Saturday, December 6, 2014

'To The Table': A review of "Ride Tru" by Midnite

Upon a throne. In the world village that is Reggae music, if you notice it correctly, as in any fully functioning community, we have people serving in every necessary capacity. Whatever emotion you may want to tap into and whatever corner of your mind you may need to access in order to reach it, somewhere someone is making a vibe directly for you in that moment. And one of the many positives of the music covering the entire world is that, with virtually no exception, this true regardless your background and walk of life. Someone is singing your song ["Someone can relate, bring an instant healing"]. If you're in love and you're wonderfully lost in the moment, Beres Hammond has an entire catalogue of music and something in there perfectly captures what you feel and even if it doesn't or you're loving in HD these days, Alaine can take care of that for you. If you're angry and you want to let off some steam, the downright sweltering recent assault Mad Cobra has been laying on the Dancehall, even after all of these years, can help you with that as you musically hear him commit every known crime in existence - so you don't have to. If you need a boost in your mood, if you are feeling bad, check Jah Cure and listen to the greatest voice ever given to a human being and if that doesn't work, Etana, Duane Stephenson, Tarrus Riley, Sara Lugo [!] and a line of others can definitely put you on the proper path to happiness. Any complexion of any emotion that you want to keep or change, there is something for you. Even if you don't rightly know how you feel [!], choose from any Busy Signal tune you can find or allow Perfect Giddimani to YELL at you for a little while, then maybe you can figure it out. Reggae music has what you need. It always does. It is in that same context that you might find yourself drawing for a piece of the music to challenge you and to provoke some thought or help to ignite some different point of view on an opinion that you may have which might lead you to some of the most DETERMINED writers in the genre. I can mention the likes of Sizzla Kalonji and Lutan Fyah and Jah9 and some of my other favourite wordsmiths in Reggae and, normally, I'd make the connection to the artist we deal with today… but I'm beginning to think that placing him in that scope is a little limiting. When virtually EVERY LINE he utters, at his best or somewhere else, challenges the listener to pay a full attention. 
"Beauty For Ashes" [2014]
And this is why we give so much concentration to the releases of Vaughn Benjamin and Midnite. Although I still maintain that I am not amongst 'their' most fervent of supporters and certainly am no expert (Midnite, EASILY, has some of the most passionate fans that you'll find in all of music, regardless of genre), I probably have written more about their music than anyone because, again, I think there is a point to be made in everything that they do. And while I do not love it all, I do love the journey to comprehension which is always a healthy voyage when it comes to Midnite. And if that is the case (and it is), then perhaps we'll go on to look back at 2014 as one of the greatest years that the Virgin Islands Reggae pillar has ever put together. 
At the head of that will surely be "Beauty For Ashes" which, likewise, may someday be regarded as one of the finest Midnite albums that there is (a distinction it already owns from me) by the masses. That set was done by the already but increasingly esteemed I Grade Records alongside the Zion I Kings collective and… that was great. A big album from anyone else means a great year but despite that, this is still Midnite that we are talking about and 'they' don't tend to do things in singles. There was also "Stand The Test", a very solid piece from Iaahden Sounds which arrived back in August and, again, that would have been a damn strong year from anyone with a flattening album and another one to keep things boiling eight months on - but like I said, this is Midnite and not even two would be enough to stand through December. So what would be next? Maybe a new album would come from Rastar who formerly was responsible for at least one Midnite album in a year (and technically released another in 2014 with the dub for "Better World Rasta"). No? Maybe Fifth Son, who helmed such sublime sets as "In Awe" ["I hold his Majesty in awe"] ["…in awe"] ["… in awe"] and "Be Strong" recently, would return with a brand new album late in the year. Not them? Well, Benjamin does get around to various producers and maybe one of them might return and there is always the possibility that an actual Ronnie Benjamin produced Midnite album (check out Dezarie's new album "Love In Your Meditation") might emerge but absolutely none of that happened. Instead, Vaughn Benjamin returned to I Grade Records and the ZIK for their second collaboration in about ten months for the direct follow-up to "Beauty For Ashes", the very surprising "Ride Tru". It has been a very active year for both IGR and the ZIK with the former dealing with not only "Beauty For Ashes"  but also the all-conquering "The Sound" from Pressure Busspipe and, for their part, both Zion High Productions and even Lustre Kings Productions have experienced activity with ZHP going high with "Therapeutic" from Ziggi Recado and most recently with "Redemption" by Jah Bless and the LKP, whom we hadn't heard from in awhile, dealing the outstanding Junction Riddim, their contribution to the ZIK's Riddim Album series. It has become one of the most interesting aspects of any year to see what the ZIK might be working on (apparently next is a Sabbattical Ahdah album, according to Bredz, which is all shades of fantastic!) and while we were anticipating a rumoured release from Lutan Fyah, "Ride Tru" comes as a GREAT surprise. It is my opinion that Laurent 'Tippy I' Alfred and company at IGR get the best out of Midnite and - why not make two in one year! I'm not complaining at all and after you hear it, you won't be either.  
The thing which most stands out in regards to I Grade produced Midnite albums generally is how easy they are to listen to. If you've followed Midnite to any close degree, surely you've sat through some albums which didn't have much in the way of sonic appeal - if anything at all. That is never the case with IGR's Midnite album and, in their history together, they have worked on some of the most easily digested albums to come down from Midnite - projects which are melodic and entertaining music. You can well place in that same category their latest link, "Ride Tru" which is a little heavier than their most recent journey, but by it is end proves to be a RIDE to prosperity for both artist and label. Definitely one of the nicest sounds on the entire album gets us started in 'Calm The Day'. For me, this is a composition about finding some peace and serenity in a hectic world. In typical Vaughn Benjamin fashion, he manages to make you WORK to find your calm in the tune ["A CACOPHONY OF A BARRAGE OF WORDS OF A SIDETRACK OF A DEVIATE"] but it is well worth it ultimately and I have to say that I love the riddim behind this song. It builds in intensity throughout and it is amazing. Speaking of amazing, the first of a pair of heads of MONSTROUS songs on this album, 'To Them' is the second song on "Ride Tru" and it is SPECTACULAR! 

"The Lamb that return yah with The Lion head
Humble and perfected inna righteousness
All di like-minded know they needed strength
When goals line up along allegiances
That's when realizations overtake them when -
Di magnitude and scope of what they stand against
Turned into entire, whole world events" 

When I first heard this song, what stuck with me was how easy and effortless it came through. I don’t know how much of it was actually written down versus coming from a place of spontaneity (I would assume Benjamin is someone who writes down EVERYTHING) but it sounds like he just began to talk across a track. And that track is a special one. There is a saxophone playing throughout which is candy for the ears and we are treated to an extended instrumental after the vocals which wholly delights. Benjamin uses it all to put together a majestic song of praise to His Majesty and, probably, my favourite song on "Ride Tru". 'To Ge Da' is a fascinating song as well because, on the surface, it almost seems like a love song which isn't something that you will find in abundance in Vaughn Benjamin's reserve. I had to listen to this one a few times but I do actually think that it was the intent with 'To Ge Da' to make it a song about being in love. Of course it does have a spiritual connotation to it -- he is ultimately speaking on being 'together' with The Almighty but I think that he is talking about moving in that direction as a pair and not just as one person -- and it makes for such a noted song on this album. Also, check the horn that chimes in during the late portions of the song - not to be missed. And I'll also include here the LUSH 'Restore' which is definitely one of my favourites here and I think will be regarded as a big highlight from "Ride Tru". 

"When times are hard with sinisterisms all around
People like to say, 'don't trust no one'
But on every situation - closer introspection
Rasta get to see it's not as simple as it sound


BOOM! 'Restore' is glorious! A tune about infusing more of the presence of His Majesty into the world in order to restore and re-establish the belief and faith and LOVE of mankind in itself ["when The Principal restore, the people restore"], 'Restore' hits all kinds of lyrical highpoints and does so on yet another might riddim behind it.

Throughout "Ride Tru" there're several moments which are likely to standout to listeners for various reasons, even just on paper. It is somewhat rare that a tracklist for a Midnite album looks so attractive on the surface (and if you don't know, Vaughn Benjamin is very fond of doing things like 'To Ge Da' in naming a track or you'll see an entire album with nearly every song having a one worded title) but it is a quality which does usually reach the I Grade releases - check "Beauty For Ashes" and "Kings Bell". As is always the case, the title track will likely generate a whole heap of buzz and, in this case, with great reason. 'Ride Tru', the song, is more than seven minutes long [!] and it is a powerful destination on this ride on every level. Musically, the riddim on the song is about as BIG and complex as you'll find on the album and, as you would expect at such a length, it is given its time to shine and when it is that thing EXPLODES! There are so many wonderful and subtle sounds that you will hear making up this composition that it is almost overwhelming at times and you really get the feeling that the musicians just had a really good time in time in bring it all together. Lyrically, this one is also in the stars! What I would take away from it is that 'Ride Tru' is a celebration of life. Benjamin speaks on so many beautiful things which may not be very well known, respected or appreciated, but are capable of bringing JOY to anyone who is willing to pay attention to them (he even references Jacques Cousteau at one point). This is a very ripe song and I'm tempted to go on about it… and I will (who cares, if this thing is four thousand words long, then it just is). You can take ideas like these and apply them so vividly and perfectly to Midnite's music, in general. Sit down and REALLY listen to what this man says in his music and you will inherit the ability of appreciating such a CAVERNOUS talent ["MR. COUSTEAU SAY, DEEPEST IN THE WORLD. AND IF YOU CAN'T FIND THE DEPTHS, HOW HIGH IS THE HIGH?!!"], put on display through now more than fifty albums [WHAT!] [BOOM!]. And I think so many people listen to this music and they enjoy it or they don't but they don't take the time to comb through what is actually being discussed and formulate an opinion based on that - for me, that's the real joy here. 

A digression in the name of passion you'll forgive (or you won't, I don't care). Also sure to grab your attention is the plea for help 'I Beseech Jah', the one combination from "Ride Tru", this one shockingly (not really) featuring the inescapable Pressure Busspipe. Having also featured on the signature tune from "Beauty For Ashes", ‘Same I Ah One’, Pressure is also back for the new album and, once again, turns in a might effort alongside Vaughn Benjamin (who made an appearance on "The Sound" as well). 

"Teach us how to magnify our true ability
Government ah crash the economical stability
The Rastaman say what is to be will have to be
Even when the people dot their i's and cross their t's
Government no think twice fi seize the opportunities"

You might also be drawn in the direction of 'Credited' which I believe is the first single from the new album and, though it requires a lot of love and care, is another big, big song. For me, this selection goes in the route that I've taken this review in. It is about everyone bringing something to the 'table' of life and sharing with one another what we can do. This one can make music, that one can cook ["Everything was a work of art from the food to the music - it was a work of art"], you can do something and so can I - everyone brings something. It is a very deep song and one I'm still well working on and am appreciating every step along the way. On 'Voices of The Remnancy' Benjamin pays a significant tribute to the likes of Bunny Rugs, Bob Marley and others who have helped to not only bring the music and life to where it is now (including indirectly, not to be overlooked, Marcus who is responsible for so many dazzling Midnite album covers which has surely brought much to enhancing their legend over the years whether we realize it or not. We are visual creatures and what we see can be just as important as what we here, even pertaining to music). I thought that this was just a fantastic idea from him to put things together in such a way. Particularly because he gives quite a bit of the early portion of the song to Rugs and I can envision an idea evolving from something which was specifically meant to say THANK YOU to one of the greatest voices that Reggae music has ever produced. And the sound of this song, although almost entirely subtle, is DIVINE! You have to pay as much attention to the riddim as you do to the lyrics but you'll hear one of the finest musical demonstrations of the year. And I'll also mention here the blistering 'Haile Selassie I The First Time'. BOOM! This one is a cannon of a song which finds Benjamin a bit more enthused and agitated than he was when 'Calm The Day' rolled through. It pinnacles on the  final two verses which have to be considered amongst his finest in recent times as he pulls knowledge from everywhere he can find it and launches it at the listener ["Which one want the foundation fi move inna di mansion right-wing? THERE IS A SINKHOLE OF ERRORS INNA FASCIST REASONING. Any colour inna di spectrum a miscalculated. Any how dem ahgo move is the same misstep"]. 

And if you're still standing after all of that, what you'll find remaining on "Ride Tru" are four more outstanding pieces including at least one MAMMOTH moment. Along with that is a pair of songs which I hope people really tune in because they are both excellent, 'Conquering Lion' and 'Arise Again'. The former, in a bit of a darker way, echoes the graceful style shown during 'To Them'. I also link it to 'Haile Selassie I The First Time' which is the full boil. 'Conquering Lion' is the heating up and the simmer and on a similar level of quality. 'Arise Again', with its familiar sound, is a difficult one and because of that, it is damn easy to get the lyrics of this one lost because its sound is so captivating (I do not know how to describe that thing properly but it is lovely to listen to and if ever the Zion I Kings release an album of their instrumentals, it should be included). What I get from the song is that it is a piece aimed at the younger generations of the world to inspire them to take their place at the head and to build upon what was done ahead of them. They'll need help to do this and Benjamin surely has an idea where they can find all they need and more and I really think that, going further, it is a song about encouraging people in what they do and to be supportive and reinforcing as best as you can for their positive works. And then there is the sweetness which you'll find at #12 on "Ride Tru", the simply SHATTERING 'Worry Free'.

"Unto The Emperor's magnanimity -
Earth have a climatic energy
Right inna di presence of dem material technology
See dem gone round ya inna hurt and brutality
Til dem no see it as nuttin again, dem see it as normality
Rasta give I & I musicality and it hold some solidarity
In heart of technocratic city to inna yard and shanty
Iniversal world vibes, Rasta musicality
St. Croix feel it fi real
No matter how dem tell wi bout world disband economy
Di morning mist yah in the ambient of di oceanic beauty

There is no song on this album, not one, which is better than 'Worry Free' in my opinion. It is every bit as good as 'To Them' and the title track and one or two others on that level and is a special song. I don't expect the wide reaction to be like that, however, but the first time I heard this song fully, I heard that straight forward and relentless lyrical tirade that you often get from Vaughn Benjamin but it was wrapped up in a tranquil and old school package. The contrast presented is a remarkable one and one which, at least for me, is a standing highlight on "Ride Tru". Finally, do check 'How I & I Carry On', another exquisite piece. This song may not feature Benjamin's greatest vocal performance (it doesn't) but what it does have going for it is a beautiful vibes which shine throughout (I swear I can hear someone chanting in the background through almost the entire song). I also link it to both 'Ride Tru' and 'Worry Free' as 'How I & I Carry On' is a song about appreciating the small things in life, including the company of good people ["So just keep good relations!"] and you can also appreciate something simple, like a really, really good album.
Overall, I'm trying to avoid drawing direct comparisons between "Ride Tru" and "Beauty For Ashes" but I think that I will be one of the only people attempting to do that. It's very hard to ignore the fact that we now have to Midnite/IGR albums in one calendar year but I think that making that move was a calculated one and one which not only allowed for the comparison but WELCOMED it. "Beauty For Ashes" is an album I'll likely always recall, most, for its lyrical prowess which is amazing for a Midnite album. Benjamin took one idea, unity, and split it into thirteen different directions and it took as all months to realize what he had done. "Ride Tru" may just do a similar thing as well as so many of the songs seem to revolve around the notion of slowing down and not overlooking things which are beautiful and beneficial to us all. Which is why I'm hoping, again, that the giant contribution made by both Midnite and I Grade Records is not overlooked, particularly in 2014. I think that the world is realizing that such a pairing always produces big results and "Ride Tru" is not the exception. From beginning to end it shows itself to be on the level as and, in some cases above, previous collaborations and, though it does feature a different sound - that is a good thing and we aren't dealing with tracks #13-26 of the same album. Instead, "Ride Tru" proves to be yet another unique demonstration of the crucial material brought to the table in a one of a kind way by Midnite and I Grade Records. Unsurprisingly, one of the year's best… again.

Rated: 4.50/5
I Grade Records
CD + Digital
Releases on December 9th

{Note: Taking a little break, wanted to review this one before it}

Review #534


  1. Are you ever coming back from vacation? It has been more than a month. How are we going to learn about upcoming music without your guidance? C'mon mon!

  2. seriously. new year won't start til we get best albums & other lists

  3. Hey Guys!!Get ready for a fabulous evening of Reggae music with Wayne Wonder, JR Reid, Kriss Darlin, Rupee on this Saturday. Enjoy Jamaican food & ultimate fun on 7th November.