Monday, July 1, 2013

The Vault Reviews: "Tell It From The Heart" by Luciano

Feel it too. For many different reasons and in many different cases, there is a very nice and comforting group of artists who will never find themselves too far outside of what I'm listening to at any given time. Though I love to find and the process of finding new and interesting artists to listen to --  truly one of the greatest aspects of being an intense fan of music -- it's often just as fascinating and probably even more necessary to have ones that you can depend on and go to, almost always, for a certain type of vibes, depending on your mood. Personally, as you might imagine, I have more than a few, depending on what I may be going through and they're largely my absolute favourite people to listen to. For example, if I need something to kind of ignite my brain (which sometimes, can take a REALLY long time), without question I'm tapping Sizzla Kalonji, Lutan Fyah, Vaughn Benjamin and other ridiculously talented wordsmiths who make amazing songs which are extremely useful in provoking and activating thought. They're also who I'll go to if I find myself struggling in comprehending something (… like a Vaughn Benjamin song, for instance) - with the idea being that if I can successfully navigate my way through one thing, then coming back to the confusion will seem easier. On the full opposite end of that would be someone like Destra or Skinny Fabulous or Fay-Ann Lyons who make music which helps me to basically shut my mind down and just let an intoxicating instinct take over and run things. They don't provoke thought, they provoke a 'detached' level of sanity and I absolutely love their work as well. Someone else whose music well serves a purpose in my rotation is definitely 'The Messenjah', Luciano. Besides being someone whose mere presence in the music makes Reggae a much better place, the legendary vocalist makes a brand of Roots Reggae which is just so damn encouraging and inspirational and although I am someone who loves to think my way through things and break down lyrics and fragments of lyrics -- and that isn't the trademark of Luciano's music (though I do believe him to be a better writer than he is given credit for being by many) -- I will always make room for someone who, when at their best, can just make you feel so good and not too many people are better at that than Luciano. 

Throughout the years, if you dig through his album catalog, you will find some SPECTACULAR moments from Luciano and his projects tend to be amongst the very most well-regarded and popular that the genre has to offer. However, while on the higher end of his work would be albums such as his most recent, "Rub-A-Dub Market", "Where There Is Life" and my personal favourite, "Serious Times", he's also made quite a few others which are not as well-known and may not be (are not) as GOOD, but, because of his style and his ability to amazingly apply it - a Luciano who is not at his best can still be quite strong.
A good example of this would have been an album which reached a decade ago now by the name of "Serve Jah". This album was one of my personal favourites that he's done, but it wasn't as widely acclaimed as so many of his others and it still has slipped past many fans. So looking back to 2003 - if "Serve Jah", an album from VP Records, went overlooked (and it did), then what could have possibly been the fate of another album from the same year which wasn't, as you might imagine, wasn't as popular as "Serve Jah". Today we take a look back at an album which, at least for its time, I also probably skipped by just a bit, "Tell It From The Heart". Although lacking the kind of inherent promotional vehicle that "Serve Jah" had (and if I recall correctly, "Serve Jah" was a fairly well ran record as far as marketing) in VP Records, "Tell It From The Heart", retrospectively, was in pretty good hands. The album came via the Minor 7 Flat 5 label which had a very nice stretch of output and successes for a few years in the earlier 2000's which would include not only this album but others from the likes of Turbulence, Lutan Fyah (his debut album, "Dem No Know Demself"), Cocoa Tea, Horace Andy, Al Pancho, Anthony B and the likes. And though it would all eventually kind of wear on me because they had so many of the same tracks on so many of the albums, I used to REALLY enjoy their work and now, with time have taken care of quite a few things, I was happy to pop this album back on my radars maybe from two or three months ago now and, finally, give it a properly intense spin through. What I found was pretty much what I expected. "Tell It From The Heart", like almost all of the albums from M7F5 was very solid and predominately straightforward, but it did offer a bit in the way of twists and turns. Furthermore, like I said, even though it may not have featured a version of Luciano at his full best and wasn't to be remembered as one of his better albums (if I had a top ten list, I do not think it would make it on the list), it was still a very nice release and one which, after really tuning it in, I'm predicting will continue to grow in my opinion. As was the case with many of their projects, Minor 7 Flat 5, headed by the one Brotherman, featured a great deal of work and input from the mighty Al.Ta.Fa.An. (ten years later, still going very, very strong) who definitely helped to bring an intense level of class to their releases and when you team them up with someone such as a Luciano, you know that project, whatever it was, was literally brimming with class. So regardless of whether or not this was one of the singer's best albums, you kind of knew what to expect in terms of at least how good it could be. Did it live up to those expectations? Without question, but let's go deeper.

If you kind of envision in your mind what a Luciano album is 'supposed' to encompass -- all of the things that he typically does -- what you're likely to come up with is something really similar to what "Tell It From The Heart" turned out to be. It wasn't spectacular for the most part, but for all that it lacked in the way of those amazing and immediately attention-grabbing moments, it made up for in being consistent and entertaining. A good example, however, of what "Tell It From The Heart" could be in moments which were even better than "consistent" or "solid" was to be found in the album's first actual song, following an intro, 'Ends of Never'. As if anyone had a question regarding his faithfulness and loyalty, Luciano makes it crystal clear on this tune.

"I'll be loving Jah until the end of never!
And I'll be praising HIM and serving HIM forever!
I'll be loving Jah until the end of never!
And I'll be praising HIM and serving HIM forever!

And if some people could try to face reality -
Then they would overstand why, I've got this faith in me
I give my soul to Jah completely
Hallelujah - My future I can see" 

Easily one of the most memorable and identifiable selections on this album, 'Ends of Never' was big and it was my second favourite offering here altogether.Next was another fairly memorable moment in the form of Luciano's cut of M7F5's Campo Riddim, 'Babylon Go Down'. This was a decent (and self-explanatory) spiritually steered social-commentary and although I probably used to like it (and everything else on that riddim) a little more than I do these days, it's still a well done set and well worth hearing. Another of the pretty well known piece from "Tell It From The Heart" puts a bow on our opening - 'Another Moses'. I've kind of gone back and forth and up and down in my appreciation for this one, those these days (after focusing primarily on the latter stages of the tune) I'm in a good mood on it and I'm not complaining at all. 

As was the case with almost everything (if not everything) that Minor 7 Flat 5 did around the time, Luciano had a little help with "Tell It From The Heart", in the form of two pretty big combinations. The first of the pair was 'Freedom Train', which was a somewhat unusual, but ultimately strong pairing of former Xterminator residences as the tune linked The Messenjah with Turbulence. This tune was more dazzling than anything -- it had a very nice sound to it -- but it also brought the substance as well and the two made for a nice combination. And later there was the call for 'Peace', which linked Luciano with another pair of artists who also had albums for M7F5, the aforementioned Lutan Fyah and Taffari. As the Fyah proclaims in the early bits of the tune, "this is more than goodness!" and, looking back, here is definitely a track which never got the attention that it deserved. Of course Lutan Fyah and Luciano are excellent, but Taffari also shines brightly as he does… pretty much everything associated with Al.Ta.Fa.An. 

The three best songs on "Tell It From The Heart", at least in my opinion, are solo tracks, however. Along with my #2, 'Ends of Never', there's also the third best effort here, the golden 'Only Jah Knows'. Carried by  the equally gleaming Security Riddim, this ultra straight-ahead observation on the times was very subtle in many ways, but after a few spins through, it develops into this vibrant song which heads near the top of the entire album for me. At that head would definitely be the HUGE repatriation anthem 'Ethiopia'

"Ethiopia - here I come!
Mama Afrika - here I come
Ethiopia - here I come!
Mama Afrika - I'm coming over

I'm coming home to take my rightful place - under Jah sun
Make preparations oh ye mighty race

This tune here, alone makes "Tell It From The Heart" well worth hearing and something of interest (as if you needed something more than 'Luciano album') (and you didn't). I'm so happy that it sounds even better today than it ever has in my ears and I'm looking forward to it progressing to being some type of personal classic for me because it is that good. 'Bombs' was a better than average offering as was 'I Grow Up'. The second of these, especially, stands out most these days as it speaks on just going up into different and better stages in life and doing so and being able to do so because of the will of His Majesty. Although what really makes the song for me, I should say, is its passion. This doesn't feature a version of Luciano who is searing with emotion or bouncing around, but you almost get the feeling from the way that it is done that if you actually asked him, he might say that this was his personal favourite song on "Tell It From The Heart". The final and title track on the album certainly isn't a highlight for me, though I do appreciate it in a couple of ways. And rounding things out are a pair of songs which kind of represent kind of what happens to me these days in reference to some of the work from M7F5. 'Go[t] To Strive' is a song with absolutely nothing wrong with it. It surely is one of the better songs on this album and I don't even think that's questionable, but when I hear it what do I do? I get bits and pieces (biggup Lutan Fyah) in my head of another song and I sit and try to figure out what song I'm singing. In this case it is the MASSIVE title track from Taffari's "Break Down Babylon" (his second album , though if I recall correctly, both of his albums pretty much have the same songs on them), which is a better song than this one, but 'Go To Strive' is very good as well. The same could be said for the Gospel infused 'You Can Have The World' which is carried by the Immigration Riddim which actually had a few good songs including 'Black King' by Lutan Fyah and Jah Mason as well as Mark Wonder's 'Rasta', but the song I instantly began to sing when I hear it comes via Anthony B and… Taffari as the two teamed up for the excellent 'Rise Up' on the track as well. The chorus on that song is in the stars - it was beautiful, but Luciano also turns in a fine performance with 'You Can Have The World' (and, if you care, Al.Ta.Fa.An. has been pretty active in releasing riddim albums, so you can find a few of them, including the Immigration, rather easily these days). 
Overall, "Tell It From The Heart" was a better than decent release which I'm glad that we ultimately got around to digging into. The album hasn't aged the greatest in terms of its popularity, but the fact that it was what it was -- a Luciano album -- does help and will continue to. Also, in general, the run that Minor 7 Flat 5, as I mentioned, was just a very good thing in retrospect and it takes this long to kind of be able to look back on it and appreciate just how much ground they did cover in such a short time and while not every release was stellar, as a whole, the movement itself was exceptional while it lasted. When you have someone like a Midnite or a Sizzla Kalonji or Luciano who has put out so much work, it's often difficult to advance past that top level because it's just so damn good! But if/when you do, you can find many very useful projects like "Tell It From The Heart" which do not belong on top and are not on top, but are still packed with moments which fans like You and I can enjoy for a very long time. 

Rated: 3.55/5
Minor 7 Flat 5
CD + Digital

Review #452

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