Showing posts with label Gentleman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gentleman. Show all posts

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Best Reggae Albums of 2013

Because we see no reason at all to stop celebrating (because there exists no such reason), today we go in the direction of albums and put together the finest of what turned out to be a very strong year, 2013. Though its predecessor was amazing and the new year, ultimately, didn't materialize some of the big named rumoured projects which were expected form the likes of Tarrus Riley and Queen Ifrica, in retrospect, it did offer many BRILLIANT 'unexpectations' from loooooong time veterans and installed superstars alike. Still, it was a newcomer who shone the brightest and gave the year its signature moment, but the journey there was a beautiful one. Take it with us! It's the best of the best: The Best Reggae Albums of 2013!

#20 "New Scroll" by Cornel Campbell [Zion High Productions]

Sing on. L-E-G-E-N-D, Cornel Campbell, had an outstanding year in 2013, once again demonstrating that a voice and a style that he had been developing for nearly SIXTY years had yet to reach a time zone in which it could not thrive. The biggest of his highlights in my opinion was this gorgeous release via Zion High Productions and the Zion I Kings collective, "New Scroll". While the "scroll" may have been new, what remained familiar and wonderfully so was one of the genre's most legendary voices which was giving a sublimely old school vibed mix by ZHP and the ZIK. They, too, had a great campaign this past year, and you'll hear from them again before the end of this list, but "New Scroll" still holds a very special place as being, truly, one of the best arranged and most fulfilling albums of 2013. 

#19 "The 8 Year Affair" by Protoje [Don Corleon Records]

No one like you. One of Reggae music's most addictively unique figures, Protoje, returned in 2013 with his sophomore set, "The 8 Year Affair". Like its predecessor (and probably most of its successors) the album was helmed by Protoje's esteemed kin, Don Corleon and, again, the two pushed a set with eyes directed towards the old school arena where at least a part of Protoje's sizable unusual talents dwell most comfortably. Watching Protoje go about his career is most interesting because it almost unfolds like a movie: You kind of get the feeling the feeling that it has all been laid out and you just have to watch the rest of it. I don't know how it ends, but I do know that the second 'scene' was fantastic and I cannot wait for the next. Romain Virgo and even Tessanne Chin guest.

#18 "Freedom Fighters" by Chezidek [One Drop Records]

Bonus. Chezidek offered one MAMMOTH moment of an album for 2013 which you'll find bubbling somewhere near the head of this list and deservedly so, but he also, very quietly, did something else. Unfortunately (and yet, somewhat coolly), the biggest story around his other offering from the year, "Freedom Fighters" was and remains just how few people actually knew it existed. Released by the US based One Drop Productions and produced by Andrew 'Bassie' Campbell like their previous two albums (one of which, Lutan Fyah's "Truly" made last year's edition of this list), this set went well under the radar and although it did so likely attracting only the attentions of people like You and I, ultimately you do hope that more of the singer's fans get to hear this album. While it wasn't the other album here, "Freedom Fighters" was good Chezidek and as someone who has stringed together more than a couple of solid years recently, that's saying something very substantial. Songs such as 'Dem A Dweet', the title  track, 'Mr. President', 'Jah Jah Tabernacle' and several others anchored an album which didn't make much noise, but clearly not for a lack of quality.

See Review
#17 "Much More To Life" by Norris Man [Tiger Records]

Rolling. Following a RIDICULOUS 2012, veteran chanter Norris Man kept things going in the year by continuing with his most fascinating run of album releases. Offering what would  turn out to be two solid sets, he would, again, impress in a way which has come as a very sudden and unlikely surprise. The best of his contributions came courtesy of a very familiar source, Sherkhan and company at Tiger Records who (would give it away for free later in the year) had, for years, made Norris Man a staple and struck a good idea in deciding to do a full album with him. The results were "Much More To Life", and album which persists in delivering more and more material to the listener through every subsequent spin. Though it would not receive a great deal of attention either, "Much More To Life" was one of Norris Man's best albums ever. Perhaps what was most interesting here was how the album was presented. It carried on like an evolving story, with the artist chiming in through six skits, helping things along, like a narrator. One thing really sticks out, in retrospect, for this album - Two songs 'All Day Long' and 'Dreaming' which utilized the same riddim, with the latter seeming to be this spontaneously vibed track. Norris Man later confirms this on a skit and I just really enjoy how that played out from the standpoint of a listener. Also quite difficult to forget were big tunes such as 'Murdera', 'Jah Rule Always' and 'The Soul'.

#16 "Shining Hope" by Gappy Ranks [Hot Coffee Music/VP Records]

Nuts & bolts. Though its place on this list was virtually guaranteed, it was probably most difficult in deciding exactly where to land "Shining Hope", the third studio release from burgeoning star, Gappy Ranks. And one of the best things about making a list like this (and making it in a way where you actually place albums in direct comparison to one another) is that you get to go back and listen, in detail, to them and make the choice which was better. I'm starting to think that "Shining Hope" was a bit better than I gave it credit for being (and it was #20 here for a while). Though the sound was definitely varied, what I always enjoy so much about Gappy is his obvious attention to forwarding his skill. This album would contain one of the most devastating exhibitions of his monstrous gifts in the form of one of the year's best tunes, 'Carpenter' and it was not alone with 'Back To Reality' leading a pack of very solid supporting acts.

#15 "Be Strong" by Midnite [Fifth Son Records]

Kinda high. The conversation surrounding "Be Strong" the first of two albums from Vaughn Benjamin and Midnite that you'll find on this list, fittingly, has shifted, at least from me. It has gone from celebrating and admiring that this album was the direct descendant of "In Awe", which marked the last time that Midnite linked with Fifth Son Records (and was SPECTACULAR), to being about just how good "Be Strong" was. Coincidentally, that too is a sign of following "In Awe", as the album would travel a similar path to being regarded as good as it was. Though not quite that good (at least not yet), "Be Strong" finds a place on this list, without question, by virtue of being yet another finely crafted and downright BRILLIANT display by Vaughn Benjamin and Fifth Son. Over the years they've worked magic together and, "Be Strong" was one of the best. 'With Regret', 'Dem Kinda Heights', 'Be Strong', 'Bless The Nest'… pretty much all ten of these songs helped to lead the way on an album which probably finds its way in the top ten of this list if I were to redo it in a few years. 

#14 "Urban Jungle" by Brinsley Forde [JahSolidRock]

Lion have mane. The fact that longtime frontman of the great Aswad, Brinsley Forde, finds himself on a list like this comes to the surprise of absolutely no one, but what was remarkable was how he did. Linking with someone who you'll certainly hear from again today, JahSolidRock, Forde delivered his debut solo release, "Urban Jungle", in 2013. Didn't you just assume that he had already had a few of these? The album, much like #20 on this list, was an example of an elder really being pushed in a direction which would, easily, make his music more accessible to another generation of fans, but do so without alienating the multitudes of fans that he's touched throughout his career. "Urban Jungle" was, also, another album which seemed to sprawl further and further on your tastes and, again, now looking back at it, I was damn happy to rediscover just how GOOD this album was. 

#13 "Over The Top" by Perfect Giddimani [House of Riddim]

Colours. When you have someone as wholly diverse and unpredictable as Perfect Giddimani, I suppose that you can try a variety of different ways to work, but the one which was chosen by Austrian label, House of Riddim, is probably my personal favourite: Release him! Artist and label linked together on "Over The Top" and album which, as its title would suggest, was without boundary and covered SO much musical ground. As I've said in the recent past, I am of the belief that Perfect has reached his prime. In his recent form, he has shown himself capable of making some of the best music of his entire career and 2013's stop was yet another example of that. "Over The Top' was a blistering mix of straightforward winners with Perfect's typically pausing moments. Guesting roles from the likes of Menny More, Ras Attitude and Pressure Busspipe (on the album's biggest tune, 'I Hail Jah') [FOREVER!] [BOOM!], certainly did not hurt and neither did an album which thoroughly entertaining and compelling from beginning to end. 

#12 "Rootical" by Lloyd Brown [Zion High Productions]

Turn it on. Certainly it couldn't be labeled a 'comeback' in the most genuine sense of the term, but that is exactly what "Rootical" was for someone who I regard as one of the greatest GEMS in the current landscape of Reggae music, Mr. Lloyd Brown. Though he had an album just months prior (and if I did an 'honourable mentions' portion for this list, that album, "New Veteran", would be in it), "Rootical" would mark the veteran's return to significance and PROPER form on a very well pushed album which generated all the appropriate buzz, from Zion High Productions and the Zion I Kings, as a project from someone of his stature deserves. Fortunately and predictably, the actual album did not disappoint (and it could not disappoint even if it tried). Despite alluding the spotlight for the past couple of years prior to this one, Brown had not seen a drop in form and he's continued to deliver albums of the same level that he established back in the mid 2000's. "Rootical" was a downright elegant and classy set which also brought out the signature cleverness and charm from Lloyd Brown. It also brought out some of the signature tricks from the label as well as ZHP tapped a very impressive group of guests which would include Pressure Busspipe, Jahdan Blakkamoore and Queen Omega.

#11 "Take Heed" by Nahyubi Joseph [Nahyubi Hodge]

The fittest. It seems like every year that someone jumps up from almost out of nowhere (or at least nowhere, seemingly, positioning themselves to be about to drop a wonderful album) and just brings forth a sizably surprising set and, for 2013, that distinction definitely belongs to St. Thomas native, Nahyubi Joseph, who gave us the DELIGHTFUL "Take Heed". You're almost guaranteed to not find this album on any other list of this kind, but it has well earned its position on my list. Why? In a year headlined and underlined by LYRICS, "Take Heed" was one of the finest lyrical performances on an album of the entire year in my opinion. Joseph  showed himself to be a dazzling combination of FIRE and common sense, both of which were to be found in abundance on his debut solo release. Furthermore, there is just a very POWERFUL attraction to his music. He has this interesting way of lyrically 'wrapping' the things that he says which really kind of send them screaming at the listener and places even more emphasis on what he says. This was most evident on pieces like 'Gun Play', 'Fittest', the very clever 'Anywhere Jah Goes', 'Up You Mighty Race' and others. Nahyubi Joseph made a giant introduction of himself on "Take Heed" and, simultaneously, delivered one of the year's strongest albums. 

See Review
#10 "Life Of A King" by Lutan Fyah [Grillaras Productions]

Kingly character. After having spent awhile and gone through more than a couple of album releases which weren't so well known, Reggae lyrics factory Lutan Fyah came through on his second album of the year with a piece which has to be regarded as one of his more well known drops, "Life Of A King" for Grillaras Productions. The album's title track, easily one of the best songs of the year, would do much of the damage even ahead of the set named after it and when we finally did get a look at the full project, it was damn impressive. Still anchored by that MASSIVE tune, "Life Of A King" did a great deal of work in just forty minutes. Most notably, on paper, was a tune called 'Cyaan Do We Nothing' which featured someone who we, hopefully, get to see on next year's edition of this list, Chronixx, but there were also big tunes such as 'Defend The Throne', 'See To It', 'Justice', 'Economical Crisis' and more. As an album, musically, this release was deserving of this list, but I so enjoyed the response to it and the fact that it received every opportunity to succeed - a set of circumstances which was not wasted on a HUGE album. 

#9 "New Day Dawn" by Gentleman [Universal]

Get personal. German star, Gentleman, did his part in making 2013 a big one via the delivery of his latest creation, "New Day Dawn". The initial word from this album was one which pervaded through during most of its time. "New Day Dawn" was an album which was produced by Gentleman, himself. As someone who has spent his time working with so much of the finest maestros in Reggae music, Gentleman put himself in that position and gave us one unforgettable record. This album would go to showcase that big, bright and BRILLIANT style which has aided the artist in his massive rise to prominence and do so in, seemingly, a very personal way. The album was also one of his best and one of the best from a bonafide star in the genre is a big deal. The biggest winner here, in my opinion (and probably only my opinion - but who cares), was 'Humanity's Glory', but the album also dealt with 'In My Arms' (which, in retrospect, can lay claim to being one of the best love songs Gentleman has ever done and has greatly grown on me over time), 'Heart of Rub-A-Dub', 'You Remember', 'Closer To The Light' and definitely 'Another Drama'. It should also be said that despite he didn't get the credit for it (and I didn't think that he would), "New Day Dawn" is a giant lyrical achievement from Gentleman and, in that arena, may only be matched by his earlier classics, "Journey To Jah" and "Confidence". This album wasn't on those levels, but it was probably the closest he's ever come to reaching them again. 

#8 "Free Indeed" by Midnite [Higher Bound Productions]

An unconceivable power. The shortsightedness of immediate history may not recognize it as so, but I think that, eventually, we may come to regard 2013 as one of the best in the lifespan of Midnite. Along with providing this list with a pair of entries, they also lent their name to a very solid Dub album as well doing (officially) yet another album, "Lion Out of Zion". At the head of it all, in my opinion, was a piece which I believe I will someday soon come to regard as one of my favourite Midnite albums ever, the scalding "Free Indeed". The album was powered by the US label, Higher Bound Productions, who (we'll hear from again shortly) used 2013 as a grand showcase for their label, particularly in relation to Virgin Island artists and, of course, when you do that, having a Midnite album is a big deal and one of this quality is even bigger. Yes, this album carried my favourite song of the year, 'Hemp Scroll', but there was so much more. 'Healah', 'Don't Be So', 'Perceptual Vortex', 'Mock Off', 'Outcome' and 'Envision' were all standouts from an album which remains an utter JOY to listen to and the best from Midnite in 2013. 

#7 "The Race" by Malika Madremana [Big Cup Music]

Checkpoint. The DELIGHTFUL Malika Madremana surprisingly jumped back into the ring with her third album and first in more than half a decade, "The Race". What was shocking was the fact that I did not expect to be talking about a new album from Madremana in 2013. What was not at all unexpected, however, was the fact that it was a GREAT release. The somewhat brief set was one which was highlighted by a grand amount of superior writing and in a year where, again, lyrics lead the way (and lyrics from females in particular), Madremana more than did her part. Produced by Big Cup Music, the album would mark the very first time the singer would deviate from her long time musical partner, Blaak Lung (who we also heard from in 2013), and obviously sometimes change can be good. While not taking to a terrain which would forbid longer standing fans (like myself) from following, "The Race" was a wonderfully FRESH vibe and one which, hopefully, lays a great foundation for the future works of Malika Madremana. The album's eponymous effort was surrounded with gems such as 'Mi Deyah', the damn difficult to forget 'Someone To Dance Wit', the first single 'Good People', 'Let Mi Lion Roam', 'Invisible Beauty', 'Tradition', 'Miles and Miles', 'Love Is Easy', 'Jah Is Wit Me' and… I just named every song on the album.

#6 "The Messiah" by Sizzla Kalonji [VP Records]

What a joy! Similar to the case of the artist from #17 on this list (only FAR more dramatic and immediate), whenever we get an album from Sizzla Kalonji which finds him in a good form, it is going to take my attention (and virtually LOCK itself a place within the top half of a list such as this one) to an entirely different level. On top of that, when he is not only featured in a good form, but is so with such an intense buzz behind him, I fall in line like most people and begin to think that another PERFECT album is on its way. "The Messiah" was not without flaw, but it was a powerhouse of an album from the greatest to ever do it. Produced by longtime Kalonji collaborator, Richard Bramwell and Breadback Productions, the album was absolutely saturated in vintage Sizzla sound and, perhaps even more important than being what it was, it allowed people like me to continue to push that idea that the next life-changing, landmark release from the chanter was inevitable. For what it was, "The Messiah" was close enough - to be one of the largest highlights of the year as well as being one of its most discussed and well-regarded sets as well. 


#5 "Dredlocks Time" by Army [Higher Bound Productions]

Pausing. When it comes to albums, 2013 was a particularly impressive one for music from out of the Virgin Islands. There was, of course, Midnite in all its typical glory and a very nice debut from the soon to be great Nahyubi Joseph and that wasn't all. Veteran chanters Ras Abja and Ancient King also chimed in, as did Danny I with his much talked about debut Spanish album and I Grade Records supplied us with the Songbird Riddim, which would subsequently be the subject of the single best compilation album that I heard, from anyone, in the year. It was very, very good! Playing a large hand in that was the aforementioned Higher Bound Productions who not only dealt  with Midnite, but also Ancient King, Abja and played a hand in Danny I's "Tribu Especial". The label was also on board the VI's greatest release of the year, for me, the MAMMOTH "Dredlocks Time" from the brilliantly serene Army. I go back now and, as is the case with all of the albums this high on the list, I'm looking for reasons NOT to place them here, but there're albums ranked higher than this one which have more questionable moments. "Dredlocks Time" was as good as it possibly could have been. There is not a single even remotely reasonable thing that I think could have been done to make it a finer record. Here, Army rose with an album which just made me feel really good and hasn't stopped. I hope it never does and I'm sure it never will. 'Modern World', 'Jah Will Guide', 'Push De Limit' and many of the other fifteen selections (like 'Bid Dem Goodbye') were the biggest winners on what may someday be one of the best albums I've ever heard. It was THAT good. 

#4 "Bring Back The Vibes" by Lion D [Bizzarri Records]

Thanx again. Don't you just hate it when you have a person who is generally wrong in their predictions, but on the most odd occasion when they actually get it right, they make sure they make you know that they were - saying stuff like "I TOLD YOU SO"

Ehh-ehmm! I TOLD YOU SO! I TOLD YOU SO! I TOLD YOU SO! I TOLD YOU SO! I TOLD YOU SO! I TOLD YOU SO! I TOLD YOU SO! I TOLD YOU SO! I TOLD YOU SO! 

I knew it back it 2009 when Lion D headed that year's edition of this list with "The Burning Melody", that we had someone who was full of potential and could, potentially, serve up top notch albums for a couple of decades and in 2013, vindication came through in the form of "Bring Back The Vibes". Once again linking with the masterminds at Bizzarri Records, the chanter turned in another sterling, free-flowing and full on boundless display of his gifts and do so throughout another big album. And it hasn't ended at all! I'm still on board in telling everyone who will listen just how good I think he'll be someday and he gave me what I needed to I hear as the Lion came back roaring in 2013 for album #2. 

See Review
See Rewind
#3 "The Order of Melchezedik" by Chezidek [JahSolidRock]

Searching and finding. Isn't it always nice to find someone with whom you have absolute chemistry? Particularly concerning something as strange and fleeting as making music - the history of Reggae music is brimming with legendary artist/producer combinations which have thrilled fans throughout the years. Well, as for Chezidek and the always active JahSolidRock, whatever it was that they were searching for, they found it in one another. Chezidek has made albums for so many different producers and labels and JSR hasn't been shy in making albums for a variety of different vocalists either, but neither of them have demonstrated the consistent level of GENIUS they do when they work together. If you needed more proof than what was to be found on 2010's MASSIVE "Judgement Time" album, it came blaring through in 2013 with the duo's followup, "The Order of Melchezedik". Just like its predecessor, this album was seamless and it bathed in some of the finest sonic appeal of any album in the genre, despite not even slightly dipping outside of its concept. You could close your eyes a find a winner on this tracklist. Though  my personal favourite is still 'Search and You Will Find', 'All My Life', 'Faya Pon Dem', 'Praises To Jah', 'Jah In Our Heart' and even others were in the discussion. It cannot possibly stop at a pair and though we may have to wait another three years to get it, the inexorability of a third album from Chezidek and JahSolidRock already has me excited.

#2 "Better Tomorrow" by Etana [VP Records]

A guarantee. In music, very few things are ultimately reliable. Things change as often as people do and, even if they don't, your tastes change and what you liked today may not sound so good tomorrow. So while I cannot be assured that I will enjoy the next albums from Sizzla Kalonji or Norris Man; or that Lloyd Brown won't find himself back on digital-only shelves for his next album; or that I won't have to wait until I'm almost forty (which is only a very short and an even more ridiculous eight years away) (or seven and a half now) for the next time Malika Madremana to do another album or for the next time for everyone to, collectively, decide to pay attention to a new Lutan Fyah album - I can tell you RIGHT NOW that whether we get it in 2014, 2015 or 2016 or 2116, THE NEXT ALBUM FROM ETANA WILL BE GREAT! It has no choice. The woman makes great music as evidenced by now three GOLDEN projects. Her latest one is the first of its brood not to take top honours (and only because it ran into a new name), but one could make the case that "Better Tomorrow" was her greatest piece of work to date. We've all had the opportunity to watch Etana grow and grow as an artist and today she exists as one of a TINY group of names in Reggae music who you expect to make great albums and anything less will be a major disappointment. Fortunately, she'll never let you down. You'll lose your taste for the entire genre before Etana looses a step. Her offering this year, again, was a bright and beautiful set from 'The Strong One'. And, whenever it gets here, we'll be saying the same thing about album #4

#1 "New Name" by Jah9 [RoryStoneLove]

TREMBLE. Wayyyyyyyy back in February Jah9 sewed, signed, sealed and delivered the single best album of 2013 and though we'd get great albums after that (like nearly every other album on this list), it was never a real question as to which direction to go here and I was so firm on that position because of the way this woman… made a game with only one player (named Jah9) - out of  the art of the spoken word.


'New Name'

Unless I am REALLY forgetting someone, I cannot remember a debut album which was as lyrically strong as "New Name" and the ranks of its equals are filled by bonafide stars and legends in the prime of her career - a lot further along than debut albums. The poet applied a poetic-like form and sensibility to writing songs where each and every tune had a subject from which it did not deviate (and I know that sounds simple, but if you listen to enough music, you know exactly how rare of a quality that is). Jah9 also has an amazing ability to write, simultaneously, from both her heart and head. When she does that, she makes songs such as 'Preacher Man' which are imbued with as much passion (and wholehearted disgust in that particular instance) as it is with common sense. You also, BRILLIANTLY, get pieces such as 'Avocado' which finds Jah9 fully attracted to someone who satisfies both body and mind. The fact that she even does a tune like 'Avocado' makes my point. That type of song does not exist from someone who has NOT thrown themselves in the moment in every way (instead it would have been some awful love song). We also got to enjoy songs like 'Jungle' and 'Imagine', 'Legitimate' with Protoje, 'Inner Voice', 'Intention' and, of course the pillaring title song which, again, gave a passionately intelligent praise to His Imperial Majesty.


'Jungle'

Jah9 made a fan out of me and many, many more. And in 2013, she also made "New Name", THE BEST REGGAE ALBUM OF  THE YEAR!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Completely Random Thoughts #47: Intoxication of A Certain Kind

"don't fast forward, baby just rewind"

Okay so, as I've said in the past, one of the best things about someone doing a new album, at least for me, is that along with getting to enjoy that new album (hopefully it is enjoyable) we, as fans, also get a big reason to take a musical trip back to what they've also done up to that point. And specifically for me (because I'm a nerd), I like to make comparisons in terms of quality and sound and who played on the album and the producers and the studios and everything like that, so it is also always interesting to be able to notice and detail that progression or even regression in some cases. These days (at least until I get my paws on Midnite's "Be Strong") the album currently occupying my over-thinking is the latest from Gentleman, "New Day Dawn", besides spending hours upon hours wondering intensely exactly why they didn't stick an 'A' at the beginning of the title of the album, what I've been looking at mostly is… how "[A] New Day Dawn" has turned me back into the direction of an amazing little album from nine years ago, the incredible "Confidence".

"joy is what you've given me throughout the years"

Just in terms of actual enjoyment, and leaving things such as profound meaning, the manifesting of challenging thought and general enlightenment, aside for the moment (we'll get there in a second), I have to say that "Confidence" is one of the best pieces that the entirety of modern Roots Reggae music has ever produced. It was completely scintillating from beginning to end and literal step forward for Gentleman, himself. Looking back, it also helped to establish a level, even higher than its predecessor, "Journey To Jah" (another all-time great), which Gentleman (and very few others) have managed to top from then. So when we look at albums like "New Day Dawn", "Diversity" and definitely "Another Intensity", which immediately followed it, the thought may be "is this album as good as "Confidence". And it even speaks further to the quality of the release that despite the fact that none of them have been, they're still looked upon and respected as the wholly solid compositions that they were and, obviously, the final word hasn't even began to be written on the latest album, so it may have an even brighter 'dawn' than its two predecessors - while existing under this gorgeous 'quality umbrella' known as "Confidence". 

"anytime you need me, I will be there my dear, I swear"

I think it's partially due to the great career that Gentleman has gone on to have that "Confidence" remains relevant and pertinent in some aspects, however, as a stand-alone project, it continues to absolutely thrill listeners nearly a decade following its release date. The greatest reason for this musically, in my opinion, is because it very much is that profound album which challenges and enlightens listeners in a way which may prove to have no actual shelf-life. Whatever you were looking for and however you look at this one, it was a winner. Through the most superficial of glancing spins, as I said, the album was very entertaining and could serve very well as just something to play in the background and not fully pay attention to, because it was so sonically pleasing to hear. HOWEVER, should you scratch the surface in any way and at almost any point, what YOU had was a master class in writing for the genre and also one in terms of delivery. Here, Gentleman was passionate. He was curious. He was in love. He was sad. He was dazzled. He was uninterested. He ran the gauntlet of emotions - making a set which echoed and continues to echo life in so many ways. Simultaneously, Gentleman also managed to make a set which was PERFECT and one of the greatest that I have ever heard. 
"no mistaking in everything you do"

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

'Stripped Away': A review of "New Day Dawn" by Gentleman

Streamlined. When you reach the highest level of pretty much anything and prove that you can maintain and stay there with some type of consistency, you have done a variety of remarkable things. Musically speaking (because that's what we do here, but the same is true in practically any walk of life), this is something which is most immediately exemplified by someone's style. Of course, you can have a big tune, or a few of them, and be on your way, but for someone who reaches the top and stays there, they have demonstrated themselves to be the very most capable and dazzling artists around. No matter what you do to them, they still do whatever they do better than anyone on the planet. For instance, when we speak of dazzling in Reggae, we can go in a whole heap of different ways, but definitely somewhere at the peak of all things Reggae is superstar Tarrus Riley. Riley is someone who makes such an intoxicating form Roots Reggae that it has, arguably, lead to a point where he has become the current face of the genre, if you were to place it in a single direction. His case is very interesting for these purposes because, just last year, Riley would show exactly what would happen if you took away things from the outer reaches of his style when he delivered the master class that was "Mecoustic". The result? Nothing much. He was still wholly brilliant. Richie Spice would do a similar thing with his "Soothing Sounds" and you know who else would? Busy Signal's "Reggae Music Again", the single best album of 2012 in my opinion, was also devoid of his typical… adventurous… Busy Signal-ness and in a year of magic, he was the ace magician. Well, now we add someone else to that group who takes his latest offering in a slightly similar direction, German Reggae superstar, Gentleman. Well before you even get into his music, Gentleman's is a very interesting case, on paper. He's probably the single most popular current Reggae star from out of the whole of Europe and he has enjoyed that status, recording with some of the biggest names in the genre (and even some outside of it) in terms of both producers and vocalists. So much so has that been the case that, probably more so than anyone else in recent memory is known for making truly amazing combinations and his roster of artists with whom he has recorded is more impressive than anyone that I can currently think of.  
The solo albums of Gentleman
But what if all of that vanished? What if Sizzla Kalonji, Capleton, Luciano, Bounty Killer, Anthony B, Tanya Stephens, Jah Cure, Morgan Heritage, Queen Omega, Junior Kelly, Ziggi Recado, Mark Wonder, Mikey General, Diana King, Ras Shiloh and the rest of the RIDICULOUS lot of artists with whom Gentleman has collaborated in the past were not available? What if Bobby Digital didn't have a track? Or Pow Pow? Or Al.Ta.Fa.An? Or Black Scorpio? And what if Don Corleon was infinitely on the road with Protoje and just didn't have the damn time?! What if this man couldn't even find Daddy Rings' and Jack Radics' phone numbers??? What might happen if all of that occurred (besides a black hole opening and devouring us all)? 
"Live Your Life" w/Richie Stephens [2012]
What might happen is a "New Day Dawn". Yes, Gentleman does have some of the finest connections in the history of Reggae music (and a pretty good reputation to go with it, obviously), but that is not all he has. He also has developed a perfected a style in which, when at his best, modern Roots Reggae has all the immediate and attention-grabbing appeal of the commercially more friendly Dancehall. Gentleman's command of melody, even on slow songs, is amongst the very best of anyone we have on the scene today. Also, he has something which I don't think he gets nearly enough credit for (and he never has): Gentleman may be one of the better lyricists in Reggae today and whenever I really tune in his music, even some of the material which I am not in LOVE with, this becomes crystal clear. I'd sum it up by saying his talent, on the whole, is a spectacular one and one of the most well-rounded skill sets of the era. To date, he has utilized it all in a great way - through now six solo studio albums, two of which, "Journey To Jah" from 2002 and "Confidence" four years on, form a pair of the best albums I have EVER heard (I'd likely have the latter somewhere in my top ten even) from anyone. Most recently was the packed "Diversity" album from 2010 and, just last year, Gentleman would return on a combination album (big shock!) with longtime friend and musical sparring partner, Richie Stephens, "Live Your Life", for Stephens' Pot Of Gold imprint. The release of "Live Your Life" definitely blunted a bit of anticipation for Gentleman's next solo venture (despite the fact that Stephens, himself, actually released a solo album last year), but if you go by what happens on "New Day Dawn", perhaps that was a pretty good strategy. In the absence of combinations and big named producers, the new album is helmed by Gentleman which is the first of its kind. He was reportedly involved in every aspect of its construction, so although it lacks what its elder siblings had in the way of anticipations and expectations, surely it is a very personal release for the actual artist. It also comes with more of an 'independent' and 'free' type of a feel to it - almost as if Gentleman just decided to write some songs and hire some musicians and make an album. Coming from someone who did the "Confidence" album which had none of that going for it (and subsequently was spectacular in every conceivable way), I think it is a very nice bit of deviation and while I have mixed feelings about its existence on the whole (more on that in closing), "New Day Dawn" is still a Gentleman album and while that may not have meant a great deal in 2003, in 2013 it is HUGE deal and it does not disappoint. Let's discuss!

Of course, from a selfish point of view, the biggest drawback of a more 'aerodynamic' album is that I'll now have to wait even longer for the inevitable Gentleman/Sara Lugo MONSTER combination. Presumably it should happen at some point. But until it does and the world performs the single biggest act of common sense since the invention of hands and feet what we have is the sterling new project from Gentleman, "New Day Dawn", which begins its journey with… 'The Journey'. BOOM! The album, sets itself in a major way with its golden and jovial opener on which Gentleman tells all that, no matter the opposition which awaits, he is prepared for what is to come.

"So many time dem diss di order
Dem waan mi fi stop, but mi ahgo push harder
And even when di road of life get broader
Mi seh mi still ah claim dis yah reward yah
When di journey get longer
And nuff a dem ah get weaker

Hold on for a second
Unuh wait a minute!
Di thing just ah start
Unuh think it finished!
Mi no just come inna di ting a long time mi inna it!
AND NOW DI LIGHT SHINE SO BRIGHT AND NONE A DEM CAN DIM IT!
So when you hear mi pon a riddim, you no hear no gimmick!
Mi nah back down inna di race because I'm bound to win it
All who care bout life just give it and live it!
And if di music take mi higher, I am with it legit!"

This is a song which very much identifies both of Gentleman's best attributes in my opinion. It features such a wonderful and ENTERTAINING melody that you almost don't want to move on to the second track (even though it's very good also) and lyrically, it is so well written and it also is written in a way which not only captures, but utilizes the vibes of the song. A glowing start, with the single best tune on the regular edition of the album. Things slow down on that next tune up, the heavy 'Road Of Life'. I labeled this one a 'social commentary', but it really isn't. Despite its somewhat solemn approach, 'Road Of Life', at least to my ears, is an inspirational selection. It is most about maintaining one's course in the eyes of the bad and oppressive forces that we face on "the road of life". From those bad things, Gentleman also wants you to 'Walk Away', which comes BOOMING through following 'Road Of Life', on which it builds wonderful. This tune is so intense but, like the opener, it is written in way in which the lyrics (regardless of their delivery) (although it matches as well, of course) match the nature of the tune behind it. It doesn't seem like the type of song which would receive such a large amount of attention, but for me it is EASILY one of the best songs on "New Day Dawn", where Gentleman says that no matter what your situation is, there is always a better and more sensible route to take. 

"Mi nah tell you fi tek dis honour
A fi yuh life, you can do what you wanna
But if you draw fi di guns and di hammer
Next thing mi know, you ahgo draw fi di bomber!
Take a check and sort out ya grammar
Sentence nuh right, boy you need a few comma
But if you don't stop and stammer-
Then you haffi talk in front of 'your honour'"

Though I may not be wildly fond of every tune on "New Day Dawn", I do have to say that there is not a single piece on this album which is not at least GOOD. At the head of the remaining is definitely the tune which is receiving the lion's share of attention and deservedly so in my opinion, 'You Remember'. On a strictly sonic aspect, 'You Remember' is absolutely flawless. If such a thing exists as a perfect song, then it would be such a thing on that specific level. Gentleman's vocal additions - on how much the world has changed - take it even higher and make it a crystal clear choice as a song to receive the push it already has. I also wouldn't at all be surprised if the title track would someday be up for a similar promotion. It also has a very forceful sound to it, but I might say that lyrically it's even stronger than 'You Remember' in some respects. This song was of obvious great interest to me because the title is one which could lead you in so many different directions, one of which is kind of clichéd, but it doesn't go there and, instead, the artist makes a statement of change and an impetus of change (on one song!) and I think if they really take it in, this tune could help a lot of people and You and I might be two of them. Also ranking on that level is another offering which has already generated considerable buzz (I hate that word, "buzz" - I truly hate it), 'Where Is the Love'. In terms of it's subject, this piece isn't too dissimilar from the title track, but I do think that it's slightly better of the two. I'd tell you to REALLY focus on what is being said here and, by extension, every song on this album because THAT is the real star of "New Day Dawn".


'You Remember'

I'd also the sterling 'Closer to The Light' in that category of top ranking tunes on this album. No other song here is as straight-forward of a praising piece as this one and it well shines in that role.

"Time fi release di tension! 
Talk di words wi neva mention!
Go so then and bun out dem invention! 
Dem evilous intention!
Dem gather up at dem convention!
Si dem waan decrease people pension
Wi all need redemption -
From dem oversized clip extension
Tell dem fi put it pon suspension
Haffi pay attention -
TO REACH A DIFFERENT DIMENSION -
WAY BEYOND DEM COMPREHENSION"

Gentleman is someone who I have to give credit to for this because he routinely does something which I always complain as being lacking in the music in terms of the writing (as does Malika Madremana coincidentally) (new album, "The Race" in stores now): He makes songs praising The Almighty, but he does it with a way that features tangible world connections, so it becomes accessible and meaningful to people from a variety of faiths and different walks of life, which should be the goal in making a song like that, in my opinion. 'Another Drama' is a favourite of mine as well (with that diamond of a riddim beneath it). An obvious social commentary, this track is one which I'm really high on as improving more and more the more you listen to it and I wouldn't be surprised if a few years from now it stood as THE best song on "New Day Dawn" to my ears. And speaking of stuff improving, I also hesitate to mention 'Memories' here. It doesn't grade as high as these other songs on me, yet, but it may soon be reaching there. 

Rounding out the album is a trio of selections which I'm not as fond as the others but, as I said, there are no bad moments on this album. 'In My Arms' is probably the best of them and you can hear it, it is a good song and a kind of a colourful lover's song and one whose presence does make the album a stronger one. There's also a song called 'Wings To Fly', which is decent and has a beautiful sound which is certainly growing on me, but this tune has a situation which I'll speak on more later. A good piece still. Lastly is the closer of "New Day Dawn", the acoustic 'Homesick'. I've spent a bit of time on this one and I haven't reached the point where I can say that it is on the 'incline' in terms of my appreciation of it just yet. But even it is a decent song and, perhaps, in a different situation (again, more on that in a minute), I might even enjoy it more. 

Of course, things are not that simple as on "New Day Dawn", just as was the case on the "Diversity" album, there is a Deluxe Edition, which features five more tracks, including an instrumental. One of these songs, 'Humanity's Glory' is my absolute favourite song on any edition of this album. It is a MASSIVE song about accepting and hailing the finest aspects of living life, while smashing the negative. You listen to this tune and the track is simple enough, but the lyrics explode vividly and on an album with more than one song of a similar topic, THIS is what happens when things move perfectly. 

"Bless up the people who ah step up inna life
Working for humanity's glory
From you know what you doing is right
Time is gonna tell di story
Nuff a dem, wi si dem living up tight
So dem gonna fret and ah worry
From you know what you doing is right
Time is gonna tell di story

Heart haffi clean, mind haffi pure
Lock di machine, no skull nuh fi bore
Wi deh pon di scene and wi waan feel secure
Cah di people caan take it no more!
Mi seh gwan fly di gate and open up di door
Revolution in di street
This is not like before!
If a hate dem ah come wid, wi got love and that's the cure
And glorious things can never be ignored

Bless up the people who ah step up inna life
Working for humanity's glory
From you know what you doing is right
Time is gonna tell di story
Nuff a dem, wi si dem living up tight
So dem gonna fret and ah worry
But you know what you doing is right
Time is gonna tell di story

Nuff a dem a shark, nuff a dem a whale
Dem don't have no heart and dem waan si yuh fail
Dem lock up inna di dark and dem waan curtail
But dem caan stop that ship from sail
Certain people neva change, dem love to blackmail
Dem waan kill di righteous wid dem hammer and dem nail
But one day dem chain will come offa di rail
Boom, MI SEH LOVE OVER HATE WILL PREVAIL!

Bless up the people who ah step up inna life
Working for humanity's glory
From you know what you doing is right
Time is gonna tell di story
Nuff a dem, wi si dem living up tight
So dem gonna fret and ah worry
But you know what you doing is right
Time is gonna tell di story

Mi seh bless up, bless up, a dat mi seh
Just bless up, stress up, go search fi a way
Nuff waan give up and mi seh dem gone astray
Dem no waan be around to see another day!
When mi sing a song - ambitious and be focused
Dem waan fi treat you like you inna circus
Dem si you and dem don't know yuh purpose
BUT A LOVE WI COME FI GI DEM INNA SURPLUS!"

The song hits new lyrical heights on an album which, generally, already exists in the clouds. Check the fun 'I Keep Going', which adds more than a little bite to "New Day Dawn" and continues to provide a crucial message. There is the flashy 'Push Come To Shove', which isn't a favourite of mine here and that it makes it all the more frustrating that I can't get this damn song out of my head. And finally (I mean it this time) (kind of, but you know I have more to say) is a very, very good song and a damn infectious one and a great idea, ‘Heart of Rub-A-Dub'. This tune finds Gentleman turning back the proverbial clock and observing the old school days of Dancehall and placing it in a very modern and very BEAUTIFUL package. This song may not get a significant push (because it is only on one version of the album), but if it did, I think it could do some significant damage. 

Okay! A couple of things stand out in my mind in reference to "New Day Dawn". The first isn't my original idea, so I'll give credit to the source. One of our absolute favourite readers, Steven (biggup yourself Steven) (hear from Steven usually maybe once every three or four months and he always has something really interesting and INTELLIGENT to say), who is a big fan of Gentleman's and has taught me a lot of things over time. He made an excellent point when he made a connection between this album and the "Another Level" record. That piece was the first album after "Confidence" (which was the first album after "Journey To Jah"), so it had a great deal to live up to and while it didn't hit those lofty levels and isn't remembered as having done so, it was still a really good album and, like Steven, I think "New Day Dawn" is a better album than "Another Intensity". The other thing that I wanted to say is my critique of this album is its mood. I alluded to it in reference to 'Wings To Fly'. That song sounds like quite a few on this album in terms of its disposition and pacing, but there are a few which're just better at it, like 'Road Of Life'. So I think if we look at it as a seventeen track album, maybe trimming it down to thirteen or fourteen may've made this one even stronger. And I want to say that those songs that I might cut out aren't bad and as I tried to say for 'Homesick', if you plop them on a different album where they aren't around so much similar and better material, maybe I enjoy them even more. 
Gentleman
Overall, "New Day Dawn", is very good. Like I said, despite the absence of so many things we normally see, including huge expectations, this is still A GENTLEMAN ALBUM, which virtually guarantees its quality will be high. However, I don't learn a great deal from this album and it isn't one which builds his legacy in such a monumental way (unless, of course, Gentleman turns out to be this amazing producer who just starts turning out albums for so many different people) (like Ziggi Recado). I already knew he was exceptional and there's nothing here which comes as a surprise. I knew he was capable of THIS eleven years ago. Yet, while "New Day Dawn" may not break a significant amount of ground, it comes through as yet another glowingly apparent example of precisely how talented Gentleman is. At his best or at anywhere near it, he remains one of the genre's most compelling figures and is so because of his SKILL. It doesn't really matter what you give him or what you take away. Very strong and rising. 

Rated: 4.60/5
Universal
2013
CD + Digital

Review #438

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Discography: Gentleman

One of the most fun things about writing these things, from a personal standpoint, is just kind of going back and not only examining different albums and songs, but also thinking of how my own opinion of a particular thing has change and grown and diminished in some cases and how the more 'majority' opinion of someone or something has evolved to a certain point as well. Today we have a listen back to someone who has become one of the most popular and skilled Reggae acts in the entire world today and someone who is still, very much, right in the midst of enjoying his apparent musical prime. With his first album now coming through more than thirteen years back, German Reggae star, Gentleman, has powered his way to a big standing in the music and now is not only extremely popular, but respected amongst more hardened Reggae fans alike and has also earned the respect of many of his peers as it has been his penchant, throughout his career to work with so many of them and to work with them well. Exactly how and where he's been up to this point is what we now have a look at. Discography: Gentleman. 
The music of Gentleman
"Trodin' On" [Four Music Productions - 1999]

Fade away? For some reason I almost always have a difficult time recalling that what was Gentleman's actual first album, "Trodin' On", even existed (kind of like how people, when speaking of Perfect, just tend to neglect the existence of the "Karma" album) (theoretically like that, not actually, this album wasn't absolutely horrible), but that's my issue and probably mine alone out of anyone who know that it is actually around, because it remains fairly well regarded thirteen years later. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that, when compared to the artist's later work, his debut was a decidedly much more Dancehall-ish release and, while it doesn't rank as my favourite Gentleman album, again, it wasn't at all a bad album. Its top ranking moments were extremely good Dancehall to my opinion. Highlighted by the nearly massive and somewhat strange, 'Right Side of Life', "Trodin' On" also included nice pieces such as 'Jah Jah Never Fail', 'Fade Away', 'War & Crime' and others. Also of note here is the fact that the album also served as an omen of what was to come from Gentleman as it featured him alongside a whole heap of big talents - most notably Mighty Tolga, Terry Linen and future frequent sparring partners, Richie Stephens and Jack Radics. Probably a better album than even most people who liked it gave it credit for being and also likely a pretty good choice for a 'Vault Review' someday.

"Journey To Jah" [Four Music Productions - 2002]

Rise. Gentleman's sophomore set, "Journey To Jah", would have been, if I recall correctly, where I became a real fan of his and for good reason - it was fantastic in almost every way. This album has very much gone on to becoming a kind of unusual album in terms of how it is remembered. While very popular, it still retains somewhat of an 'underground' appeal more than a decade following its release from an artist who has certainly become something other than "underground" during his career. Highlights here were just… IMMENSE, if not being somewhere in the 100% range out of the album's fifteen efforts. On paper, tunes like 'Runaway' and 'Dem Gone' have really become signature moments for Gentleman and his fans and both are really just massive pieces of encouragement to keep this one near your players at all times. Tunes like 'Leave Us Alone' ["everything wi build up, dem waan trample down"], 'See Dem Coming', 'Fire Ago Bun Dem' and others have also found a very welcoming home as well. Also, looking backwards, when you compare the vibes of "Journey To Jah" to "Trodin' On", you really almost seem to be listening to either two different artists or one who is experimenting with sound on at least one of those halves and that is the case despite the "JTJ" album more than a tiny bit of Dancehall influence of its own. Combinations abound and in a major way with Bounty Killer, Capleton, Junior Kelly, LucianoMikey General (on the same tune), Morgan Heritage, Jack Radics and Jahmali & Daddy Rings (on the same tune) ALL joining in for this amazing album. Fittingly, maestros such as Bobby Digital, Black Scorpio, Pow Pow and the Firehouse Crew also leant work to this 'journey'. It should also say something, right here, to the strength of this discography that not only is this the second best album you'll find listed here today, but it is clearly #2 to an album which was as close to perfect as possible.  
"LIVE" [Four Music Productions - 2003]

Live it up. "LIVE", Gentleman's first up close and personal piece is another one which tends to elude my memory at times, despite the fact that, in its case, it is excellent. Along with the Far East Band, the German star put on a fantastic display during a big performance on a stage in Cologne, Germany which would become a very healthy live album with consistently at least good and energetic audience reaction and big tunes done near their studio-finest versions. Apart from that, you really cannot ask for much more from a live album… I mean except for maybe a DVD or something like that and… yeah, they did that here as well. It also featured a few contributions from friends (that's just how Gentleman does things) including a stirring jump from Martin Jondo and Tamika on 'Rainy Days' I really like now, looking back, that they chose to do this piece when they did because it didn't follow the "Journey To Jah" album very far at all and it shows, in retrospect, just how popular Gentleman had already gotten by this point which means that we're nearing now a full decade (and probably eclipsed it by now) having been able to enjoy the artist at his absolute prime. Not a bad time to be on the planet at all. 

"Confidence" [Four Music Productions - 2004]

Intoxicating. "Confidence" is one of the best albums, from anyone, regardless of genre, EVER. It isn't "one of the best albums I've ever heard (… well it is, but I'm trying to make a bigger point here), it's one of the best albums EVER. Who cares who made it and who cares what type of music it is?! Fortunately it is Reggae and Gentleman made it (or we couldn't have included it today) and while I always try to avoid using words like this, because they really only apply in either the most obvious situations or in the most unobvious and personal occurrences, "Confidence", at least for me (did you catch that???), was a LANDMARK release and for no other reason than just how strong it was. Certainly it was very popular and the eight years following its release date have not only failed to diminish it in any way, but they've also improved it and built upon magical moments such as 'Superior', 'Intoxication', 'Send A Prayer', 'All That You Had', 'Rumours', 'After A Storm' (a tune which I just CANNOT stop playing right now), 'Face Off'… Do I name every song here? I could. It always says so much that despite this album checking it at twenty tracks, there were no soft spots. It remained stellar throughout. Anthony B, Tony Rebel, Ras Shiloh, Cocoa Tea, Barrington Levy and others tuned in to ensure that it stayed that way and they were successful in their efforts to spice up one arguably the finest European Reggae set since the turn of the century (and I say "arguably" to be respectful only, I can't think of anything on this level from the top of my head). So vibrant, so melodically masterful and just a powerful and never-ending album featuring work from super-producer Don Corleon, who always brings some of the best out of Gentleman. MASSIVE!

"Another Intensity" [Four Music Productions - 2007]

Evolution. For some reason (because it's over), I don't actually recall the three year wait between "Confidence" and its followup, "Another Intensity", being exceptionally long and I would probably have an even more difficult time waiting for a next album after that master class today than I apparently did back then, despite the fact that I'm a few years older now. The "Another Intensity" album is very unique because it's not at all as well known as its two immediate predecessors and nor was it as popular as the next album I'm going to tell you about, but it's still well regarded and respected in a way which isn't just the norm and expected 'it's a Gentleman album' manner. I think that's because the album wasn't necessarily as 'quickly' adapted piece. It took a few minutes to grow on you in some spots and that was so despite the fact that the prevailing sound here was pretty electric, but it wasn't as explosive as either "Journey To Jah" or "Confidence". Highlights were, once again, plentiful: 'Different Places', 'Serenity', 'Hosanna' and 'Celebration' all shined, but the album is probably best known for having carried 'Lack Of Love', the gorgeous combination featuring Gentleman alongside the incomparable Sizzla Kalonji. Alborosie, Jack Radics and even the wonderful Diana King also appeared.  

"Diversity" [Bushhouse Music/Universal - 2010] 

Everlasting. The "Diversity" album is one which didn't figure, at the time of its release, to fade away from memory any time soon and now about two and half years from then, that has definitely proven to be the case. Gentleman's first album in three years (again) (so I guess that means that 2013 is A year yeah?), "Diversity" would be made available, ultimately, in no less than FOUR different forms after being picked up by VP Records earlier this year and was a very substantial set (did I even need to say that after the first part of that sentence - isn't that clear?!). There was original version (regular), there was a deluxe version, there was a boxset and then the VP version as well. The boxset and deluxe offerings were probably a bit too long at twenty-eight tunes (the boxset actually contained the deluxe and a whole heap of other things), the regular version was also probably too long at nineteen and the fourteen-tracked VP release was a bit too thin (especially when you can sit there and compare it to everything you did not get if you bought it). HOWEVER [!], somewhere in there was a GORGEOUS album with songs like 'Everlasting Love', 'Nothin' A Change', 'Along The Way' and the biggest winner, Changes. Sugar Minott, Da Professor, Tanya Stephens, Million Stylez and others appeared as did, once again, work of the masterful Don Corleon. You should really already have this one, at least in some form or another, because it was a HUGE release and after you dug through it, it probably had a 5/5 album somewhere in there. 

"Diversity: Live" [Bushhouse Music/Universal - 2011]

Replay. And Gentleman would also followup the "LIVE" album of 2003 with a live display of the "Diversity" project alongside The Evolution. I didn't actually recall ever listening to this album with any type of detail prior to looking it back for the sake of this post. Wow! It's yet another really strong live set from the artist with even more energy and an even more receptive audience (which is difficult to have considering that the first was very much into it). Of note here is that it wasn't a straight performance of the album and instead, big renditions of future classics such as the aforementioned 'Runaway', 'Superior' and others are also performed on a tracklist for a set which I should have paid a bit more attention to, obviously. Once again, Gentleman also served up this piece in an audio and VISUAL form, continuing to show just not only just how popular he's become, but just how skilled of an artist an a performer. VERY impressive. 

"Live Your Life" w/Richie Stephens [Pot of Gold/VPAL - 2012]

And lastly we mention again the forthcoming "Live Your Life" album which featured Gentleman alongside longtime friend and collaborator (who appeared on "Trodin' On"), popular veteran vocalist Richie Stephens. Given the German star's proclivity to push big combinations with a wide variety of different artists, it's somewhat surprising, I suppose, that it took this long for such an album to arrive, but apparently he has that kind of wonderful musical chemistry with Stephens so this was the choice. You can see and hear just how much chemistry when "Live Your Life" arrives in stores on November 27. 
Gentleman