Thursday, May 1, 2014

Rewind! - "The Sound" by Pressure

"The Sound" by Pressure [I Grade Records - 2014]
As far as Reggae albums go, 2014 has gotten off to a spectacular start. In the first third of the year we've not only seen a fine collection of releases from big names such as Sizzla Kalonji and Tarrus Riley, but in projects from the likes of Rob Symeonn and Addis Pablo, we've also experienced beautiful surprises as well. When you take that and combine it with a 'coming soon' schedule which includes sets from the likes of Ziggi Recado and Lutan Fyah (maybe twice), 2014 is definitely positioning itself to be one of the best years in recent memory. With that being said, however, whatever is to come and whoever is to bring it are going to have to do an all-time great job to unseat what is the best album we've heard thus far. With his debut album, from nearly a decade ago, Pressure Busspipe showed himself to be someone capable of turning in a truly GREAT record and all of these years later, nothing has changed. In finally linking with I Grade Records and the Zion I Kings the chanter, once again, has potentially dropped one for ages. Today we go back and take a second look and listen to the sitting best album of the year and REWIND! "The Sound" by Pressure.

1. 'Rise Today'

"These streets are polluted with gang wars
No opportunities are set up for the poor
The way I see it - ain't gonna get no easier 
We gotta unify and pray some more
What is it you have against your brother?
What do you gain when you take his life?
The people who oppress you are finding laughters
So mi beg you think twice

And rise today
There's nothing holding you back
When we rise today -
Pick up my head off the ground 
I was lost but now I'm found
I'm gonna rise today
Gonna give it all the best that I can, the best that I am
I'm gonna rise today

Little children learn from what they see you do 
And they are the future leaders of the world
If it wasn't for the land there would be no food 
And the meek shall inherit the earth
People crying out for peace over yonder
People crying out for justice over here

And rise today
There's nothing holding you back
And now the devil won't know how to act
When we rise today -
Pick up my head off the ground 
I was lost but now I'm found
I'm gonna rise today
Gonna give it all the best that I can, the best that I am
I'm gonna rise today

Come mek wi spread love like something inna hand!
Mek wi spread the peace all amongst everyone!
Stop all the unjust from man to man!
Live in love and unity, create Mt. Zion!
Afrikan people ah suffer too long!
Caribbean people ah suffer too long!
But the righteous people don't suffer too long

We're gonna rise today
There's nothing holding you back
And now the devil won't know how to act
We're gonna rise today -
Pick up my head off the ground 
I was lost but now I'm found
I'm gonna rise today
Gonna give it all the best that I can, the best that I am
I'm gonna rise today, rise today, rise today!

We went on the lyrical side of this song (because sometimes I just feel like doing that), but the sonics of 'Rise Today' have been absolutely GLOWING in my head these days. It is a very overlooked quality of a tune, in my opinion, but it definitely does help lyrics make more of an impact when you have a perfect mood for them to be presented in. The DEEP acoustic backing to this song gives it a very personal and ORGANIC appeal. You picture it as a song which didn't take very long to create and was just Pressure speaking from the heart. A diamond! 

2. 'Show Love'

A shinier diamond! I've been curious to see the reaction to 'Show Love', nearly more so than any other selection on the whole of this album because I think it may just be one of the finest songs that Pressure has ever done at any stage of his career. Echoing sentiments expressed on such giant tunes as Tarrus Riley's 'Love Created I' and even Midnite's recent 'A Healing', from the "Beauty For Ashes" album, Pressure puts on a show anchored around the power of love and the EXPRESSING of love. There're so many nice things I now take away from this song and one is definitely the dominant theme from my first few spins here: The thought of being nice to other people and, simultaneously (and as a result of) being nice to yourself in the process. He also uses love as an extension of unity, particularly during the song's chorus and second verse: 

"There's a problem in the world now - everyone's for their self
But if they were to drown they would catch even a straw for some help" 

It's just so well written and I should also mention that the riddim behind it isn't the only sonic marvel on 'Show Love'. Pressure's loooooooooong underrated singing voice is also in a very fine form on a song which shows so much love of its own to any smart enough to listen. 

3. 'Virgin Islands Nice'

So nice! So niiiiiiiiiiice! Obviously, we've already dealt quite a bit with the most recognizable piece from "The Sound", 'Virgin Islands Nice', but these days what I'm most interested in is its place on this album. When you take arguably the most well known Reggae star from out of the VI in Pressure Busspipe and you link him with unarguably the biggest label from out of the VI, 'Virgin Islands Nice' is what you should hear. It absolutely should have been carried on an album like this one. Looking at it now, a song like this shows just how much both artist and label appreciated the moment and the opportunity to produce such a significant and inherently LASTING track like this and to do so on an album which is just as crucial and figures to have an equally long lifetime.

4. 'Stop This Train' featuring Lutan Fyah

Along with being the best album that I've heard in 2014, "The Sound" may also feature the best song that I've heard this year as well. 'Stop This Train' is the first of a quartet of combinations on the album, this one featuring Lutan Fyah who, himself, may have an album alongside IGR later this year (and has a new album, "Get Rid A Di Wicked", coming in June). Should that album feature more tunes of this quality, then I may have to rethink crowning this one as the year's finest. 'Stop This Train' was MASSIVE! 

The duo seems fully prepared to JUMP off the damn train if you refuse to stop it as they produce a very clever metaphorical social commentary and say that if things continue to go the way that they are - they want no part of it. Delightful, intense and the best song on this album. 

5. 'Stand Firm'

You've probably heard more songs than you can recall with the title 'Stand Firm' or one similar to it, so it isn't the type of track which leaps out at a listener, on paper. Also, if you listen to this album, it is not a song which does so immediately either. It isn't very flashy and, especially by comparison the two tracks which surround it, it does not have the type of sound which is going to demand an instant attention. HOWEVER, with all of that being said, the actual quality of 'Stand Firm' places it at least in the class of anything on the album and, to my opinion, the only song which I enjoyed more is the one which precedes it. The song presented the perfect blend of full-on lyrical brilliance and this great EDGE and intensity that Pressure brings to it that, as someone who loves to listen to the finest detail of things, it absolutely explodes in my ears. Also, though it may not carry the same 'bounce' that several of the other songs here do, the riddim on this one, subtly, is special as well. There’s a horn in there [courtesy of Balboa Becker] and it's general size is candy to my ears. It may take you awhile to realize it, but 'Stand Firm' was magical. 

6. 'Cry For Humanity' featuring NiyoRahRas Batch

'Cry For Humanity', is a song which works, even as a theory! I don't know that there has been a point during the time when I knew who all three of them were even the suggestion of a combination linking Pressure with NiyoRah and Ras Batch wouldn't have been massively appealing to me. All three have not only shown themselves, in outstanding careers, respectively, to be supremely talented and have become personal favourites of mine throughout the years. Even if you tried, I don't know how you could manage to NOT turn in stellar results on such a song and 'Cry For Humanity' was more than "stellar". What I really enjoy here, now, is just how seamless this song is. When you bring in three different voices, three different styles, three different writers, you definitely run the risk of making an ultimately awkward and unsatisfying composition, but that didn't happen here. These three, expectedly, compliment each other greatly as they take a collective aim at destroying oppression wherever they can find it. 

7. 'Who You Are'

"Mi seh render your heart and not your garment
Whether you live inna apartment
Mi seh no watch people things, you nuh know how dem get it
Wicked babylon just stay from dem
Tell yuh money ahgo come when you work hard
Mi tell yuh knowledge a di key, but you fi search hard
Betta make sure The King unuh ah serve"

On 'Who You Are' Pressure tries to simplify things. The song is one about focusing on the individual and not necessarily his/her material possessions. What I've kind of added to it from hearing it the first few times is that Pressure also speaks about things such as self-esteem. He talks about people not having the more flashy things in life, but still living very RICH lives and gaining an even greater level of satisfaction and JOY out of life from maintaining a positive and righteous existence. BOOM! 

8. 'Serious About It'

"While dem ah play
The Rastaman serious about it
Never you doubt it
While dem ah play
The Congo man serious about it
Never you doubt it

Life is so precious and some boy ah play game
Little did they know seh Rastafari reign
Little, but enough, will make di people sustain
Smile pon yuh face when di youth dem get so stifled
Rastaman ah work while di wicked man ah idle
Selassie I get hundred round salute from di rifle
Could never stop dem yah earth cycle 

Rasta a disciplined people
Nuttin but Black upliftment mi ahgo feed you 
A Emperor Selassie I teachings ahgo lead you
Dem no got no power, that's why dem get so feeble
Watch ya now - sight di vision like an eagle
Easier for a camel enter an eye of an needle -
Than it is for a rich man to enter Mount Zion
Dem fi know Rasta hail The Conquering Lion"

Again, though we went lyrical on this one, what is now standing out so glaringly to my ears these days in regards to 'Serious About It' is its downright ROYAL riddim. Pressure does giant things on this tune, a song which I enjoy even more today than before, and hopefully I Grade Records takes this track and spreads it around just a bit. 

9. 'Herbsman Town' featuring Volcano

I remain damn happy that Volcano appeared on "The Sound" and he did not waste the opportunity at all. On 'Herbsman Town', he and Pressure linked to add even more fuel to an already blazing album. And besides his presence, and hopefully this tune begins a more active release schedule for the chanter, I'm also happy for the link here. It is Volcano's style to be fiery and grimy and he brings out the scorching best in Pressure as well. 
10. 'Run Away'

In retrospect, the sentiments of 'Run Away' kind of remind of those expressed on 'Who You Are' - with  the idea being to strip away so many other things in life to discover who is the actual person (and now that I go back, I realize that I made the same connection initially… good for me!). This song, subtly, is a bit more aggressive, however. On 'Who You Are', material objects are presented as things people often acquire to SHIELD and insulate themselves in many ways, but on 'Run Away', Pressure says that it really doesn't matter what you do. Whoever you are is inescapable. It doesn't matter what you get or where you get it from - you can't run away from yourself.

11. 'The Rain'

And, for the first time [I THINK], we may be rewinding a song twice. 'The Rain', of course, originated on the Songbird Riddim from I Grade Records and the Zion I Kings last year. As has always been the case with this song for me, its attraction, along with the piece of gold which rolls behind it, are its lyrics. It is very intelligently written and now, though I've heard maybe dozens of times at this point, I still find new bits and pieces to focus on, directly. These days it is definitely the STAGGERING second verse. 

"Watch the things that you do, Jah is watching over
You live and you learn, as you grow you older
It's a heavy load to carry, I need my shoulder
The people are hungry, the message is food
The children grow without the proper lessons in school 
Wicked man is living so cruel

The rain is no different from my tears
When I look at what my people bear
I swear, never give up the fight and show no fear
And then the soul is reflecting my heart and soul
And it's burning beyond control
My goal is to see to it the truth unfold"

12. 'Nothing No Wrong' featuring Midnite

Speaking of big lyrics, one of the greatest lyricists that music has ever seen, Vaughn Benjamin guests on the final combination tune from "The Sound", 'Nothing No Wrong'. As we said in the original review, Pressure and Benjamin have a history which goes back quite awhile so, just as was the case with every other combination on this album, you really had great expectations going into this song and, in this case, it has a grand historical reference, with the most recent example, 'Same I Ah One' dating back only three or four months or so ahead of "Beauty For Ashes". I'm no genius - farrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr from it, but 'Nothing No Wrong' is probably not the final time the two come together either and given the results in this case, it shouldn't be. Because of his unusual style, it isn't the easiest thing finding someone to make good music alongside Benjamin as a vocalist (though IGR never seem to have a problem doing it), but he has found a perfect musical chemistry alongside Pressure. Also doing well for this tune is the riddim which is amongst the very best on an album full of tracks which would be "amongst the very best" from… probably every album I've heard this year (there is a guitar in there played by either Moon or Padraic Coursey, which isn't constant, but every time I hear it, my ears highlight it).

13. 'Hail The King of Kings'

"As a lion, searching through di hunting field so-
People looking out for something real
It's not a bird, could be a plane
Tell yuh just the teachings of His Majesty will set you free
Birds of feather flock together
Been through many stormy weathers
Now is the time, you no see the sign
No see yourself working fi babylon forever


I may get tired of saying the same thing but… I don't care. Pressure puts on a dynamic and dazzling vocal performance on 'Hail The King of Kings', a tune which I now have a much greater appreciation of, and he does so to power one of the greatest lyrical exhibitions on "The Sound". AND the riddim on this song is sooooooo good! All of the sounds you hear here combine to make a giant track, but that guitar takes center stage and NEVER relents. 

14. 'The Sound'

"… Take the lock off of your mind now
And listen to the sound"

The title track ends the album named after it and its title tells you something which you really need to focus on. Any song named 'The Sound' needs to have a great sonic appeal and this sound does that. In its latter stages, it detonates into this SPECTACULAR sound which sounds so colourful and almost orchestral. I don't know if this was the intention, but the song, being positioned at the end of the album almost stands as this kind of 'definition' of the album. The other thirteen songs lead you to THE SOUND and the sound to be found here is incredible - just like "The Sound".

I have so many more thoughts about tying songs together on this album which I'll just have to wait to use for when we, officially, declare this album a classic. But until then, YOU can get started, if you haven't already, and pick up the single best album I've heard in 2014 thus far, "The Sound" by Pressure.

1 comment:

  1. Its nice to be important but its more important to be nice...album is growing this album feels complete rather than single after single....great work pressure