Tuesday, January 21, 2014

'Still Looking': A review of "Yah So Mi Deh" by Nereus Joseph

Rise again. Over the years we've definitely been privileged in the actual amount of truly good music that we've seen in Reggae music. Despite numerous complaints that the genre is dead and what are, reportedly, abysmal sales, if you are a music-focused fan of Reggae, you likely have very little in the way of grumbles about the quality of the music you've gotten recently (… unless you are old and crazy, in which case, just forget all of that). And in that excellent quality, you surely have your own personal highlights and standouts as far as particular projects and moments which, for one reason or another, are very difficult for you to forget. As far as albums (which is what we're doing today), I have dozens as you might imagine and what I really like are those very unexpectedly brilliant releases which just kind of slip in as something you thought to take a listen to and just dazzled you. Of course I could mention last year's all-conquering "New Name" by Jah9, but I'm thinking of something even more curious as I can't imagine Jah9 existing for a considerable amount of time and not drawing my attention. Someone like Anthony Que is an even stronger comparison as he was someone who, prior to 2012, I had known well of but was not particularly fond of as an artist. He would then go on to drop not one but a pair of GOLDEN releases pinnacled by one of the best albums I've ever heard, "Meditation Time". Under no set of circumstances would I have thought that Anthony Que would do that and it stands as a very powerful surprise in recent years for me. I also look at the work of someone like Mr. Vegas whose work, if you pay attention to Dancehall (and you do), was virtually inescapable in the past decade or so but had yet to make a fan out of me until he exercised all kinds of mighty common sense and good judgment ahead of his "Sweet Jamaica" record. And I'll also include our old favourite who should really make an album in 2014, Messenjah Selah, as well. These are artists who brought albums which really made me stop and reconsider listening to just about ALL of their output and more importantly, going forward, made themselves someone whose work I would continuously be looking for in the future.  
"Real Rebels Can't Die" [2009]
And someone else who firmly fits into that pack would be the brilliant Nereus Joseph. The St. Lucian born and UK based vocalist demanded a spot on my radar back in 2009 when he released the MAMMOTH "Real Rebels Can't Die" album which we've long ago proclaimed a modern classic on these pages and remains a diamond of an album in my opinion. In retrospect, the album was pillared with three giant qualities which it possessed in abundance - CLASS, INTELLIGENCE and CONSISTENCY. Those things are not, at all, foreign or infrequently found in the genre of Roots Reggae music -- essentially every remotely decent album you hear will have some of them all -- and that also adds to the remarkability album. It wasn't terribly out of the ordinary and it wouldn't impress you greatly immediately, but when you took it in, entirely, as a release, it was fantastic and, again, it made Nereus Joseph's name one which I would keep an eye and ear tuned in on for the future. 

Welcome to the future… finally. It took half a decade but returning with his latest brand new album is Nereus Joseph with "Yah So Mi Deh". Though it has been five years from the last time we welcomed him in an album form, Joseph certainly hasn't remained inactive and while we would have loved more tunes, if you follow his career you know how much he does behind the scenes (and you also know that he probably does more than you know about). So while we have had tunes and he has appeared along the likes of Lloyd Brown and Gappy Ranks, Nereus Joseph has done production work through the years, including but not limited to working on the most recent release from King Lorenzo, "Stronger", back in late 2012. The veteran of more than three decades of making Reggae music has also well kept busy performing and doing various things on the UK scene, but I've always just wanted him to end the small drought and followup on "Real Rebels Can't Die" and 2014 has seen him do just that. It's also seen a shift of a type as well. "Real Rebels Can't Die" was a record done for a label called Sirius Records and was produced by Joseph, himself. "Yah So Mi Deh", on the other hand, comes via Cannawi Productions, which is Joseph's very own imprint now. Last year he put out a tune on the label which would subsequently prove to be the first single from "Yah So Mi Deh" (more on that in a second) and it got my attention, hoping that a new project was on its way, but I had no idea that it actually was, so it was a damn happy surprise when Bredz told me that it existed and that he had just picked this one up (and he always tells me that DAYS ahead of sending it to me… which is ridiculous) [WHAT!] (biggup Bredz). So, for me at least and I'm sure I'm not the only one, the new album becomes one of the biggest early gifts that 2014 has to offer Reggae fans and although I'm not expecting another full classic out of Nereus Joseph this time around, I am expecting a big album and one which will resonate well past its release date. Is it? Let's find out. 

"Yah So Mi Deh" (which may be Joseph's fourth or fifth full release to date) is a very solid offering which serves as a delightful followup to its giant predecessor and one which more than fulfills on any expectations that I may've had in this instance. The album, like the one before it is Roots Reggae music from head to tail and everyone in between and is sure to please not only fans of Joseph's, but fans of the genre in general. Things get started with what is, basically, the title track, 'Yah So We Deh'. The song is one which deals with the longstanding ways of people and certain aspects of life, despite such a large change in many other areas of life. It also sounds amazing with a classic track underpinning the tune and an excellent way to begin. Next is the peculiar, yet very lively and nice, 'Real Revolution' which sounds exactly like a later tune, 'Nuff Love', alongside Donavon KingJay. It does seem as if someone may've made a mistake in this case, but the song is a nice one, nevertheless, where Nereus Joseph speaks on the strength of love in overcoming all things.

"Man has got enough love to get him by
Devil doesn't want him to even try
Man has got enough love to get him by
Love over and over and over

I seen some man suffering and I just don't overstand it
It seems that it was part of a plan to keep the sufferer down yeah
Cause anytime we try in night we always get that fight
No, that ain't right, ain't right, no no
Say with the wicked little tricks and the schemes they try
They still can't get wi out
See The Father has wiped every tear out of my eye 
Love is what I am about yeah
Though it seems that evil's lurking everywhere
don't be afraid no no
Father's giving them so much love that they can share
They don't know, let them know!"

I really did enjoy this tune and marked it as one of the album's best. And there's also the somewhat old-school R&B-ish lover's piece, 'Always Love You'. This one is another decent piece which doesn't leave much to the imagination. A very straight forward and well done piece of Lover's Rock music (with excellent backing singing on this particular composition). Along with Donavon Kingjay, Nereus Joseph taps a pair of really big names to join him on "Yah So Mi Deh" in veterans Leroy Sibbles and Anthony B, respectively. For his part, Sibbles links on the stirring remake 'Book of Rules'. I won't spoil this one for you, but it is definitive highlight on this album for one glaring reason and while typically songs like this may not excite me, I was very happy with 'Book of Rules'. I was also very happy, in general, just to see Anthony b associated with this album and he helps Joseph end things with the album's closer and big social commentary, 'Vampire' and neither he nor Joseph disappoint here. 

"So we haffi get up, stand up and get up, stand up and get up, stand up and fight
Get up, stand up and get up, stand up and learn your rights
Get up, stand up and get up, stand up and get up, stand up and fight
In this dark world become a shining light

So it no matta bout yuh sex, yuh race, class, nor creed
Wi fed up wid di false leader dem weh ah lead
Fed up fi si di innocent blood ah bleed

This song has no equal on this album to my opinion. It is a BIG tune and while I haven't been too high on Anthony B's output in recent times, big credit goes to him here because he is in a fine form. Back on his own, Nereus Joseph carries "Yah So Mi Deh" with all of this class and niceness you knew he would. Things get no nicer, however, than on what is my second favourite selection on the album, 'This Ghetto'. This tune speaks of the ills of growing and living in poverty and some of the under-spoken of 'side effects' of destitution on people. Simultaneously, he doesn't paint a picture which is completely bleak and he does offer a silver-lining which, along with the SWEET riddim on this song, makes for a piece of magic. There's also the previously alluded to first single of the album, 'Things in Life' which I, thankfully, remembered. A title perhaps has never been more fitting than here. 'Things in Life' is a song about the… things that happen in life. That's it! There isn't an especially negative connotation to the tune, there isn't a positive one, it is literally about the proverbial ups and downs of day-to-day life and it sounds pretty good here.  
'Tings In Life' single [2013]
'In Loving You' and 'So Slow' are two more love songs on "Yah So Mi Deh" and while the former is a very strong and straight-forward composition which sounds so nice (it sounds a lot like something you might here from Freddie McGregor, who Nereus Joseph does resemble vocally), the latter is divine. It is a STELLAR effort aimed at packing the dance floor and it will not experience the slightest of difficulties in doing exactly that if and when it is given the opportunity. 'Creep Up' is a very cleverly written about the importance of being self-sufficient in hard times. I recently heard a portion of an interview Joseph gave and he spoke of a similar topic in terms of music and his new label, so I know that it is a very crucial piece of ideology to him and I'm not at all surprised to hear a song like this one on the album (and they could have let that riddim play on just a bit longer on its own because it is so nice) and it may do well as a future single because it is very infectious also.

"Wi hear di bear and di dragon and di harlot -
Come together, alla dem inna di same pot
Bun dem out - they have no love
They're multinational and dem products 
Man ah eat food that is made by robots
Hear the shout!
Diseases all about"

And lastly, check the sublime and serene 'Riding' which is surely going to command a whole heap of attention for its own as it is another remake which I also won't spoil for you, but in this time, it comes from the absolute highest source as far as Reggae music. 
Nereus Joseph
Overall, I do give this one a slightly conditional recommendation but if I thought about it enough, I'd probably give a similar stipulation in regards to almost all of Nereus Joseph's work: The album is suggested to fans of Roots Reggae music, but particularly those with an ear pointed towards the old school. It is a modern album and the presence of someone like Anthony B fully supports that, but if you're a modern fan who enjoys the old school sound, "Yah So Mi Deh" is for you. It's also for you if you're one of the people who, like me, really caught on at "Real Rebels Can't Die" because this album not only follows that one well, but it doesn't deviate much at all from that type of sound and I'm sure that Joseph's longtime fans are going to be very pleased. "Yah So Mi Deh" is the first opportunity I get to test the 'theory' that I developed five years ago when a big album would lead me to the conclusion that Nereus Joseph was a fantastic artist and someone who I need to be a fan of and pay attention to: Theory further confirmed. Well done. 

Rated: 4/5
Cannawi Productions
CD [I THINK] + Digital

Review #488

1 comment:

  1. Wow. What a great review. So in tune with my own reaction to this album. Thanks, peace and love