Friday, December 6, 2013

'Stick Around': A review of "Hailelujah Song" by Mikey General

Accelerate. If ever I get tired of listening to certain people make music, then I'll know for sure that I've lost the remaining bits and pieces of my mind that I currently have left. There is just a wonderful group of artists of whom I don't think it is possible (and I hope it isn't) for me to get enough and, though they may or may not be the most active of names, particularly because many of them are at a very advanced stage in their respective career, I still hold a very special place for their output. Like??? In terms of popularity definitely the biggest of these names would be Beres Hammond and he'd probably be a constant fixture on any list like this from just about anyone. Hammond, in particular, makes music which doesn't really have a time. You can listen to specific aspects of the song, be it the riddim or even the tone of his voice and trace it to a particular timeframe, but if you later learn that the song was actually done a decade prior to when you thought, you aren't surprised. The man has taken the term 'classic' and removed it from the historical point of view and reinstalled it at one which is continuous and evolves each and every time he makes a new tune. Similar to Hammond would be Glen Washington. I may be relatively late to Washington's 'party', but even if you threw me out these days, I'd find another way back in. Similar to Hammond's case, Washington makes a brand of Lover's Rock and Roots Reggae which time travels. It can be from any era and for nearly any producer and it will come with a BOOMING amount of old school charm and delight and the absolute tear that man has been on over the past few years or so has been a large example of that. There's also Mark Wonder who, at least in my opinion, has spent the better part of the last couple of years making Roots music as good as just about anyone in the entire genre as a whole. And I'd also include the likes Yami Bolo and Ras Batch as veteran names who contribute so much to my personal listening habits and will likely do so for the foreseeable future. Another name who has been added to that lot in recent years as I've gotten older is definitely Mr. Mikey General.
ReggaeLand in 2012
The General makes a style of very BRIGHT, devoted and easy Roots Reggae music which has been illuminated and ignited in my eyes and ears in recent times and has really been a JOY to listen to. As far as music, in general, he's always remained fairly active (at least as long as I've been following, you've never went an extremely long time without hearing something new from Mikey General) and for albums, the last few years he's managed to do big things there as well. In 2010 (it really doesn't seem like that long ago, but it was), Mikey General brought forth the solid "Born To Rule" (biggup Khari Kill) and just last year, almost a year to the day, was the far more than solid "African Story, African Glory" which was probably one of the strongest albums the General has done to date in his career. Because of that, I would have been perfectly okay (not really) if he didn't reach with another new project for the next three or four years or so, but apparently he caught the attention of a wonderfully IMPATIENT source. 
Despite their name ReggaeLand doesn't seem to play around very much. If you followed Reggae music closely in 2012 (you had a WONDERFUL year!) surely you came across at least some of the work of a label by the name of ReggaeLand Productions from out of Spain (if you didn't, you did a really bad just with that "closely" part). The label made full albums from the likes of Chantelle Ernandez, Singer Jah, Malijah and, of course, Anthony Que with the splendid "No Fear No Man" ["Cause I've been giving Jah the praises all my life"] [WHAT!] [BOOM!] project. They just had a terrific year and they've also worked hard on keeping the momentum building in 2013 with a solid string of releases. Though there hadn't been a full album, ReggaeLand was responsible for nice riddims such as the Da Gong, High On Love and The Change, respectively, as well as singles from Ernandez and Irie Souljah (which is a pretty nice song by the name of 'Dem Nah Know', check it out) and other material as well. So it wasn't as if they just jumped up and had a big year and took the next year off and even if that was what you thought, now would be a good time to reconsider as ReggaeLand, presumably, wraps up 2013 with a BIG new album from Mikey General, who is singing a "Hailelujah Song"! In terms of name recognition, the General is probably the biggest one who has linked on an album with the label and I was pretty interested to see exactly how they arranged the promotion around this one. If I recall correctly (and I usually do not), ReggaeLand seemed to gradually pick up notoriety throughout the year and it has continued into 2013 as well which makes for a really good set of circumstances for the new album. Mikey General is someone who has not always been afforded such an opportunity, in terms of promotion, and I think what he'll receive this time around will be as good as any of his more recent releases. Apart from that, obviously, it hasn't been all quantity and no quality from ReggaeLand. Chantelle Ernandez' album for the label, "Gimme What's Mine" (which I should really review before the end of the year) was very well received and deservedly so while, as I said, Anthony Que put on a master class with his release and not incredibly far behind were Singer Jah and Malijah. But, with big results come big expectations and I was really looking forward to "Hailelujah Song". Mikey General has been making good music and so has ReggaeLand, so surely they make gooder (not a word) music together. Right?

Yes. That is right. "Hailelujah Song" very much follows the style of the work of Mikey General to date and is a project sure to please his longtime fans and should this be your very first album from the singer, you're also likely to find a whole heap of things you like. Check the album's opener, for instance, 'Roots Rocking Reggae'. On this song the General pays tribute to the pioneers and champions of the earliest stages of Reggae music and ReggaeLand underpins it with a sterling accompanying track.

"Roots rocking, roots rocking Reggae tonight
roots rocking Reggae music make me feel so nice

When I remember all the stalwarts who set di pace
They went through so much trouble and them I have to embrace
So many worked so hard
And they never get no reward
They spread the message - at home and abroad
Larry Marshall set it
U-Roy then make it
Techniques, Uniques and The Wailers -
And don't you forget it!

Roots rocking, roots rocking Reggae tonight
roots rocking Reggae music make me feel so nice

Some little hurry come up youths -
Ah gwan like dem waan diss the roots
And take di music inna disrepute
And to the elders dem no give no tributes
And if we follow their footsteps, then we will endure
And Desmond Dekker set it
And what about the great Alton Ellis?
John Holt, Slim Smith and Ken Boothe
A dem man deh make it!"

BOOM! The song glows and I was happy to hear it from someone like Mikey General who would have a perfect type of perspective on such a tune (to the point where he even mentions the great Larry Marshall). The second song on the album isn't one which I love, the decent love song, 'Inna Million Years'. It's an okay song and certainly doesn't drag down the album at all, with an excellent vocal performance from the General. The infectious 'No Follow Babylon' comes through next and rights the ship on "Hailelujah Song". This song is really just about people losing themselves in the world and losing their way and following more negative influences. The star, however, is a hard to forget delivery (which currently has my daughter singing "follow, follow, follow, follow, follow…") which dazzles. 'Early In The Morning' is another big effort of a tune about perseverance and hard work. This song kind of struck me as somewhat 'gloomy', initially, which is just odd coming from Mikey General who almost always seems to sing as if he is actually smiling while singing, but after a few more listens it kind of eased up and would eventually become a favourite of mine here. The riddim tracking the triumphant 'Word, Sound & Power' is a mighty one and the song which it carries is just as strong! This one is simply a call to action against the oppressors of the world, specifically, using the power of song and a song exactly like this one, in particular. A MAJESTIC piece of music.

Also quite royal is 'Only For A Time' which taps the same riddim which accompanied Anthony Que's LUSH 'Beautiful Mother Nation'. This song really deals with the mortality of all things, with one large exception, and it really celebrates it. It isn't at all a sad tune, but one which kind of seems to lift things up because you only have a short time to make the best of things. 'Rastafari Never Lies' keeps a similar sentiment going by establishing the only thing that you can depend on, at all times, is His Imperial Majesty. The riddim on this tune is a work of art and definitely something I'd love to hear more of (if I haven't already). I don't know very much of one Sr. Wilson from out of Spain, but he does do a fine job in joining the General on the only official combination on the whole of "Hailelujah Song", 'Harder They Come, Quicker They Run'. Wilson has a nice kind of old school Dancehall approach to him (at least on this tune) and the General also at times does here as well making for a well memorable and dynamic moment. The sublime title track is up next and it is a song which really made me reconsider things after I had, essentially, had what I thought would be my favourite song on this album tied up. 'Hailelujah Song' is MAMMOTH!

"When I recall -
All that Jah has done for me
I get so confused
Because it's so many 
Praise HIM cold and heat
Praise HIM fire and hail
Let every thing that breath praise the one who never fails
He never, ever lets us down
In time of need He's always around

This is my Hailelujah song
This is my Hailelujah song
And if you like it, you can sing along

His blessing is more than the hair that's on my head
More than I can count
It's better I praise HIM instead"

This piece gives a giant praising to His Majesty and it does not stop there. On the very next song on the album, the praises go up once again as Mikey General takes his turn on the aforementioned Change Riddim with 'Jah Will Be There'. That riddim definitely did have some fine material on it (including a combination featuring Ernandez alongside Joggo) (why not make a new album Joggo???) and the General's effort was amongst its very best in my opinion.

The final third of "Hailelujah Song" does feature THE song which is my favourite on the album as well as four other very nice pieces. Of those, check 'Wanna Be Happy' which certainly isn't the greatest song on the album, but it does grow on you just a bit. This song doesn't do anything particularly well, but is just a solid piece (although I would say that the riddim is pretty strong). 'Sort Out', on the other hand, is something far better than just "solid". It is a social commentary ["There's enough for the greedy, but not enough for the needy"] which is easily one of the finest efforts on this album. The tune is ripe with optimism and upfulness which just makes the listener feel good and is a fitting mood for this type of track. Apparently Mikey General fears no man either because he attempts the same riddim as Que does on the title track from his giant album on 'Let's Pass Love On'. Even if you tried to, I don't know if you could make a song on this track that I wouldn't enjoy in at least some way (and, I have to say that listening to this song FORCED me to go back and listen to the original song many times and it is still HUGE, if you haven't heard it still, correct that) (like right now) and that certainly does not happen as the singer calls for love to passed throughout the world. And, ultimately, "Hailelujah Song" comes to its end via the sentimental 'Won't You Forgive Me', which isn't a great song to my ear (although I do like this riddim when it develops) is more than made up for by the song preceding it, the MASSIVE 'King Selassie I Alone'. The song was a previous single from last year when it made a bit impression on me and a year and a half or so hasn't done a thing to diminish it at all. It's grown! On this album it stands out as the favourite and it's also, easily, one of the finest songs I've EVER heard from Mikey General altogether.
'King Selassie I Alone' [2012]
Overall, "Hailelujah Song" just strikes me as being a very COMPLETE project from ReggaeLand. It isn't the best album I've ever heard and it isn't the best Mikey General album that I've heard (although it may be close in that instance), but I don't know, for what it is, how it could have been any better. Maybe another combination or two, but the one which is here is very nice and with a duration of fifteen songs just shy of a full hour, you really get a thorough helping of Mikey General and his wonderful music. Because of that and because of its sound, "Hailelujah Song" is an album that I recommend to both newer and more experienced fans of the artist and genre alike. Here, ReggaeLand continues one magical ride (and I cannot wait to see what they have in planning for 2014) and we continue to see progression in a voice whose presence alone has made and continues to make Reggae music much, much classier. Very well done. 

Rated: 4/5
ReggaeLand Productions

Review #481

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