezidek's entire career and, as a listener, it just makes you feel good. HOWEVER, it comes through beneath the 'umbrella' that is the singer is… kind of pissed off. He's clearly exhausted of evil people plying their evil trades and he's long passed the idea of reform and rehabilitation and is ready to wash them all away in an unforgiving stream of flames. But, again, if you listen through 'Faya Pon Dem' in a cursory and casual way, you may not get all of that, but what you will get is something still damn impressive (and an instrumental of this one would have been LOVELY!). 

#4. 'Search and You Will Find'

… Through my first spin of "The Order of Melchezedik", the tune which took top honours is the one which still does that for me, the MAMMOTH 'Search and You Will Find'. I now consider this one somewhat of a 'prequel' to 'All My Life'. On that tune Chezidek spoke about reveling in this greatest joy in the world, the love of His Majesty, but here we find him talking about how you arrive at that point. The most compelling aspect of the song, for me, is that lyrically Chezidek suggests that what is being searched for is already owned, and perhaps even inevitable if the right steps are taken: 

"IT IS SOMEWHERE THERE INSIDE"

"THERE IS NO PLACE THAT YOU CAN HIDE" 

This is just BEAUTIFUL writing and when you take that concept and develop within a downright ROYAL riddim which is what you find here, you have a song well on its way to being a classic and its journey there won't be a long one! DAMN! 

#5. 'Rain Come Falling'

'Rain Come Falling' is just a fascinating piece of work and one which definitely hasn't left my thoughts from the first time that I dug into it. I now look at it just a bit different from the way I first did, but essentially the same. To my opinion, the idea of "rain" isn't an inherently negative one. When you look at a song like this which talks about things such as "rain" and "dark clouds" and "thunder", metaphorically you almost naturally think the writer is talking about something bad and the mood of the song is also somewhat slower and moribund (WHAT! Yes, I just successfully used the word "moribund" in a sentence!) (…at least I think that I did) and somber, but I do not actually think that this was intended to be a sad song because the "rain" is something to be respected and even loved at times -- the farmer, obviously, loves the rain -- and instead it really is a commentary on life: The good and bad.

#6. 'Jah In Our Heart'

"It'll always be a fight
If you really wanna reach the heights
You keep on pushing -
For whatever you're looking - it won't come over night
Are you wiling to pay the price?
To make that sacrifice?
You work til you're dripping
You can't be quitting 
Find that overdrive!
As long as you're living you can make it happen
Trust in Jah and keep on doing your thing

Jah in our heart! 
Everything is possible 
Whatever you want, you can accomplish
Victory from the start- 
Only with self-confidence
Whatever you want is already given

It's no easy road
Babylon make life so difficult
Inna mental prison and you just can't get out
THE DOOR IS OPEN AND YOU STILL CAN'T STEP OUT
Wiseness and knowledge!
Jah give I the courage 
TROD FURTHER THAN THEIR BOUNDARIES
King Selassie I never give up!
Marcus Garvey never give up! 
IF YOU DOWN, YOU BETTA GET UP
Can't hold back Jah powers -
Like a river damn ah buss!"

#7. 'Tumbling Down'

BOOM! I definitely enjoyed 'Tumbling Down' from the very first time that I heard it, but I now have an even greater appreciation of it these days. Besides the wonderful and fairly self-explanatory sentiments expressed here, what you simply cannot overlook in regards to this tune is that riddim! I mean… it's one of the best on the album, without question, but I think it ranks even highly beyond just a one record. It's fantastic and Chezidek, for his part, doesn't disappoint on the moment and serves up an incredible tune to go with the madness behind it. 

#8. 'One Family'

While 'One Family' may actually be the best written song on the whole of "The Order of Melchezedik", it is also one of those rare cases where what takes precedence and seems to stand out most are those lyrics, which can kind of overwhelm something else very nice with this song. 'One Family' has this great simplicity to it which actually, at least at some points, can fuel those lyrics. The middle portions of this song are SUBLIME and are so, partially, because you hit this point where delivery doesn't seem to be a priority and you find Chezidek sitting there saying what he has to say. It sounds like nothing special, I'm sure, but if you've heard this song, I'm sure that you know precisely what I'm talking about - an amazing song!  

"When they call for mercy, do you hear?
Or do we only love those who are near"

#9. 'Plant A Tree'

Next, Chezidek tells us all to 'Plant A Tree' and do our own parts, respectively, in beautifying the world. At  the same time he finds a way to scold those who have harmed it as well and what eventually happens is that this song becomes a very diverse and complex social commentary specifically dealing with the environment specifically. This song wasn't one which seemed to get a great deal of attention and when I heard it I didn't think that it would, but if you've tuned it in completely, you don't need someone like me to tell you how good it was… though I don't mind doing it anyway

"How will it work?
The green paradise dem turn inna desert
No water
They robbed the earth of all the greenness that cover
Will we prosper?
The fertile soil and the wetlands --
Now turning into landfills
The rivers and the mountains now running down inna little stream
When  the sun get hotter, to the highest degree
TELL ME WHERE YOU'RE GONNA RUN TO, TO FIND A LITTLE SHADY TREE!"

#10. 'Praises To Jah'

As the album's first single, 'Praises To Jah' has well gone onto become one of the biggest and best regarded tunes from it and even if it were another song buried amongst the rest, not given the slightest bit of the spotlight, it would have still earned such acclaim. The song is nearly perfect and, as another praising piece, it is quite distinguishable from other similarly vibed pieces on the record. This one has more of an edge to it. While I wouldn't necessarily call it 'aggressive', I don't think that it is far from it either and a better word would be 'confident' (more on that later) and that confidence comes pouring through on a nearly perfect creation.

#11. 'Hail Up The Roots'

And finally, Chezidek brings us all together with the wonderful 'Hail Up The Roots'. Here, the vocalist takes a trip and takes all of his listeners with him throughout current Afrika and its history as well. The song, obviously, was made with a dual intent as it not only brings up a whole heap of knowledge, but it also is music to make you feel good and be encouraged and be proud as well. It does all of those things and more.

#12. 'Rootical Reprise'

The 'Rootical Reprise' keeps the vibes of the previous tune going and though it isn't an instrumental, it is, arguably, something even more. It's a fun track to listen to and seriously adds to the overall enjoyment of listening to "The Order of Melchezedik". 
So, if you have yet to pick up the latest release from the well impressive and reliable Chezidek, "The Order of Melchezedik" (what is taking you so long?!) you're really running out of excuses not to. Looking back now, as I alluded to, I think a large piece of the attraction to this one is just how well it is presented and that is something which is unique to great artists. In my mind, you do not (or you should not) sing about loving your woman in the same way you sing about giving praises and the ills of society and protecting and defending the land. There should be some difference in tone and delivery and emotion, but that's not always the case and with someone who has such an organically unusual style that Chezidek does, it isn't something that you always notice, but this collection of songs is a master class of how it should be done. If you pay a good attention - you'll notice it here and you'll also notice a release which is, easily, one of the year's finest and a more than fitting followup to a magical album.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Vault Reviews: "Aneed" by Midnite

Carry on. Aside from something we talked about not too long -- that being the actual gifts of the supremely talented musicians -- there is another very fascinating group of individuals who have such characteristics which can basically 'save' almost anything that they do and make it some kind of interesting. When you do something so much better than everyone else or so unusual that it isn't actually dependent upon you being in or even near a fine form, this makes virtually everything that you do of note and, at least on the surface, makes it all worth hearing on some level or another. Of course the greatest example of something like this would be someone like Jah Cure. The Cure could go and sing out the schedule for his day if he wanted to. He could merely sing/hum along with the riddim. He could sing absolute gibberish. He could do all of that and it would still be interesting because his is the greatest voice anyone has ever heard and you want to hear him doing stuff with it. Someone else like this would be Perfect Giddimani. His unpredictability and full-on volatility at times make hearing what he does, consistently, very necessary because I don't think he could change his style these days even if he wanted to. Busy Signal would be another in that same manner because you simply do not know what he is going to do and you could even add in Aidonia, with what he is capable of with the spoken word. And you'll notice that I do not mention people such as Sizzla Kalonji and Lutan Fyah and others because they have to be in that great form for what they do best, lyrics in both cases, to be apparent. Jah Cure sings like Jah Cure all the time. You never know what Perfect or Busy will do with a tune and on any track, the lyrical volcano that is Aidonia can erupt without notice. While these traits do not always guarantee quality (and I don't even consider myself a fan of Aidonia's anymore and am far less of one of Jah Cure's these days than in previous times), nothing does that, what they can do is to make sure that these particular artists get paid attention to by many fans, if for no other reason that just because we want to see what happens next. Obviously someone else who readily belongs to that pack would be Midnite frontman Vaughn Benjamin whose skills with the written word has TOWERED over anything anyone might point to as a deficiency in his style for his entire career. 

And you'll hear a lot of that. You'll even hear it from me. Absolutely no one is above critique (some of us, however, may actually be BELOW compliment, on the other hand) and the ones that you'll generally hear in regards to Benjamin is that he can be cryptic, his music certainly is not the most immediately pleasing -- he isn't very melodic -- and, as someone who has attempted to transcribe pages and pages of his lyrics, he definitely has a tendency to mumble at times. However, what endures is his incomparable writing. A bonafide genius, Vaughn Benjamin writes songs which are just unlike anything anyone else is doing and has ever done in the history of Reggae music. So, as you can tell, while I am enjoying a great deal of his output these days and will continue to ("Seek Knowledge Before Vengeance" will probably be the next Midnite album we deal with) - listening as much as I have been, I have ran into less than stellar material (a lot of it is to be found on the "Current" album, if you're wondering) which remained compelling because of what was being said. 

And THAT was my initial main interest in an album Vaughn Benjamin did back in 2006 (I actually think it released in 2007 though) by the name of "Aneed". This was an album which, on the surface a lot going for it (outside of a gorgeous cover), but it did/does present an opportunity to hear more of his work. And I won't even wait to tell you this, "Aneed" isn't Benjamin's best work, it isn't even close, but again, you want to hear what this man says next. However, with that being said, it certainly wasn't devoid of fascinating circumstances. The most interesting of them all is surely the fact that, out of any album, this was a VAUGHN BENJAMIN album. It says "Midnite" on the cover and that's what we call it, but out of all the albums which carry the tag but really just mean the group's lead, "Aneed" did it on a level unlike anyone that 'they've' ever done. Why exactly?! Benjamin would have help here from Donny Dread, whose Groundbreaking Records imprint would actually do the album and a hand as well from Laurent 'Tippy' Alfred of I Grade Records (biggup I Grade)… and that was about it. Everything else on this album, writing, arranging, instrumentation -- all of it -- Vaughn Benjamin would be involved in it. The result, presumably, was a set which was ultimately very personal to its creator and one which still stands out to this day because of that. As for he label, while Groundbreaking wasn't the most active in its time, they did make a nice contribution as, along with "Aneed", they would also do an album for Donny Dread himself in "Set De Pace", "Nah Go Like Me" from yet another highly talented female artist from out of the VI, Nubian Natty, and probably most noteworthy, Dread and company would release the second and strongest album for the outstanding Xkaliba (who it would be really nice to hear from), "Baptized In The Ghetto" (more on that in just a second). So they definitely did fine work and while I don't know if they still make music, they left a nice impression on fans. But while Groundbreaking Records didn't do the single best Midnite album anyone had ever heard, they did make a decent one and one which, in retrospect, has aged better than expected. Let's talk about it.  
Something that "Aneed" shares with an album we wrote on not too long ago, "Thru & True", is the very strange tracklist for this album. There're thirteen tunes in total and nearly all of them have single-word titles. In fact, there are only sixteen words in full used on the titles of these songs. Now, that means absolutely nothing, not a damn thing, but it well catches your attention when you run down the list. Also sure to get you looking in its direction is the opener of "Aneed", which just happens to also be its best song, the all kinds of fascinating 'Ehlend'

"Claim seh dem tek away di earth from for I decadence and I brutality
For lecherousness and carnality
For lack of introspection and impurity 
And dem nah do no better, yeah who nah si
Who nah hear and who caan be
Connected in dem heart inter-rhythmically 
LOVE LIBERTY, BACCHUS AND CHASTITY"

BOOM! LISTEN to this tune, and I mean listen to it well, and what you hear is such a divine and veiled piece of complex social commentary and you know that no one else could pull such a tune. Also, it has a very nice sound to it and it stands as one of a few songs that no one else touched. Everything you here on this one is the work of Vaughn Benjamin. 'Due', which comes next is a song which I do enjoy and, of course, is very well written, but it stands out to me these days because of its sound. Nothing here is immediate, apart from Benjamin's kind of streaking raises of intensity, but this thing SOUNDS so nice. It's so simple and pleasing to the ear, but I don't think it is a quality which leaps out at the listener so if you're listening to it and think I'm just an idiot (you'll get no arguments from me on that), definitely don't pass a judgment on that song in particular on the first or second spin. 'Job' is another song which has an excellent sound to it, although in this case it is far more directly beautiful. Despite the sonic charms of this one, however, the real star in its case is what is said. 'Job' is a multifaceted praising song and with it, Benjamin accomplishes a ton of work that someone else may spend half an album worth of songs trying to do. 

Along with the opener, "Aneed" really contains three other songs which far set themselves in a different class of quality than the other material on the album and, coincidentally, they all come in succession here. First is the piece which has gone on to become, arguably, the most popular tune this album would produce, 'Precepts'. This is one lovely moment and if you listen to it, there's nothing which draws you in its direction more so than some of the more glaring pieces (aside from that downright unstoppable track behind it), but 'Precepts' makes its giant mark on the project. Speaking of leaving an imprint, next is 'Earth'. This song, personally, is a favourite of mine because of its riddim - carrying this selection is the same composition which backs the MAMMOTH 'Jah Rescue Me' ["I been praising Jah for so long! And I know Jah Jah never done me wrong!"] [BOOM!] from Xkaliba's previously mentioned "Baptized In The Ghetto" album, which was the best thing you'll find there and may also be one of the best two-hundred or so songs that I've ever heard. Benjamin does honour the track with another dazzling praising piece, but one which clearly has its feet rooted in the soil of the 'earth'. 

"Jah was the eye inna the belly of the earth
Jah was inna the outskirts of the iniverse
Forward of the inverse and reverse
Circle of impetus from sky to earth and sky to earth
Constant need of heart and silicone fire earth
IF THE CRUST SLIP OFF - WE HURT" 

And then is 'Jahlookova' which is pretty self-explanatory and another scintillating offering from 'Aneed'. Though it does well slow things down following its predecessor, if you go deeper on that tune you well find some kind of 'hidden' fire. And I'm also tempted to include in this lot a later offering by the name of 'To Live'. This one is very Jazzy and just cool and what I really like is how Benjamin's vocals kind of meld themselves to the nature of the song. As I said before, that isn't something which is always the case with his music (sometimes you literally wonder if he hears the track at all), so to hear it on a level where it is nearly perfect is definitely worth mentioning as the chanter espouses on everything necessary to walk the planet with health and pride. 

As for the remaining material from "Aneed", there is another three tunes which stand out amongst them, although in a different way (writing in threes today, apparently, after I finish this, I'll have three more to talk about). 'Aneed', the song, is one whose riddim makes it attractive (featuring a FINE guitar played by Benjamin), but not exceptional. This is one of those rare cases where you have to respect a song for what it is - brilliant - but you know the man has better moments which're similar and even has some of them on this same album. And also check the two closing pieces, 'Airful' and 'Keep Yure Love'. The former is nearly golden as, very cleverly, Benjamin uses a term and really fills it with 'air', as in 'life'. This is one of those pieces which is candy to an over-thinker like myself because it leaves points for you to arrive at your own conclusions, but what I take from it in due course is that it is a running observation of life. And I'm still working on it so I wouldn't be surprised if I continue to (and you know I will) that it rises to be a favourite for me as well. 'Keep Yure Love' is a bit less subtle (and that guitar there is fantastic also), but well solid as well and becomes far more interesting, musically, as it progresses. This is the song which features the work of Tippy Alfred and, as a piece of music, it contains every bit of the CLASS for which his label is known. 

And wrapping up the album is another trio of tunes (I told you) which are not amongst the best work of "Aneed", but still are worth hearing for some aspect, 'Chapta', 'Jai' and 'Tri'. It is definitely 'Jai' which is the best of them, but both it and 'Tri' really go back to the premise of my review - they're songs which you listen to and can enjoy, but largely because you just love to hear what Vaughn Benjamin has to say. They are not very sonically pleasing songs. For its part, 'Chapta' is probably the changeup from the album, with its very peculiar track and it does have some redeeming quality which is to be found, most shockingly (not really) in it is lyrics.  
Vaughn Benjamin
Overall, were I to compile my top twenty favourite Midnite albums, "Aneed" wouldn't be listed and if I got to thirty without mentioning it, I wouldn't be too surprised either, but it even if ranked around thirty-five or so (and it might), it would be very solid in its spot. Apart from the allure of just listening to what he has to say and enjoying an album in whose creation Vaughn Benjamin would play such a major role, the music here was sufficient. You have those moments, definitely, four of them in particular (maybe five, because each time I spin 'Airful' I think about going back and added to the earlier row of songs before remembering that I'm entirely too lazy to do that right now), but essentially, the album exists as thirteen MORE displays of such an unbelievable talent and one which, obviously, need not even approach its absolute pinnacle to still do fine work. 

Rated: 3.50/5
Groundbreaking Records
2007
CD + Digital

Review #457

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"Rise" by Righteous

"Rise" by Righteous [Jah Light Records]

If you haven't been paying attention (shame on you), Jah Light Records continues to discover and cultivate some of the finest burgeoning Reggae talents from out of Trinidad and, following the likes of King Solomon and Matthew Greenidge, the label is back with their latest big find, Righteous. Presumably with a whole heap of work ahead of him Righteous, who just began singing professionally last year has already advanced to the point where Jah Light is comfortable placing a considerable amount of faith in his skills and are doing so, officially, with his forthcoming five-track EP, "Rise". Just last year, JLR took a similar route with the well-received "Worthy To Be Praised" from the aforementioned King Solomon and "Rise" should also serve as a fine and very fitting introduction of their latest future star to fans. Today we take a brief look at what you can expect from the EP when "Rise" reaches stores next week. 


#1. 'Rise Up'

According to his bio, Righteous' musical background and influences are channeled through a more traditional Gospel scope and that is apparent on the very first tune on the EP, which is also its definitive highlight in my opinion, 'Rise Up'. This is just a BEAUTIFUL praising tune from the vocalist and is a sterling display of his curious talents. Righteous is basically a chanter, but definitely not in the more standard application of the term. He is more of a singing chanter (somewhat in the manner that someone like a Fantan Mojah would be) and he uses this style to a great effect of blending styles and emotions, making for a powerful display.

"Dem coulda, dive under mountain dat a weigh a million ton
But Jah gwan move it by the flick of HIS thumb
Pick dem up and gwan pass dem judgment 
And put dem inna hell fi receive yuh punishment
Fyah blaze, fyah bun, fyah bun dem reverently -
Fi  all dem sin and iniquity" 

#2. 'In Your Grace'

The very first thing that you're likely to know about the second  track on "Rise", ‘In Your Grace', is that GORGEOUS piece of riddim which backs it. That is the best track I hear on the whole of this release and, thankfully, Righteous doesn't let it go to waste in any way because 'In Your Grace' is another big effort giving thanks to The Almighty. This one is a bit more personal than the opener -- almost coming off like we're listening to a prayer from Righteous -- which gives it a very interesting aspect and, I don't know if I mentioned it .. But DAMN that track is nice! 

#3. 'Don't Wanna Be Without You'

'Don't Wanna Be Without You' is the first of  two consecutive different songs here I appreciate the idea of introducing Righteous and then giving a nice display of his versatility. Surely, we don't know what is going to become of him as a musician, he's very much just starting out, but this love song is not a bad one at all and is actually substantially better than 'average' in my opinion. 

#4. 'Let's Go Dancing'

… and this one is just delightful. 'Let's Go Dancing' is even more colourful than the piece which precedes it and you really get the impression that Righteous had a lot of fun in recording it. The old school vibed track is absolutely infectious and it wasn't something that hit me immediately, but as it approaches its mid portions, 'Let's Go Dancing' becomes this well solid and captivating selection which was clearly intended to get feet tapping and head bobbing. Mission accomplished. 

#5. 'Reflections'

And finally, we end things with what seems to be a personal social commentary from Righteous and, arguably, is the best written song you'll find here, 'Reflections'. I kind of read more into this composition (because that's just what I do) and what I took from it is that it is directed at people who infuse a great amount of negativity and violence in the world and do it at a price of hurting those who are exactly like them and from the same surroundings. He goes a step further in the latter stages and seems to deal with the psychological aspects behind making the decisions to do these terrible things and I do appreciate how Righteous eschews the well traveled and… TIRED road of saying something like "things need to change". Instead, he acknowledges that is already a given and takes the next push ahead by saying "things need to change - and YOU need to change them". Big tune and I'm looking forward to listening to Righteous over the next few years. 

"Rise" by Righteous via Jah Light Records is in digital stores on July 30th

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Vault Reviews: "Treasure" by Midnite

Distinguishing. When you make 'message music' and particularly a style such as Roots Reggae music, I think that you kind of measure something such as success differently than most artists from other genres tend to. On one side, it is your profession and one which you devote a great deal of your time to, in doing and in preparing to do, so you want to sell as many records as possible, you want to do as many tours as you can and you want as many people to show up to your shows as you can get, because that's how you make your living. On the other hand, if you are genuine to your craft, you also want your music to be heard by as many people as possible - you want your message to spread as wide and as far as it possibly can. Certainly there is a place where these two different types of accomplishments can meet and intertwine with one another and help each other as well. And a good example of someone who has well experienced both  would definitely be Vaughn Benjamin & Midnite. In their specific case, while commercial successes remain what they remain, as I've said in the past, one could very well make the case that, at least from the modern era, absolutely no one in Reggae music has developed as passionate of a fan base as Midnite. Though certainly the genre features stars who have far more supporters and are far more popular, no one stands out as having as loyal of a group as does Midnite, so whatever 'they're' doing in terms of spreading the word has been VERY successful and productive. Because they've released so many albums, one would think that they've also sold quite a bit as well (and you don't even have to assume that, you can be sure of it) and this is the case despite the fact that Midnite albums, routinely, aren't amongst the most well promoted -- some aren't promoted at all actually -- and I think that it has something to do with a label just kind of assuming that it will sell regardless of what they do. However, as we've seen in the past, despite not being a favourite amongst the Reggae media, Midnite can really do exceptional things when a record label actually tries to put some type of promotional tool behind them. 

When it comes to Midnite albums, of course, the best at routinely endorsing their work is and has really always been I Grade Records. Most recently we saw just how popular their 2011 set, "Kings Bell" would become and how it virtually forced people like me to discuss it (although in my case such a thing isn't very difficult, obviously) (and it wouldn't have been hard in that case, especially) (with an eleven foot, six-hundred pound tiger on the album) (I digress) and that was easily one of their best known albums ever. Not too long before that, however, after already releasing somewhere in the vicinity of around forty albums, VP Records FINALLY took an interest in the work Midnite was doing. Prior to that, save for very few moments, one of which was the MASSIVE explosion of Pressure Busspipe's dominant 'Love & Affection' tune from a few years earlier, which had made its rounds on a few VP compilations, VP Records had paid very little attention to Reggae music from out of the Virgin Islands. 

That all changed when they had a hand in doing the work for the "Treasure" album 2011. The album, reportedly, was the very first release on the VPAL distribution arm of VP Records. Today, given just how prolific VPAL is, that's a fairly large distinction and one which wasn't the final link (the most recent Midnite album, right now, "Be Strong", is a product of it as well) between the two. Speaking of links, while "Treasure" was the first between Midnite and VP Records, it was the fifth between Benjamin and its creator, Rastar Records, which has, by far, been his most active of musical stops over the past half-decade or so. Since then, there have been three more albums and I'd probably be pretty shocked if 2013 came to its end without producing at least one more. Of them all "Treasure" is, by far, the most well known. If I recall correctly, not only did it receive a nice push by VP, but the label also seemed very happy to have Midnite within their ranks as well. A song from this album would appear on the "Biggest Reggae One-Drop Anthems" album for 2011 (which was absent in 2012 and which they should really resurrect this year, even if it is just on one disc) and it was even the very first song on that album. They also did singles, if I recall correctly, and if you look into albums from around the same time such as "Momentum", "Ark A Law", "Anthology" and even "What Makes A King?", which was and remains a popular album, almost all of them generated less of a buzz than did "Treasure", despite the final two being legitimate Midnite albums, a quality which has, unsurprisingly, proven to be a very one attractive to their fans. Furthermore, even if you go back further and ahead as well, you won't find too many Midnite albums which are as well known amongst more casual fans than was "Treasure" and, as I always say, say what you will about VP Records, but a BAD promotion job from them tends to be considerably better than a GOOD one from almost everyone else (excluded in that would be I Grade Records - I might even go as far to say that "Kings Bell" was even more popular than "Treasure" was in their times, respectively) in the genre. They really know what they're doing there and it was very interesting to see them active over a Midnite album with the two having run virtually parallel to one another for so long and FINALLY crossing over. Interestingly, however, while "Treasure" was definitely popular, it wasn't as highly regarded for its quality as one might think and I've personally always held it as a decent album, but not even as good some of the other Midnite/Rastar pieces. While I do still think that the union has produced better work, as is typically the case in our current running look back at the work of Midnite, "Treasure" was better than I was giving it credit for being. Let's  talk about it. 
Rastar Records
Fittingly, as far as Midnite albums go, "Treasure" was one which was rather accessible to my ear. 'They' have certain idiosyncrasies which will likely always prevent them from falling too far inside the 'mainstream' (like occasionally completely ignoring a riddim), but this album was melodic and very pleasant to listen to on their own scale. Speaking of "pleasant" on the ears, the very first two selections on "Treasure" are outstanding examples of precisely what I mean, 'Treasure' and 'Negus Is Peace'. The title track from this album is SPECIAL and has become a definitive highlight from the record named after it. 

"What kinda meditation babylon and dem a unda?
Seem as if you haffi convince dem fi love demself Jah
Wah dem ah talk bout 'Sufferah' inna di earth a weh you live yah 
Earth inhabitant and dem is getting nervous hand
Microwave and fiber-optic colourless and without order
EVEN VEGETARIAN FOOD RIGHT NOW IS A GAMBLE FI EAT YA
Before dem go put di blue coloured water pon marijuana"

This is a HUGE social commentary with a spiritual heart, which you can literally say about hundreds of Benjamin's songs, but still this one manages to stand out amongst the pack. For its part, 'Negus Is Peace' "Is Beautiful" - and is a major praising tune. What I most like about this one is how wonderfully it works with the nature of it all. This is a peaceful and very non-stressed composition and Benjamin uses it to go on to draw connections between PEACE as an experience and other things such as intelligence and joy. Though a lasting moment from this album which has done well, I do think that is an aspect of it which has been somewhat lost on listeners. Next is another very beautiful offering in 'Yield Turn Out'. This is just… call it quintessential work of Vaughn Benjamin. It is a fully brilliant metaphor-latent educational moment which presents some blindingly beautiful moments ["ONLY THING DEM CREATE IS A CLINGING MAGNET OF NEGATIVITY"] [WHAT!] [BOOM!]. And rounding out the first third of "Treasure" are the excellent 'Rastafari Now' and 'Germawi'. While the latter well does contain attractive moments and features (particularly the Jazzy saxophone which you hear 'roaming' throughout - credited to Edmund Fieulleteau), the former is a big favourite of mine as it finds Benjamin once again giving a scintillatingly clever praise to His Majesty. Again, I really do enjoy the simple nature of this song and how it never really gets too aggressive and fiery which isn't always a good thing, but works to a near perfection in this case. And to add to 'Germawi' (because I just had a large lock of the brain and probably listened to that song ten times consecutively - it is EXCELLENT also). 

The aforementioned tune from "Treasure" which began the "Biggest Reggae One-Drop Anthems 2011" album, 'How To Answa' is also a big winner here. This acoustic piece took a bit of time to grow on me and at this moment I'm sort of still working on it. I don't know what would have made them choose this song as, though a fine tune, it isn't the most sonically pleasing effort here, but perhaps the thought was in the way of serving up some more typical type of sound to see if it resonating with audiences and it did. The song is still a popular one. If I recall correctly, 'Know The Ropes' was a single from "Treasure" and this choice, on the other hand, is an obvious one. This was a gorgeous piece as was the drum-heavy album-closer 'Wise Mind', with which you might be familiar as well. That song… TEARS! You might also know the solid 'Humble Man' which utilizes an old riddim from Black Uhuru, for 'Conviction or A Fine' (which is a trait of several Midnite songs for Rastar as, I think, one of the label heads is family of a member of the legendary group). Still, when it comes to the highest heights this album has to offer, the TREASURE of "Treasure" - that song is a more obvious one. If you make five albums with someone (and then do three more), the least that you could do is to name about them and that is exactly what happened with the MASSIVE 'Rastar'

"The concept of world free-market of ideas -
They're retaking it
The magnet of money makes it feel impossible to regulate it
They study shoulder-to-shoulder with the cream of the affluent
The intellectual knowledge in your head, they said, is worth more than modest salary and rent
They said
To bribery and to coerce the brilliant 
TO COERCE THE BRILLIANT WITH EVIDENCE
Looking for their Einstein - among the dissidence
The one man that can swing the balance of everything
And give the roulette wheel a spin that give one nation the unfair advantage
Well life is a precious of unusual mystique
THAT'S WHY YOU HIKE OUT IN THE WILDERNESS - TO SEE IT
When it was the cures of medicinal you seek
AND SPEAK TO NATIVE ELDERS IN DOCUMENTARIES
Mutating nature of micro-germ culture -
Is information, not aggression you need
Better standard of living to the actuality 
They peep in your hand, through your psychology 
And reacting either negative or positively 
Forcing ones to CHOOSE DECISIVELY

I Rasta!
I Rasta!
I Rasta!

With particle physics in the heat in the scrutiny -
Of fearfulness of biotech, a plasma stem cell regenerated worse than the rest
TRYING TO HOLD OFF THE OTHER TEAMS IN THEIR NUCLEAR OLYMPICS
THEY FEAR ANOTHER CHAMPION WITH THE IDEOLOGY OF WICKEDNESS
THE FEARERS FROM GUNS AND BOMB WOULD LIKE TO REST
THE DEVASTATION COME IN THE NAME TRINITY"

DAMN! I literally want to tell you to not waste your time listening to the rest of the album - just to see. If you listen to 'Rastar' and you do not like it, this is not the album for you and neither are any of the other forty+ with the name "Midnite" on them. The tune which immediately follows that large moment, 'Gather Them In' is another stellar song, this one dealing with the unifying characteristics of Rastafari. This song is one where you need to really focus on what is being said because, in inimitable Vaughn Benjamin fashion, he has this way of tying things together so perfectly to the point where he goes on to the make the case that people are being "gathered in" without actually even realizing it! DEFINITELY get into the linguistics of that tune I also love how the riddim continues on well after the final vocals have been uttered on the track. And of the outstanding tunes on "Treasure", while I cannot say that 'Patience' is a favourite of mine, 'Youth Ope Ya' is quite good (especially the riddim) and  the other pair is BIG! Check the best of them all, the downright dominant 'Scientist Black'

"Send the scientist Black
Straight Black to the start human will, desire and emotion
These are the projected target-practice of human relation
THESE ARE THE OPENINGS THAT MAN WALK THROUGH FOR DOMINATION
These are the avenues and the ocean of dissemination 
Within the genetic continental drift of the nation
Must feed the light realignment and contemplation
NEW EMPIRES GIVE THE HERBS OF THE FIELD A STANDING OVATION
For blessing despite the ecological mess you made upon Iration

THE ANXIETY WAS LOCAL AND THE ANXIETY WAS GLOBAL
Fear of wealth-redistribution and a climb-down total 
Glutton and insults and demoralization
Not to mention worse out inna di public dominion
Fear of decline and fears of demotion
THEN A BLANKET OF COMFORT IS HIS MAJESTY'S EXAMPLE
Freed captives with their dignity and spoke reconciliation
Just like the basic model, human family Trinitarian"

Professor Benjamin opens his books and gives a history lesson which is not to be missed by anyone! The other tune, 'Got Heat' is this dramatic presentation of a lovely song which does take a minute to really get into, but is well worth the 'getting' to my opinion.  
Overall, though I do stand by my line of thinking that "Treasure" was a pretty good album, but the Midnite/Rasta Records union has produced better (like "Children of Jah"), perhaps this one was a very good project to receive the type of push that it subsequently has. It is very open and that is the case even lyrically. Sometimes really digging into what Vaughn Benjamin means on a song can be difficult and not something that I would think is much fun for newer listeners (and probably even some of the older ones also) and that isn't the predominant method of writing for this album. I would wonder if that was the intent, to make a more open album which was likely to be received by a wider group of people or if it just happened like that, but regardless of the inspiration (and I'm almost certain that Benjamin, himself, would say that it was HIS intent) what does occur with "Treasure" is that you do not have to dig for a very long time to 'find it'. And as someone who has dug and is still digging up more than a few buried artifacts of Midnite, I enjoyed it (though digging is something I enjoy as well). So, what we had here was an album which still stands out in the catalog of Midnite as being one of the most popular stops within and one which became a place where the commercially popular met the actually popular. Midnite has done better albums, but if you haven't dug this one up recently - it's probably better than you recall. 

Rated: 4.15/5
Rastar Records
2011
CD + Digital

Review #456