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

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
Know seh the beauty of your spirit, vitality of your body is fi him to the brim
Let the righteous sing out unto HIM, chanting ises til everlasting
Let the living houses of trumpet exalt and praises come out from within

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
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
CD + Digital 

Review #458

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