Tuesday, June 10, 2014

'For The Ears!': A review of "We I Open" by Jahmali

A projectile. There exists absolutely no limit at all on the different ways in which an artist can get and then keep the attention of the masses. Be it something wholly negative, ridiculous and absurd or something (in the rarely taken route) overwhelmingly positive which may occur out of the studio, either road can take you straight to prominence and keep you there (unfortunately in some cases) indefinitely. However, the most fertile method for a musician to rise, fortunately, is… making good music and, again, this is accomplished in a variety of different ways. For example, if for no other reason at all than because of what they're capable of doing with the spoken word, it'll be DAMN hard for us to forget the likes of Aidonia, Bunji Garlin, an early Vibez Kartel [WHAT!] - ever. I picture leagues of up and comers, years from now, with similar styles greatly crediting that lot with what they're doing and we've already seen it begin. On the other end of the spectrum of that almost extraterrestrial-like command of syllables and soliloquies would be the attraction of VOICE and we've been damn fortunate as fans of Reggae music to have enjoyed some fantastic and lasting singers. We can deal with people from the more modern era such as Luciano and the great Beres Hammond at the head, but even if you follow those paths further along, you run into truly devastating voices. Of course you cannot talk about powerful vocals in Reggae without mentioning the possessor of the greatest one ever given to a human being, Jah Cure. The Cure's music, even if it isn't the best song, will likely always be able to generate some type of interest because listening to him sing ANYTHING is interesting. Others, still, like Bushman at his best, certainly Alaine particularly with the type of music that she makes, the great Chezidek, Glen Washington and others all carry a similar trait because of just how they're able to differentiate their music from every other name in music and exactly what they choose to do with it. Another name who perfectly fits into place in that group and has shown us precisely why for his entire career has been Jahmali. In his particular case, it was years and years ago when he gave Reggae music its greatest taste of what he could do - a flavour which it will likely never be able to fully shake away.
"El Shaddai" [1998]
El Shaddai! If he never sang another song ever again in his entire life, we still wouldn't be able to completely write away the work that Jahmali has contributed to the music because he's largely responsible for having made one of the greatest songs Reggae has ever produced. 'El Shaddai' was and remains his opus and although I don't think that the song gets the respect, today, that it deserves for anyone who ever heard it as a fan, again, it stands as a PILLAR of a song. The tune would also eponymously head Jahmali's Penthouse Records produced debut album in 1998 (which was also fantastic from beginning to end) (had an AMAZING tune called 'Zion Awaits') and although, given his start, Jahmali hasn't had the type of career one would have predicted at the time, that early work, lead by 'El Shaddai’, is enough for him to have earned a spot of tremendous esteem and, happily, he's obviously not the type to totally rest on his past accomplishments. 
"Treasure Box" [2000]
Way back in 2000 Jahmali would deliver his overlooked sophomore set, the sublime "Treasure Box" which was actually produced by the legendary Bobby Digital (if ever you feel like crying, track down that album and listen to the tune called 'Wash Our Troubles') (… and even if you don't feel like crying, just take a listen to that album, it was so good) and over the past decade+ from then, he hasn't been the most active of names. Thankfully, however, he didn't retire or find something else to do with all of his time and over the years Jahmali's is a name which has popped up on projects from the likes of Flava McGregor, I Dwell Records, Reggae Fever, Funky Dividends and others. Most recently, Jahmali made a stirring appearance across Zion High Productions' large Jah Warriah Riddim with 'How U Ago'. In terms of, specifically, one day giving another album to the masses, surely the most noteworthy label of those "others" has been the ALWAYS active and wonderfully inescapable ReggaeLand Productions from out of Spain. We've thoroughly covered the works of ReggaeLand over the course of the past two or three years now which, along with pushing a few very strong riddim projects, has also included a fine and full line of artist's albums. At the head of them all, in my opinion, was Anthony Que's downright divine (every time I listen to that album, still, I find new things to like from it) "No Fear No Man" from back in 2012. And the label has also done projects from Singer Jah, Malijah, Achis Reggae favourite Chantelle Ernandez and, most recently there was Mikey General with "Hailelujah Song" just late last year. Now, with their first full release of 2014 (unless I'm overlooking something) (and I may be), ReggaeLand brings forth the first new Jahmali album in fourteen years, "We I Open". As I alluded to, this album does not come as a total surprise as artist and label have produced output in recent times and, along with the aforementioned names and others such as Jah Nattoh (biggup Jah Nattoh), Wayne Daniel and Norris Man (and I am FULLY expecting a Norris Man/ReggaeLand album at some point, given just how active both have been - at some point, it HAS to happen), Jahmali has become somewhat of a mainstay on their releases and "We I Open" is the culmination of all of those efforts. And not only has ReggaeLand been active, they've also been really good (Quantity & Quality), so when combined with an album drought from the singer and recent work by the label, I was DAMN looking forward to this album and, as I knew it would, it managed well live up to expectations. 
Unlike names I mentioned such as Jah Cure and Chezidek, there isn't anything too bizarre about Jahmali's voice. He's just EXCELLENT at singing. Still, the best way I can describe what he does, vocally, is to infuse such a remarkable amount of passion into his songs that you cannot ignore it. And, despite the zeal, the sound is effortless. The man was born to be a singer and he sings just as much from his heart as he does from his vocal chords. And Jahmali places those dazzling tones on full display throughout his new album, "We I Open" for ReggaeLand, which gets up and going with its namesake tune. The first thing that got my attention from the opener was the fact that it rides the same riddim which backs Anthony Que's gorgeous 'Cyaa Stop Jah Blessings' (a SWEET guitar on that track) from the aforementioned "No Fear No Man" set and, though those standards are soaring, to my opinion, Jahmali matches the masterful Mr. Que. 

"We I open, yes we I open
We I open, yes we I open
We I open, yes we I open
We I open, yes we I open
We I open, yes we I open

Here is a fact weh babylon don't like -
Dem no like it when di youths dem I-nite
Afraid a revolution might ignite
Dat simply mean di veil come off we eyes
But education is the first foundation -
Of survival and unification
Wi nah go run wid guns and ammunition

BOOM! Though I do hear one song on the album which I favour over it, it was no surprise that 'We I Open' was chosen as the title of this album. As a song, it is a beautiful composition and a joy to listen to. The second song on the album was the first of a few which were completely familiar to my ears. The somewhat funny (it's hilarious!) 'Selecta Man' rides ReggaeLand's sweet Cultura Riddim and it finds Jahmali feuding with the skullduggery of a selector who is ruining his advances at a woman who has caught his eye. The very clever tune is a large highlight here and I don't know if I've never really paid it a proper attention (although I sung along with the chorus immediately) or if I just haven't heard it in a while, but this tune sounded better than I recall, so definitely don't just pass it by. 'Worst Criminal', although new to my ears, is backed by the track which underpinned Que's 'Rastaman House'. Jahmali also does well on that golden composition as he deals with the misguided and full-on repulsive intentions of a group of the worst kind of people in the world and there is also a solid remix of the tune at the end of the album. Neither riddim nor lyrics in the case of the biblical 'Wicked Devices' caught my memory, but I'm happy that "We I Open" has given us all the opportunity to become acquainted as it is another big tune. Be sure to pay attention to what is said on this song, but the vocal performance here is AMAZING and the highlight of the song. Next is 'Real Life Champion', another piece which was new to my ears and one which is even stronger than the song preceding it on the album to my opinion. This selection is one about basically seeking a higher standard when you go to giving terms like 'champion' and focusing on the greater things in life outside of things of purely material value. One of the best riddims on this entire album is on 'Real Life Champion' as well. 

The second half of "We I Open" unwraps with another previous single, the downright WARM 'Do It For Love' which was featured on ReggaeLand's relatively recent The Change Riddim. Again, this is a song which is so wonderfully sang that it dominates my opinion of it, but if you break it down just a bit, what you find is a top inspirational effort which is set within the confines of a relationship, but can really apply to almost any type of situation in my opinion. A gorgeous song. On 'Ancestors' Jahmali pays tribute to those who came before and does so to the tune of one of the best lyrical displays on this album. Specifically, he deals with the disconnect modern society seems to have with the ancestors and how important it is to remove that type of mentality. It's also a very nice song to listen to and very pleasing. As I said with 'Selecta Man', it also applies to 'No Weapon' which takes top honours on "We I Open" in my opinion. The song which was Jahmali's cut of the Dem Talking Riddim is MAMMOTH! 

“There's no weapon weh can stop a dis yah Armageddon
So wi hold and Jah mek wi strong
To bless up today, to see another one

When you don't know the repercussion
And you just keep on doing wrong -
Every day weh Jah send come
You're not aware of the reciprocal whose gonna save you from -
Crushing under babylon wall, when it ah fall
The better you give is the best you receive
Don't accept defeat
Give thanks and praises, now dem finally see it"

'No Weapon' is magical and apparently ReggaeLand agrees as, just like 'Worst Criminal', it too is featured in a remixed version at the end of the album. 'Courageously' blows through with a well refreshing sound just as Anthony Que's 'Blowing In The Wind', with which it shares a track -- Reggae Reasoning Riddim -- and it, which is a call for some strong souls to stand up and take some risks and show some bravery, also SHINES!

"They used to laugh and ask what we mean -
When Rasta tell dem fi eat up di greens
Neglect di herb weh Jah gave for meat

I talked about passion in referring to Jahmali's voice - if you want to hear PASSION, hear 'Courageously'! As is the premise of the song, you feel like getting up and doing something after this record rolls in and it doesn't stop after it's come and gone. Finally, the last non-remix on "We I Open" is the nearly stellar 'Silver Nutmeg' which Jahmali sends up as a credit for Reggae music. He almost sings it as a love song, at times, and I suppose that's exactly what it was meant to be on the very colourful selection. 
Overall, while I wish we didn't have to wait nearly a decade and a half for it, Jahmali's third album proves to be as mighty as you expected it to be. I do want to mention, to the credit of ReggaeLand, that the music here is outstanding throughout and when placed beneath a voice like this one, it sounds even greater to my ears (as I alluded to). This is probably my second favourite album that they've ever done and, hopefully, they can line up future recordings with Jahmali as well as my only real critique of this album would be its length. One or two more songs would have been nice (so would a combination with Anthony Que, but that's probably asking too much). To put it simply, Jahmali has one of the best voices Reggae music has ever seen and although he hasn't given us much of a cause to celebrate it in recent times, he returns in a major way with "We I Open". When he sounds like this, I can listen to him sing songs all day long. Well done. 

Rated: 4.30/5
ReggaeLand Productions

Review #516

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