Saturday, April 26, 2014

'The One Who Wears The Crown': A review of "The Queen Of Bacchanal" by Destra

Statements. When it comes to your favourites, within any particular field, how they remain in that state can be just as interesting as how they entered it. Where certain things can be frozen, such as a food you enjoy, or a movie, or an athlete you liked watching who is now retired - others take courses which require something extra in the way of 'management'. I'd like to think that is the way it is for me when it comes to music and actual musicians (as opposed to songs which are also frozen) - making great music for almost any period of time will surely get you on the list, but it definitely helps if you can continue to make it, though it definitely does differ by the individual. Also, inevitably, you'll reach a point where, like that athlete an artist has either passed their respective prime or just retired from making music entirely, so though they may cease to be an active, current favourite of yours, you do begin to gain more of a historical view of what they've done and, again, they can become somewhat frozen. But some never really stop evolving and reinventing or reinforcing what they've done throughout the years. This year has been a really good one in terms of individuals who I hold in the absolute highest of esteem these days. Of course there has been the exceedingly active Sizzla Kalonji who, as of about a week and a half from now will have dropped his third album of the first half of the year (with at least one more forthcoming, reportedly). There's also been a giant contribution from Pressure Busspipe with others such as Ziggi Recado and Lutan Fyah loaded and ready to go - and that's just with albums. And another of my personal towers who now joins that lot with a BOOM is walking divinity Destra Garcia! After all of these years and after all of these stretches of pure genius from the likes of Skinny Fabulous, Fay-Ann Lyons (… who would also have a place on my list), Machel Montano, Mr. Killa ["EVERYWHERE I GO IS MASH UP!"], Alison Hinds and of course Bunji Garlin, my favourite Soca act remains Destra. And over the years, despite being much more active at certain times than at others, she has managed to stay within this ultra refreshing and invigourating sound within a genre whose foundations virtually require it to be done in such a way at its best. She also has been 'observant' of the art of the dramatic and what she's managed to do throughout her full career has been absolutely thrilling!  
"Welcome Back" [2011] & "MyDestra" [2012]
And Destra has also been very good at pushing her brilliant hysteria within the frame of albums. By my surely incorrect and inaccurate count she now has eight releases (and it may be eight and a half because I think that one of her albums, "Laventille", was released twice) to her credit following her first, "Red, White, Black" (most noteworthy because it had 'Savage' ["I JUST WANT TO LOSE ALL MY CONTROL!"] on it and she was also naked in the liners) and the two (now three) most recent, "Welcome Back" and the futuristic "MyDestra"  have seemed to feature the singer in the latest, very COOL, phase of her career. Similarly, her music, while not of a grand deviation, has also seemed to be more streamlined and just downright SMOOTH and in 2014 she keeps things going and finally gets around to doing something that I and many of her fans actually did years [!] ago.

She's pronounced herself Queen. The most fittingly titled "The Queen Of Bacchanal" becomes Destra's eighth studio album and, as I said, continues a really fine stretch of records that she's enjoyed in recent years (and you may want to put "Hott" in that category as well) which have more of a sleek feel to them. In this instance, the set follows a season which wasn't exactly a very good one. As a whole and somewhat in retrospect, Soca in 2014 has definitely been disappointing, but there have been exceptions and, fortunately, Destra has been one of them. There has also been a dearth of albums from big names to my knowledge as, apart from now Destra and previously Farmer Nappy who threw a "Big People Party" at Fox Fuse's house, we haven't seen much. With presumed albums from Montano and Garlin (and maybe even Fay-Ann Lyons) still to come, the year has progressed relatively slowly in that arena, but Destra DEFINITELY does her part with "The Queen Of Bacchanal". The album is constructed and compiled with Destra's tunes from the last couple of seasons and it even comes in a deluxe edition as well on the digital side, which features SEVEN additional tracks more than the original version (more on that later). So, like its predecessors, it definitely appears as if a great attention to detail was paid in this case and deservedly so. Destra is one of the most high profile Soca stars in the world and I don't really think that it is too outlandish to call her somewhat of a legend at this point (though, as I've outlined here, I am GREATLY partial in her favour) despite being somewhere in her mid thirties. So many times people like me throw around that term far too liberally but, in the case of Destra, there can be not a shred of doubt that history will treat her accordingly - VERY WELL. But we don't have to wait for history to get started, we can do that right now and on her new album, Destra is giving us a whole heap of reasons to be nice to her. And she's also being very nice to us. "Achis, how nice?" Let's find out!
Just a few years ago, Destra told everyone who would listen that "they call me bacchanal" and now she's risen through the ranks and is QUEEN. It certainly was a very fast ascendance, though if someone were qualified to claim complete sovereignty over madness, it would definitely be she! Getting things started on "The Queen Of Bacchanal" by Destra is the very cool 'Aye You'. This tune is cleverly faster and more intense than it seems initially and I think that part of enjoying it is realizing just how subtle so many of the sounds here are, but it is such a nice and romantic type of piece and an excellent way to open the album. Things go big and really flourish on the second selection on "QOB" (I LOVE album titles which're easy to abbreviate). 'First Time'. Here Destra talks about her first experience… jumping. 

"The first time could be so wonderful
It just makes me feel so natural
I remember the first time jumping up -
In a big band, Tuesday, behind the truck
When we crossed the stage
I was so amazed
I remember my first Calypso tent
When the people sing bout parliament
And the picong start -
How it made me laugh
As long as my heart is working!
While I'll always be searching!
Like a Carnival virgin!"

TEARS! The song is very shrewdly written because you always get the feeling that she's not talking about the past and, instead, is talking about really never losing the feeling of that first time and, instead, reliving it each and every year or at least attempting to. 'Road Call' is a song I never really paid enough attention to and finding it on this album was something good for me because I've now listened to it and it is BIG! This is another very intense song (this one far more so than the opener, however), which is still cool and level-headed to some degree. But what happens on this tune is that things continuously build throughout it and culminate with one SWEET high-tech offering. Right after 'Road Call', one of the heaviest hitters from this album rolls right in and completely dazzles! 'State Of Mind' took awhile to grab me fully (like I've always said, mine isn't the brightest mind in the world and there is no excuse here, this song is downright magical) but, these days, I'd probably go as far as to say that the Madmen produced tune is one of my favourite Destra songs from the past few years. THE highlight of the recently released Titans Riddim (biggup Fox Fuse), 'State Of Mind' is also no less than the second best tune on "QOB" as Destra proclaims that she is NEVER too far away from the madness. It's like she can't help it and with songs like this - neither can I! BOOM!

"Road Call"

From beginning to end, there are essentially no soft spots on "QOB". It is an album that manages to impress at every stop. A song like 'Give It To Me' may not be the best song on the album (it isn't), but I can't tell you that it isn't a good song (it is). Another very sleek offering, this song is candy for your ears! The riddim here is masterful with its kind of chasing vibes and Destra well makes the most of the moment with a most infectious effort. Similarly vibed is 'Just a Little Bit' which, again, isn't the best song here but it is so good that having a song on an album of this quality kind of being one of the middle pieces (literally and in terms of quality) shows you exactly how strong of an album we're dealing with. 'Trailer Load', on the other hand, is near the head of the class. Carried on what was left of Precision Productions' Wildness Riddim after Rupee laid it to ruins with the MAMMOTH 'Nothing Sweeter', 'Trailer Load' is well amongst the very best this album has to offer and it is the kind of song which draws you in deeper and deeper on each listen. And I hadn't heard it in a little while but it definitely caught a second wind appearing here. There's also 'We Own D Road' from the Madmen's Bubble Riddim - like the album's best song, this song has a very discernible edge to it -- it's kind of ANGRY -- and has that aggressive emotion surging throughout it and it's always nice to hear Destra get a little pissed off. 'Jump High' is the album's obligatory pan song (she typically always has Gospel on her albums as well, but I think this one just may be the first exception) and, as they always are from Destra, it is a fully special and spectacular set and the latest in a long line of similarly qualified tunes of its type. That song precedes the penultimate track from "QOB" which is also, basically, its eponymous title and, definitely, its pinnacle, the BRUTAL 'Mash Up'. I call it "brutal" because over the last few months the tune which comes across Precision's Emergency Riddim, has been one the major songs that I workout to (Destra has lost me a ton of weight over the years and another recent favourite of mine to sweat to has been an older favourite, 'Last Lap' ["DOWN DE ROAD, DOWN DE ROAD, DOWN DE ROAD, DOWN DE ROAD!"]). The song is beautifully chaotic and an sterling example of what happens when the Queen pushes her level as high as she can. And the final note on this album of a similar passion, the wonderful 'Dutty D Road'. The song has a bit more of a 'presentation' than the one preceding it here, but it's also a little edgy and sounding at a maximum force. I'm curious about the way that the album is situated in placing the heaviest material at the end, but it doesn't take away from things here at all (and it may actually add to them) and I have another song to load up on the exercise playlist.

"Mash Up"

As I alluded to, there is a Deluxe Edition of "The Queen Of Bacchanal" which features seven more songs atop the eleven of the original version. Destra didn't have an album in 2012 and though I don't know if that was by design or not, if she did have one, you could be sure it would have included some (and probably ALL) of the songs featured on the deluxe edition. Included are 'Real Good Love', 'Express Yourself', 'Call My Name', 'Million Smiles', 'Wassyness', 'Handle The Ride' and 'Carry On'. The standouts from the lot in my opinion are, of course, the closer which once again ends the album in a fantastically frantic way (FRANTASTICALLY???) [WHAT!], 'Real Good Love', which was a sublime R&B-ish piece… okay and maybe I like it because it immediately brings to mind a video in which Destra looked SO GOOD on the beach (which Bredz surely found and put in here somewhere) (biggup Bredz) and there's also 'Express Yourself' alongside Super Jigga TC.

"Real Good Love"

That song is the only combination on this album which is interesting because Destra has been doing quite a few of them over the past year, even from the Reggae spectrum alongside the likes of I-Octane, Peetah Morgan and even appearing on Saïk's 2013 set, "Second Soufflé". But all of these songs are some kind of good as well, with 'Million Styles' on the B, 'Call My Name' also being nearly exceptional. And I do appreciate the changeup with the deluxe edition which shows that someone really cared about the presentation of this project and made a very nice gift to the fans.  
Destra Garcia
Overall, while I am not prepared to crown "QOB" Destra's best album to date, it definitely stands amongst her best and she's had some EXCELLENT ones throughout the years. Putting a reviewer's ear to the album gave me a greater appreciation of it and her 2014 season - she's made some very strong music for this year and, in the same consistency exhibited throughout her career, it has turned out to make a big project. Given the presence of more laidback type of material here, I'd give a big recommendation of this album to newer fans who may be new to Destra's music or maybe even to the entire genre of Soca music. But I also feel that there is enough substance here for more familiar heads as well. Looking back, though Destra has had one of the most extraordinary careers that Soca music has ever given birth to, given what she shows on "The Queen Of Bacchanal", her present is shining and who knows just how long she can continue to thrill. LONG LIVE THE QUEEN!

Rated: 4.35/5
Krazi Music Records
CD + Digital

Review #503

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