Sunday, November 16, 2014

Rewind! - Oneness Records 2014

Over the course of the past half-decade or so, the Germany based Oneness Records has definitely become a favourite of ours. This has happened as the label has begun to make some of the absolute finest Reggae music to be found anywhere in the world and, really, carried with them both some of the biggest vocal talents in the genre as well as some others who have just as definitively become stars as well. In 2014, however, one can make a strong case that Oneness Records has hit an even higher level and, in doing so, has reaffirmed their status as one of the most reliable imprints when it comes to extremely high quality Reggae music. So, we thought that it would be a nice idea to take a look at a label which, as their name would suggest, really made themselves stand out in 2014 as we REWIND! Oneness Records 2014.

"One Love, One Heart, Oneness"
To get things started, way back in January (which really doesn't seem like a very long time ago, it's been a very short year) (or I just may have been sleepwalking through a few months, which is a distinct possibility), Oneness had a very good idea in the form of what turned out to be "One Love, One Heart, Oneness". This set was a compilation which included songs from a truly impressive cache of vocalists. Such as??? Luciano, Sizzla Kalonji & Mark Wonder, Alborosie, Ziggi Recado & J Boog, Buju Banton, Queen Omega, Junior Kelly, Jah Mason & Fyah T and others all made appearances. Also present, fittingly, may just be one of the most popular Oneness productions ever, 'High & Windy' which linked Kabaka Pyramid and someone named Sara Lugo.
The Rise Up Riddim

In February Oneness would return with their first of two big riddim projects for the year, the Rise Up Riddim. This composition was familiar to my ears as it had backed the glowing 'What Goes Around', which appeared on the all-conquering and classic Oneness produced "Long Journey" album by Naptali in 2010 and, most fortunately (and predictably), Oneness surrounded the Clarendon native with another very impressive roster of vocalists. This most gorgeous and serene track backed big selections from Queen Omega, Mark Wonder, Buju Banton, Ziggi Recado, Jahcoustix, Prince Malachi and a seemingly constantly surging Skarra Mucci alongside someone named Sara Lugo.

African Children Riddim
We also had a preview of what would become Oneness' second riddim release of the year, the African Children Riddim, in April when, last year, the label did a fine EP with Denham Smith entitled "Not The Same". It was the title track which would be Smith's strong contribution to the African Children Riddim and, again, Oneness provided listeners with a group of very talented wordsmiths as well. They included Luciano, Naptali, Ras Muhamad, the wonderful Mark Wonder, Fitta Warri ["A plant is just a plant. Give marijuana a chance. Look at those poisonous substance which you make legal in every instance"] and Exco Levi whose 'Blood Tears', in my opinion, took top honours on the African Children. Also in retrospect, the actual track here, which Oneness was kind enough to provide a clean instrumental of was probably amongst their greatest creations to date and what they ultimately did with it was top notch. 

"The Kings Book" by Suga Roy & Conrad Crystal

For the first of what would become a downright remarkable THREE album releases for the year, Oneness Records teamed up with veterans Suga Roy and Conrad Crystal and their own Fireball Records imprint in May for the well formidable "The Kings Book". This album really forced me to take a look at what the duo was up to as I hadn't been keen to pay a proper attention to their works over the previous two or three years or so but, if you work with Oneness Records, in some type of way you're going to get my attention and this was not the exception. I'll likely always recall "The Kings Book" best as "The Album With 'No Love' On It" because it did happen to carry the tune, featuring Cocoa Tea was… probably the best song I've ever heard from Suga Roy & Conrad Crystal . I LOVE that tune! "The Kings Book" also featured appearances from Gappy Ranks, Maikal X, Alborosie and Natural Black and though I may not have much of a reference to compare it to, may just be my favourite album from the pair to date.  
"Salam" by Ras Muhamad
Greetings! In July, even after all of that up there, Oneness would take another significant step ahead when they would release what would become undeniably one of the biggest albums of the year from anyone and what history may, someday, look back as a landmark set from Indonesian chanter, Ras Muhamad, "Salam". The album would feature a downright dazzling demonstration of Muhamad and company switching between languages and cultures yet, ultimately, finding a most familiar ground and unifying force in Reggae music. "Salam" was HUGE! And now, just a few months on, it has gotten even stronger and I love how remote it seems on paper when contrasted with actuality - which was entirely comfortable and FITTING. There was nothing about this album, musically, which seemed forced. It was so powerfully organic and just a fantastic project. This was best shown on pieces such as the title track and opener as well as 'Lion Roar' ["Well inna concrete jungle, you hear The Lion HIM ah roar!"], 'Blow Them Away', 'Conquest' and so many others. I also really enjoyed the blend of guests which, again, even further displayed that no matter how disparate things may seem, there is a most capable instrument of amalgamation in this music. Featured on this journey were Indonesian artists such as the Mighty Che, Kunokini and Conrad Good Vibration (I still really like that name), Jamaicans Naptali and Kabaka Pyramid as well as German Uwe Kaa and someone named Sara Lugo.

"Hit Me With Music" by Sara Lugo
…"someone named Sara Lugo". To end the year (presumably at least), Oneness Records would push what was easily one of the most anticipated albums of the year for us in October as the INFINITELY DELIGHTFUL Sara Lugo [WHAT!] [BOOM!] and her magic voice would return with her sophomore album, "Hit Me With Music". For her second trip the tall Reggae-Jazz hybrid explored a variety of different sounds and, unsurprisingly, they all seemed to work and made for a very colourful and interesting release. A tune such as 'Black & White' really saw Lugo taking an observance of and fully CELEBRATING many of the many things that make her unique musically and beyond; while others such as 'Soldiers Of Love' arrived at a similarly matchless destination but doing so on an unforgettably different path. We got to fall in love on 'The One', got more of it on 'More Love' and got to hook up on 'Really Like You' featuring Protoje, we grew up, apologised and learned from our mistakes on 'Learn & Grow' with Ras Muhamad, 'Never Ever' and 'Play With Fire'. We went to a dance on the title track (a SMOKEY, JAZZY one) and we felt no pain and in the morning, we all jumped on our bikes and rode through the park with Sara Lugo and Kabaka Pyramid on the likely future classic remake of a classic, 'High & Windy'. 

"Yes I love it, when you hit me with music, hit me with music, hit me with music"

So, while I know you've picked up ALL of these and I don't have to remind you, just in case you... were incarcerated or something happened and you missed out, definitely check out the work coming from Oneness Records in 2014. Consistently one of the best in the genre over the past few years got even bigger this year and... it's only November, maybe they're not done! 

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