Monday, May 19, 2014

'No Worries': A review of "Therapeutic" by Ziggi Recado

High. When you listen to enough music and sit and wait on enough albums, you're guaranteed to have dealt with more than a comfortable amount of emotion. I've always maintained that even listening to music, if you're doing it properly, should be an emotional experience, but anticipation is one of them which can be most problematic. In the more immediate sense, and the one which we deal with today, there is the eagerness in looking forward to something that is forthcoming like a performance you are going to enjoy… or an album or something like that. For some of my absolute favourite artists, I do not always not what to expect in terms of quality when it comes to an album. At the head of that list is Sizzla Kalonji and though, occasionally, you will get to a release which is a lock to be very good (like "The Messiah" album), you often go into listening to some of his work and not really know, at all, what to expect (and I'm not complaining about that. In Sizzla's particular case, it may even be part of the draw because he's had a thousand albums). An even more glaring example would be someone like Turbulence or Norris Man. Though the latter has seemingly found a winning form in the past couple of years, in either case you almost have to find out in what type of form both are before knowing whether or not the release will be any good. At their respective bests, either is capable of turning in a truly CLASSIC release, but at another level, either is just as capable of pushing something which far below average (especially in the cases of those big talents). And although he's been stellar and as consistent as ever in recent times, Perfect Giddimani is someone else who would fall into that category but, in his particular instance, you never know what to expect from him so it has become routine to expect the unexpected. With all of that being said I do have to give credit now to a very small group who, win in comes to albums specifically, though my anticipations are always high, I don't have to worry how good the results will be in even the slightest amount. The leader of this pack would be Etana who, amongst her three albums (in my opinion) has two classics and two albums which were the best in the genre during their respective years. But also included in those ranks would be the likes of Tarrus Riley, Ras Batch, Pressure Busspipe and… not too many others. There is someone else who could release an album on a day like today, for example, and though I would really look forward to hearing it, I wouldn't have to hear it to know that it was exceptional. I'd just know it.  
"In Transit" & "Ziggi Recado" [2008 & 2011]
Ziggi Recado. In recent years, Ziggi has shown himself to be amongst the most consistent names in Reggae music and that has definitely translated onto his albums. Most recently, back in 2011, the Statian star released his eponymously titled third studio album which was one of the finest releases from that year. The hit 'Mary' would appear on that album and, in general, it was an outstanding release. Ahead of that, Ziggi gave us "In Transit" which was, in retrospect, one of the best albums I've ever heard and has been deemed a classic on these pages. And Ziggi has a star quality about him which is shown in just how popular he's become throughout the years and, as I've said in the past, in the future when we look back at Reggae from this era, I think his is a name likely to be one of the most crucial in defining the music from this time period. 
So if someone like that were going to release a new album, surely I'd be interested and you would be as well and it probably wouldn't even matter who produced it. HOWEVER, if you were to ask me my opinion on who I would like to have helm such a project, I wouldn't get too deep into my list at all before I'd mention the name Zion High Productions. The flaming US based imprint, along with the Zion I Kings collective, has been no stranger to consistency themselves as well. Even earlier this year ZHP gave us one of the finer compilations of 2014 so far, the Jah Warriah Riddim, and that came on the heels of a glowing 2013 which brought to fruition big records from veterans Lloyd Brown ["Rootical"], Cornell Campbell ["New Scroll"] and General Jah Mikey ["Original Yard Food"]. If, under some ridiculously healthy set of circumstances, you could link Ziggi Recado and Zion High Productions that would be… a very nice thing for you to do and I would thank you. Thank you! "Therapeutic" is the brand new and fourth album from Ziggi Recado and it comes courtesy of ZHP and the ZIK. Following the aforementioned "Ziggi Recado" set, the artist split with his longtime homebase label, Rock N Vibes, and "Therapeutic" becomes the first full album that he has done with a different producer (although in between the two was a wicked pair of EP's, volumes one and two of "Liberation" for Dredda Records). Ziggi has also worked extensively for such esteemed labels as Necessary Mayhem and Special Delivery and after the news of the split I assumed that one of them (or maybe he would even produce it himself) or another of the labels he works with frequently would do his next album. Also, unless I'm overlooking something (and I usually am), the very first time Ziggi worked with either ZHP or the ZIK was on the Jah Warriah Riddim from earlier this year. So it did come as a surprise that artist and label were working together on a full release but apparently they both have very good taste. As you knew it was going to, "Therapeutic" quickly proves to be a fantastic release from beginning to end and one of the best albums from the first half of 2014. 

One of the first things that I noticed about this album was how closely its sound resembled its title. The "Ziggi Recado" album was quite varied and the brilliant "In Transit" was downright electric at times ["Shackles and chain caan stop the fyah wi ah blaze! Babylon you must get erased"] [BOOM!] but this album, for the most part, is far more laidback and it is a quality which brought another very compelling aspect to the project. The pace for Ziggi Recado's new album, "Therapeutic" from Zion High Productions is set by the sublime opener, 'Masquerade'. This tune is about as clever of a social commentary that I've heard recently (it is to social observations what 'Mary' was to ganja songs).

"Babylon ah recruit for the circus
Dem ah juggle, my youth keep the focus
This is a masquerade
Babylon ah recruit for the circus
And di puppets ah fulfill dem purpose
This is a  masquerade

The circus is in town
Everybody waan si di puppets and clowns
Perform dem act then di masses bow down
Dem applaud and make a joyful sound
Si dem pon di ass galloping through di ring
Acrobats mek yah head spin when dem swing
Seats sold out, so money generating

Juggle dem ah juggle and ah balance your life
Pon di tightrope and a something real nice
And here comes the circus troupe
The commissioner's inna trance -
Well hypnotized by the circus dance
Si di ringleader wid di devious plans
Everything set, nothing happen by chance

Round of applause, this is the greatest show
There's a big show dated tomorrow:
Limited inna di front row
Dem ah patrol - 
Seeking mind, body and soul 
Intention fi fatten up dem billfold
Hey, nuff a dem a fight fi control of di greatest show dem behold"

The LUSH track underpinning 'Masquerade' is amongst the very best compositions on this album and, to my opinion, the song is the heights of "Therapeutic" and definitely one of the best songs that I've ever heard from Ziggi. It shows an incredibly high level of skill and, again, while it may come to no surprise that he is capable of such a tune, THIS is the type of song I wanted to hear on this album. Drawing the misfortune of following such a 'show' is a tune well up for the task, the BEAUTIFUL 'Got It Right Here'. The song is a love song and a wonderful one. So easy and organic (and you listen to how that riddim develops -- it picks up a keyboard and it just works so well), 'Got It Right Here' comes off perfectly with perfect blend of passion and proficiency. 'Miss Outta Road' is a tune from the same mould as I Wayne's 'One Man Can't Satisfy Her' (biggup I Wayne) and it also works well. It stands greatest, for me, as a tremendous display of skill by both vocalist and producer. The track here is excellent and Ziggi, as he does throughout this session, shines. I'll also definitely mention here the swinging 'Talk About', a big tune about people who have great difficulty minding their own business. 

"Dem quick fi report and spread nuff news pon di cornah
When it check it deeply, nuff a dem a no friend, but informah
What goes around comes right back around, dem nuh hear bout karma
Mi no watch no face, cause I know their spreading rumours!" 

I really hope that this song gets an opportunity to do some damage, because along with being very impressive from a lyrical standpoint, 'Talk About' is a very nice song to listen to even on the surface. It has a very nice vibes and I'd be surprised if people really got to here and it didn't become some type of a hit from this album. 

Speaking of potential hits, I think that any of the album's three combinations have that quality as well. It is becoming the signature of all albums from the ZIK to have big guests as, aside from I Grade Records' selections, you should also recall that the previously mentioned "Rootical" featured HUGE names such as Jahdan Blakkamoore, Pressure Busspipe and Queen Omega tuning in alongside Lloyd Brown. And once again ZHP have tapped some excellent featuring talents. The most obvious is also the first as Midnite's Vaughn Benjamin makes an appearance on the golden 'Earthstrong'. Earlier this year Benjamin had his own giant album for the ZIK and IGR, "Beauty For Ashes", and he's also shown up on the Jah Warriah Riddim and Pressure's "The Sound" release as well. To my ears at least, 'Earthstrong' is this very bright and vibrant composition and mixing Benjamin into such a composition made for a very unique sound and, obviously, one I very much appreciated as the two put on one of the best displays on this album dealing with the circle of life. And I think I hear something interesting with a background singer on this song, so big her up, whoever she may be. The praising piece, 'Jah Mercy', is another very strong selection, this one featuring both the esteemed Earl 16 and Taranchyla. I believe this may be the first link between Ziggi and the former, while the latter also appeared on volume one of "Liberation". 

"The depths of Jah mercy is endless
Forever and infinity - it has no end, yes
Mercy fi di ignorant and the thoughtless
Mercy fi di wicked, mercy fi di heartless
Yes, I & I seh progress!
Educate and stimulate self-awareness
Conscious livity a so it be [no stress]
Ever-faithful, ever-bless

I know Jah mercy, Jah mercy -
Endureth forever more"

Everyone here does very well, but I have to give a special credit towards Earl 16 whose wholly timeless voice sounds as impeccable as ever on this big tune. 'Guide Ova', the final combination on "Therapeutic", features Lutan Fyah who, like Vaughn Benjamin, has also appeared on every ZIK album from 2014 thus far (and the rumour was that he'd also have an album for IGR this year, so definitely stay tuned) and I could not wait to hear this song and it did not disappoint as two of the greatest lyricists of this generation do exactly what you'd expect on a GIANT tune giving thanks to The Almighty.

"Parasite dem waan tek a bite
Outta my soul, but dem caan out mi light
Cause The Almighty guide over, guide over

When King Selassie and His mighty horse trodding
It's like a army full of love with The Most High God within
No flesh, no ghost wi no mix up inna sin
Tell dem touch not the Lord's anointed
Coulda, coulda, coulda, coulda pagan or crab
Yet still they'll be forgiven 
Some fall short and lose the essence and the meaning 

"I & I tired of living in exile
Living inna babylon yard
Deh so weh di living too hard
Inna exile, make sure you nuh draw no bad card
Living inna babylon yard"

"Stress dem out and lef dem inna frustration
Dem cold like a ice, dem inna refrigeration
And di Nyabinghi lef dem inna paralyzation
Dem nuh know di real situation"

BOOM! Ziggi, in general, has always had a good reputation as far as working with other artists (he's worked alongside some of the best in the genre) and it is enhanced even further with the material on this album.

The remaining songs on "Therapeutic" are doing well for him also. At the head of them in my opinion is a pair of HUGE tunes which actually come in sequential order on the album, 'I'm Blaak' and 'Don't Disturb'. The former is  a downright glowing piece dealing with being proud of who you are and your heritage. The tune comes off more of a display than just a straightforward song. It almost seems like Ziggi is just saying what comes to his mind more than he is singing a song at times and the instrumentation here is also heavily featured. The song seems like just 'what happened' as opposed to being the purpose and I think that is an excellent touch. As for 'Don't Disturb', the album's obligatory ganja song, it holds the course of quality from songs like 'Mary' and others ["Joka smoka!"]. A more relaxed and confident vibes dominates the track before things explode in its latter stages on one of the more memorable musical moments from the album. Another song that I very much enjoyed was definitely the cavity-causing 'Luv Injection' which, based on its title, was a song I was very much looking forward to hearing. If there were a title track for "Therapeutic", this would be it as Ziggi deals with. A song destined to get heads nodding, 'Luv Injection' also brings the lyrical edge as well and, for what it is, it may be one of the better written tracks you'll find here and that's not something you typically say about a love song… and you may actually be able to say it twice. 'Ras Got Love' may actually an even stronger exhibition of the spoken word than 'Luv Injection'. 

"So naturally, immaculate and pure
So spiritual, she's the original cure
There to the end, you and I will endure
I'm gonna give you each and everything you ask for
Every time I see you, I want you more and more
Me and you together is the perfect score
Open your heart, baby don't close that door
I love yuh décor

Rasta got love for you
Rasta got love for you
I've got everything that you need
Rasta got love for you
Rasta got love for you
All you gotta do is receive"

The song has such a powerful vibes to it (with a KNOCK which is not to be missed) that while you may not feel it, initially, you'll soon see just how much of an impact it makes you when you can't get it out of your head (more on that in a minute). The also sweetly vibed 'Delete My Numba' deals with the other side of love and I did not like this song the first time that I heard it, but after a few listens it grew on me a lot, so give it a real chance before passing judgment. Finally, This therapy session concludes with an unusual song and another one which comes off as being very free, 'Nah Know Bout U'. I wouldn't be surprised if this tune, or at least pieces of it, were very spontaneous but Ziggi does tie it all together under this umbrella idea of self-awareness saying that he's taken care of his end, but now its time for the rest of us to do the same. 
Ziggi Recado
Overall, I just alluded to it, but I want make it crystallized here: "Therapeutic" is the type of album that gets considerably better the more you listen to it. And that's saying something large because I think that you could give it a cursory and casual listen and like it and probably like it significantly, but what is to be found after a few more spins through is an album which is even stronger and that's something that I found in even dealing with it for the sake of this review. It lines up as the type of record that, five years from now, you'll still be finding new aspects of to enjoy and I'm looking forward to it! As it stands in the present, however, it's also looking fantastic! "Therapeutic" is a laidback, seamless GEM of an album and one which fits finely into the increasingly impressive catalogue of Ziggi Recado, Zion High Productions and the Zion I Kings… but you didn't need me to tell you all of that, you knew it already, One of the year's finest. 

Rated: 4.65/5
Zion High Productions

Review #509

1 comment:

  1. I am so very proud of my boy, I see him growing more and more asan artist. The vibes, the lyrics shows up his talent in every way. May Jah keep being his guide and protector. One love.