Wednesday, May 7, 2014

'Fully Compatible': A review of "Anointed" by Bugle

The mixing. Despite the fact that we absolutely love them and are, seemingly, currently existing in an era where making and releasing them is infinitely easier than at any previous time, albums are not always the focus of a particular artist's career. In a genre such as Reggae where a quality such as being relatively current and prolific is held in far higher esteem -- almost always -- than dropping a big album, one can enjoy a very healthy career and very healthy stretches within a career while being only a rumour or an indefinitely unspecified 'coming soon' on album shelves and… pretty much no one will care. Today Reggae music, especially on the Dancehall side, is still RIPE with names who have either gone years and years without making an album or have gone their entire lives without doing so and do not figure to be in the mood to change that anytime soon. At the head of the list you have names such as Beenie Man and Bounty Killer who, although you may be able to argue that neither is as wholly popular as they once were (that type of thing just happens when you make music for thousands and thousands of years), surely that is a matter of the passage of time and not a matter of not pushing albums. In those specific cases, either of them could likely take an entire year or two off and do NOTHING and still return to some exceptionally high level of prominence. You could also look at individuals such as Mavado, Aidonia (who may not even acknowledge the one album he did have), Baby Cham, Agent Sasco, and many others (and I won't mention Damian Marley, but you know I want to), including Demarco and Spice who has never had an album, and ultimately arrive at the conclusion that (someone needs to start making some damn Dancehall albums) it just isn't that important. But like I said, we absolutely love them. To my opinion, albums are the heights of musical convenience and, when done as well as they can be, they can exist as these comfortably accessible 'introductory courses' to someone's music for newer fans. And, as I've said in the past, they can also be emblematic of what a musician was doing at a particular time. If you trace back someone's career, you can note their different styles and sounds evolving through their albums which is lot easier than tracking down singles or just… trying to remember. Someone else who, at least until recently (like yesterday, or two days ago if I don't finish this thing today), had enjoyed years worth of successes while being apathetic to making an album was the very curious Bugle but, thankfully, he's changed his mind about that.  
Bugle has always been compelling to me for so many reasons, not the least of which has been his  unorthodox style. He can be so 'matter-of-fact' and so plainly stated, that I think that some people have overlooked what he is capable of and they've done so to their own detriment, because if you give him a chance, he STICKS WITH YOU. At the heart of his capabilities, in my opinion, is one of the sharpest pens in Reggae music. He has an approach somewhat similar to that of people like Tanya Stephens and Lloyd Brown where the main emphasis rests in having something to say and making your point (and you read that and think nothing of it, but it is, unfortunately, quite rare). BUT within that as well is a discernible and wholly unpredictable edge. Bugle has this almost sagely method to his music, but you also get this kind of DARK feel at times which, typically, gives his music a somewhat somber feel and as odd as it may sound, it can be damn refreshing. It isn't a very prevalent quality in Reggae and is something typically reserved for the likes of Mad Cobra, whose style otherwise is nothing like Bugle's. And because of that style and his lyrical capacity and given the success that he has reined in with both, I would think that it would be one which would translate mightily into an album - a very interesting and personal presentation of what he does. Also, in terms of not having an album, it has been interesting through the years as we know him as being linked with big label, Daseca Productions and from back in the days with Serani, Daseca has been a label who hasn't had a problem dealing with albums. It just never seemed to turn in Bugle's direction and, in retrospect, I don't even think that there was ever a strong rumour about it. Like I said, it did not seem to be a focal point for them.

But with 2014 being what it has been for Reggae albums (a monster), why not?! Bugle now makes his album debut after nearly a decade going and gets "Anointed" with Daseca. Though, as you might expect, the album does include several producers as Bugle has worked with so many of them, Daseca takes executive honours and (along with Zojak Worldwide) make it available. When I first saw that this album was on its way, I was excited. As I alluded to, Bugle has spent the vast majority of his career enjoying success and making hits and I was eager to see how an album like this would be compiled. You could put together a healthy lineup of tunes, going back several years which would be familiar to even some of the more casual fans. And I also wanted to see how correct I would be in assuming that his style would be one which would translate so well into an album (and I don't think that's the case for everyone). In both of those cases it worked out finely. "Anointed" is an album which features tunes of varying types, both new and known and, as I suspected, the style of Bugle (who has been in a particularly fine form, again, across the last couple of years or so) makes for a MIGHTY presentation on an album and one which, hopefully, goes on to become the first of several. Let's take a listen.


The tone of "Anointed" is one which I think is completely appropriate for an album from Bugle. There're moments which really cover almost the entire range of emotions. The result, in my opinion, would be a project which is very personal to its star and one which should be exceedingly well-received by Bugle's fans. In specifics, definitely check the personal and downright STUNNING opener, 'Reflections'. The tune goes about outlining Bugle's journey to prominence and all the troubles and people who he overcame in reaching where he has made it in life.

"This a facts, so don't believe seh a fiction
Music is life and, of course, it's my addiction
Tell dem don't put dem foot inna mi jurisdiction

This song is one which is so powerfully symbolic of Bugle's style. It starts off (and remains, from his perspective) so natural and so simple, but by its conclusion there're so many things going on with the tune. In the midst of it all, however, is Bugle essentially telling a story of how he arrived to this point. A booming start. The title track is in next and it carries a similar theme as the tune ahead of it in terms of going around negative things, and specifically negative people in this case, to be what you want to become and to do what you want to do. Again, the song is a simple one, but you get this prevalent feeling that Bugle is just slightly pissed off about the situation and if you follow what he says, you know why. 'No Obligation' is a fascinating song and a clever one as well. Here, we find Bugle saying that he was given, at birth, everything he needed to succeed and what I took away from it is the idea of to stop making excuses for yourself to NOT do something. He says quite a few things which made me go back and listen [especially: "You have all kinds of plan, but yuh future you no plan out - to sit down and wait pon hand out"] and though the riddim behind the tune, provided the flaming Markus Myrie, is so nice, be sure to tune in the song on a lyrical level, first and foremost.

'Nuh Compatible'

As I said, "Anointed" definitely does feature quite a few tunes which fans are likely to be familiar with. Fortunately in this case, the known pieces are proven and so many of them go build up a significant portion of the class of the album. The most recognizable of them all is certainly Bugle's 2013 hit, 'Nuh Compatible'. This tune, helmed by UIM, which colourfully deals with the failings of a relationship is one of the biggest hits of his career altogether and, given its timeframe, it would have been virtually unacceptable to push a Bugle album sans it. The song is somewhat outside of what you'd expect from Bugle, but not a great deviation and it was big and catchy and showed some versatility. Similar is the song chasing 'Nuh Compatible' on the album, 'Infidelity', also from UIM. This song, which features Lady Saw, is one of a quartet of combinations from "Anointed" (with some BIG names) and is another highlight. This one, again, is about a crumbling relationship and such pieces are common ground of Saw's. She shines on this one and Bugle more than carries his own weight as well. You're also to know 'Move Dem' which is one of the other combinations on the album. The tune links Bugle with Julian Marley and reached a year or two ago now from the Marleys. I've never been the biggest fan of Julian Marley's, but I do pass him a big credit from his effort on this sterling social commentary which begs a bit more in the way of attention and compassion from the leaders of the world. 'I Don't Worry' is one of the oldest selections on "Anointed", but it's also probably one of the best. That's a song which I don't think got the attention it deserved and it is one which echoes the sentiments expressed on some of the early tracks as far as overcoming obstacles. 

"Hey Jah Jah have a plan for every man
That's why - mi nah worry bout no one
Wah mi do is stay focused, stay strong, pay attention -
To the journey weh mi deh pon
People always ahgo have bad fi say
Develop negative inna positive today
Hey, they just always talking shit

This tune has more of a spiritual inclination than the others, but at its core is another message of dealing with negative influences. What I most like about 'I Don't Worry' is the subtle confidence Bugle displays here. He does get passionate at times, but you can tell that it is never a matter of great difficulty (and even when it is, it really isn't), because he accepted long ago that such a thing was to come anyway. I don't know where I know it from and am too lazy to look it up, but the GOLDEN 'Tears Of Joy' is also familiar to my ears. This another song about Bugle's journey in life (and you know I'm going to deal with that in just a second) and how far he has come. He also speaks about living in a positive way, in enjoying his successes, and setting a proper example for people who look up to him ["Mi si di light, that mean you can si it too. Mi dweet, so youth, you can dweet too"] and, presumably, will go through many of the same things that he has experienced. It is a GORGEOUS tune underpinned by easily one of the best riddims on the whole of "Anointed" and a fantastic addition. 'Great Day' was Bugle's cut of Notice Productions' Intransit Riddim from just last year and it did take awhile to grow on me and stand out (from that absolutely loaded riddim), But a year on, I'm a fan! A great riddim backs a tune concentrated on reaching your potential in life, again, despite the circumstances and people who may be going against you. This piece is amongst the most sonically pleasing selections that I've EVER heard from Bugle and is another of the biggest moments on this album. The solid 'Carried Away' is a previously released single from Daseca while the closer, 'Jah Be With You', via UIM a couple of years back. The HEAVY former is a song on the other side of all the success. Bugle speaks about not getting bigheaded and 'carried away' in the name of more material achievements (and I love what they do with the riddim on the song following the vocals). The latter, which is outstanding, is a beautiful praising track which may not have made the impact, initially, that it should have, but you can take care of that by giving it a second listen on "Anointed". And there is also the expanded remix version of the fine 'Only Human'. The original linked Bugle with Popcaan and only Popcaan, but both stars, Alaine and Tarrus Riley join on the remix. Adding Alaine to a song like this pushes it to new heights and adding Riley to pretty much anything does the same. This was not the exception. 
There are also a song here which is familiar, but it a different way. 'Zion' definitely caught me by surprise. 'Zion' is a hyper and flashier remix of a fairly well known tune from Bugle by the name of 'Heaven'. It is essentially the same song with a bigger sounding riddim and the words substituted for one another. The original is still probably one of my personal favourites from the artist and the remix, though not quite as good, isn't so far away from it in my opinion - featuring the same dazzling lyrical display which was present on 'Heaven'.

'Infidelity' featuring Lady Saw

The three tracks here which are newer (or at least to my ears), include two of the album's best, THE best song on the album, and just big work in general. On paper the one which most ignites is surely 'Pain & Suffering', a LOADED social commentary combination featuring I-Octane who already struck 2014 with one of its biggest albums, "My Journey" from back in March. There was not even a tiny amount of room on this one - it had to be fantastic and it is. The two put on a powerful display which ranks alongside some of the best material of either in recent times in my opinion. It is, however, the song which follows 'Pain & Suffering' which takes supremacy on "Anointed", the MASSIVE 'False Prophets'. Though it does sound familiar, I don't know from where and have no indication that I've heard it previously, but it stands alone on a giant album as a tune on which Bugle streamlines his already sleek style and produces a piece not to be overlooked and then not forgotten.

"You never si mi wid no turban pon mi head, but man a Bobo same way
Natty Congo, same way
You never si mi inna di jungle, but man a gorilla same way

But nuff a dem a snake inna lion's clothes
Dem ah run di church and di whorehouse
Selassie I forbid
Rasta coulda never lose on baldhead way

Alright, through wi no fabricated, some a dem hate wi
But tell dem seh wi alright, di real people rate wi
Tell dem seh wi nah put on no show, nah need no mask
If you no waan di truth, no question you nah fi ask
Selassie I know, by wi self wi inna wi class
Just through money mek nuff a dem last
Wi buck dem pon di journey and dem wi surpass

TEARS! About as fine as a lyrical display present, 'False Prophets' sets the standard as the best song I hear on this album. Finally, check 'Y R U' which is also an excellent piece, this one about appreciating the things you do have in life (AND NOT COMPLAINING ABOUT WHAT YOU DON'T!) because whatever you have is likely far more than what someone else does. The tune is saturated in common sense and intelligence and, again, is one which is wholly representational of Bugle's most unusual approach.

I do want to say something about a generally present theme through the album. So many of these songs are about dealing and overcoming things in life to get where you want to go and what I ultimately take from songs like that is JOY. I think the main message behind them, or most of them, is that when you have to work so hard and go through so much to achieve things, that you become inherently more appreciative of them. So not only are you more proud of them (and avoid the case of 'Y R U'), but you're more aware of keeping them and when smaller obstacles arise, they don't worry you very much (see 'I Don't Worry'). Joy is one of the emotions which Bugle doesn't do very well, seemingly, but he manages to make his debut album center around the theme in a very unique and compelling way - and you shouldn't expect anything different from this man.
Overall, "Anointed" is spectacular and I knew it would be. If you have never heard Bugle but are interested, you're going to like it and if he's one of your favourites… then you don't need to listen to my recommendations. It is an album that gets my unconditional approval. Again, his style can be so simple, so I don't think that it is an album which is too labourious for newer fans. It will probably take you a little longer, but as is the them on so many of these tunes, it is a journey which you should ultimately appreciate and that also applies to people like me who have been waiting on an album from Bugle all of these years. "Anointed" doesn't define a career and it doesn't even come close to doing that. But I am SO happy that it does exist as it brings to the forefront one of the biggest and most captivating talents we have in Reggae music today and one which sounds even better on this platform. One of the best albums of 2014. BOOM!

Rated: 4.80/5
Daseca Productions/Zojak Worldwide
CD [I THINK] + Digital

Review #506


  1. anointed & i don't worry get me the most. just love his lyrics... hit me with music.

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