Monday, February 26, 2024

UNCOMFORTABLE BABYLON WILL BE FROM THIS DAY ON!

Thank you for your contribution Peetah Morgan!

Friday, February 23, 2024

Tuff Lion says to Love Everyday

"Everyday yuh living is a chance to be giving somebody some love"


Tuesday, February 20, 2024

IMMORTAL: A review of Living Testament by Akae Beka

Incorruptible. I think it would be the goal of anyone who creates any type of art to be able to produce something which would not only serve its intended purpose in its time, but do so long after you're gone. If you write a book, you'd like to think that someone would be on Amazon buying a copy and either being entertained or informed (or both) years and years from now and maybe if you make a horror movie, how nice would it be if you could scare the hell out of generations and generations people. Thankfully, people have been writing and making films for long enough that not only has that actually happened already but we also have the ability to speak to authors and directors and the like, currently, who can tell you their motivations regarding a particular piece of work. Even better than remaining popular in a long-lasting sense, I would think (cannot speak from experience on this one) (AT ALL), would be if you could make something that could perpetually provoke thought amongst your audience and not within a historical point of view, alone, but in a way which could apply DIRECTLY to someone a great deal of time after your work is done. If that happens, even though you may not be here, your work truly is never done and it, AMAZINGLY, has the ability to transform and evolve without you doing anything! That is remarkable and fascinating to think about and, of course, I'm now going to make the point that the single best medium to show such a phenomenon is definitely music. Again, people having been singing songs for a long enough period of time that we can refer back to what they've had to say in regards to motivation for the creation of a body of work and those can be vastly interesting conversations to have and we can take songs and compare them and dissect them on our own, applying what we hear to ourselves in so many different ways as well and they can carry their power ENDLESSLY via that same way. Can you imagine: You take your standard Soca song made in 2024 (and it's called 'Carnival Contract', for example) (it's far from "standard" but I'm using it to make my point because I absolutely CANNOT stop listening to it) and in... 2054, people are still "jumping" and "waving" just as you told their parents and grandparents to, thirty seasons prior. Then there's what we call around here 'message music'. Though I rarely ever talk about him (because, really, what else is there to say) in our music exists the looming spectre of the great Bob Marley who left us with ideas and themes which would not only outlive him but also carry (TO THIS DAY) an entire genre and, arguably (at least in part), a region of the world! You bury those words into the minds of enough different people and what happens is that it provides a platform for someone to come along to lay foundations of their own which will NEVER go uprooted.

I can truly say that one of the most enjoyable and challenging experiences I have had in my life (and I mean that in a good way) (a GREAT way) has come in my journey to becoming a fan of the great Vaughn Benjamin. I've told the story many times so I'll keep it brief here but, in my younger years, I wholly lacked the capability to take in his work. It would go right over my head and the fact that Midnite, at the time, had SO many was something that I found so gripping because I just.... I just could not get there! What the hell were those people hearing?! A few years later I would figure it out (I think I would figure it out) (I'm still working on it) as everything that was once so cryptic, skeletal and without emotion changed to my ears and I would go from being someone who, frustratingly, couldn't get "it" to someone who DELIGHTED in the journey to comprehension and whether I ultimately was correct where I landed was of no importance to me AT ALL. That process of taking in what Benjamin saying (and being able to hear it in the first place because he has a tendency to mumble) and the thoughts behind it is musical FOOD to someone like me and, again, I am SO happy that I made it here. It's been a lot of work. 

And that work will stop only when I do. Until I lose my life or what little sense that I do have, I'll be delightfully enjoying the delicious meal that Benjamin has provided. In November of 2019 Benjamin would transition and I don't think that I've ever actually directly mentioned that on these pages because I didn't see any reason to (outside of relaying news and anyone who would come around here and stay for any length of time probably already knew about it). Not only were we still on our hiatus at the time, there was never any sense of FINALITY to things in his particular case. I've loved the work of dozens --  not hundreds -- of artists and I will continue to but I've never had this type of relationship with the work of anyone outside of Vaughn Benjamin. He has continued to release a relatively steady stream of albums since and my work and gratification has continued with the back catalogue as well (these days I'm dealing with "Mek A Menshun". It'll probably be the next review we post after this one) (have a very fun list I'm working on as well) and, again, it always will continue. So, that likely has something to do with the reason why I didn't have much of an impact when a project popped up on our radars which was billed as the FINAL Akae Beka album ever, "Living Testament". The set comes courtesy of Trinity Farm Music with Go A Chant Productions from out of California, the former of whom have definitely been pushing out excellent material lately and making themselves very difficult to ignore (I've gone over it fairly recently but if you love Roots Reggae music (and you wouldn't be this deep into this review if you did not), do check out the efforts of Trinity Farm Music) ["No matta how they cry, cry, cry. Trouble still ah fall pon dem. They pray, pray, pray; but like smoke, that ah blow away"] and they've cranked that up considerably now with such a release. Along with what the way in which I've framed this review, Akae Beka is one of a handful of artists who, when they do release new music and new albums especially, I just get REALLY DAMN EXCITED. I hesitate to say that I turn into a child (you cannot "turn into" something that you basically already are), but it definitely can be a very 'first day of school' like feeling when such a production arises and I had my eyes STUCK to this one from the very first time we saw it maybe three weeks ago now. On top of that, I was able to listen to a considerable amount of "Living Testament" prior to its launch and what I head left a very nice taste in my mouth as an appetizer for, potentially, yet another big burst in the inferno that is the catalog of Vaughn Benjamin. This was prior to me learning that it was being said that this one was to be the final album and, when I did learn about that aspect, as I said, it really didn't change anything for me, but you'd like to think that if you were saying something about such a legendary and REVERED figure, that you would do everything in your power to put your very best foot forward and, CLEARLY, that is precisely what TFM have done here. The album's vibrant initial single also didn't do anything to dampen expectations and anticipations and I was HOOKED! How did all work out in the 'end'? Let's talk about that. 

Immaculately. It all works out immaculately. From the gorgeous Ras Elijah Tafari drawn cover ["I hold His Majesty in awe"] ["In awe"], which they have fortunately decided to release in physical form as well, throughout the production, "Living Testament" is extremely well done on the behind the scenes end and it makes for a nearly perfect platform for the work of a bona fide master of the spoken word. The first display we get from the venerable chanter on "Living Testament" is also one of its finest and one which, most fitting sets the tone and the FOUNDATION for what is to follow, 'Stone of The Corner'. This drum-heavy selection is of the type which, more often than not, closes out releases such as this one, but regardless of where you place it, its CLASS is a large attribute for "Living Testament". 'Stone of The Corner' definitely is a prayer and a tribute as you might imagine (and, to some degree, you could probably say that about much of Benjamin's work) but it also has elements of observing and honouring THE Foundation of all things in a most basic and instinctive way - almost as if NOT doing it is the difficult part. I heard this tune and I almost felt like crying because not only does it begin this album, it also begins potentially YEARS of fun I am going to have working through it. "This shall be for me", indeed. The vibes take a tick up in pacing for the second selection, the vibesy 'Going on a Mission'. When I got to this one, I thought that the very first words said would set the tone for what was to come:

"Music stimulates man propensity - fi sing a song joyful, gratefully"

In typical Vaughn Benjamin fashion, however, I was wrong and the "mission" to which he is referring here goes a bit deeper and broader, oddly extending things straight to the courtroom [!] where much of the tune takes place, actually.

"Big people loyal in infinity 
Going on a mission for His Majesty
Festival of sound where the people be
Now dem ahgo drop dem all accuracy
Lifting the level of intelligence-y
KNOWLEDGE NAH GO SI YAH WAH JAH WISDOM SI
What wholesomely and inna what creepy -
Inna opposition to di order weh be
Biotech: A mixture of man and machine
That's di direction inna nanotech speed
Who is di loser and who inna di lead?
WHO IS STANDING UP IN FRONT OF DI JUDGE TO PLEA?
Di records of procedure inna stenography
TELLING A CANARY OF A SNITCHING STORY"

Of course, you don't take the court as a literal place and where I am now with 'Going on A Mission' is seeing it as THE courtroom of all courtrooms, where the final judgment takes place (and how things can go against you or in your favour). HOWEVER, with that being said, as you trace the tune, it gets into such a fine and downright crispy detail that, even should you approach it in the most superficial of levels -- literally thinking Akae Beka just... made a song about going to court -- YOU WILL STILL GET SOMETHING FROM THIS ONE! 'Going on A Mission' is damn near stunning and I also love how they just allow to play itself out instrumentally. Next up, we continue and get this 'Rebellion Running' on a piece even slightly stronger than both which precede it on "Living Testament" (and most of the ones following it as well). First of all, I have to mention the riddim and PACING of this track: IT IS GOLDEN! There is something so utterly attractive about how this one kind of crawls along before exploding and, all the while, Benjamin is going about his business- rarely, if ever, paying attention to what is going on behind him (and I can specifically not liking when he did that when I was younger listening to his music. Now it's a charming aspect of his work to my ears). 'Rebellion Running' is a social commentary for me, focusing on, largely, anti-violence ideology (it almost reminds me of a song you'll be well familiar with from Capleton by the name of 'Jah Jah City'). If you scratch any level on 'Rebellion Running' -- anyone at all -- what lies beneath is brilliant ["Cosmopolitan city - third world dense"]. He talks about the impact, literal and spiritual, that violence can have on the world and how important it is for us to attempt to make amends for it. The picture painted isn't completely a dark one, as the artist does present the occasional glimpse of light in the matters also. If you were happy about it on 'Going on A Mission', then you will absolutely LOVE how 'Going on A Mission' ends as the final ninety seconds or so is nothing but music and it SCALDS! With a plod that is as infectious as anything on this release, Trinity Farm Music's composition shines and were they of the mind to present a dub of this and pretty much any other song here, someone might complain, but my mother never named me "someone". And just because this paragraph hasn't run on long enough (and I want to put the  video for the next song in this following gap), I'll mention 'All Around Man Yard' here, where the music is also allowed its fair time in the spotlight. Before that, however, Benjamin delivers a message regarding the importance of treating the world (and everything (and everyone) in it) as good as you possibly can. We all have to live here and so will our children and their children's children and so forth, so it is imperative that we find and maintain some healthy balance here. It doesn't go quite so straight (because that would be boring), but that is what I take here and 'All Around Man Yard' is another excellent offering.

I'm pretty sure I mentioned something wayyyy back there about the first single from "Living Testament" which released a few weeks ahead of the album. That lovely creation and biblical 'Who Will Go For Us', easily stands out as one of the many highlights from the album for which it signaled. From a purely sonic standpoint, it's rather easy to see why TFM chose it as a single. It is very catchy (with that bounce) and it sticks with you.

"WHO WILL GO FOR US?
JAH HERE AM I
SEND ME"

Benjamin steps nary a foot outside of the basic scope of the subject here but were you looking to take a slightly more tangible approach here, you could very well look at 'Who Will Go For Us' as a track about being faithful, loyal and committed to principles and maybe even other people. If you've listen to enough of his work, you know very well it is one of the central themes that he has consistently written on and it is, once again, on full display here. 'Who Will Go For Us' begins, arguably, the single strongest stretch of progress on the album as it is followed by my single most favourite song on the entire album, the blistering 'Holding The Amen Key'.

"I've seen the battleaxe yah- 
Firm ancient time
I've stand up inna di chariot when armament ah fly
I control di horses an still ah fight 
Split-second decision, presence of mind
Athletic comfort take a motion of shine
Coordinated of Jah, mobilize
FLIGHT AND PURSUIT, WHO IS RUNNING BEHIND
When dem dun know, time longer than twine
And this journey can come along for the ride
Witness hardship and soul-sacrifice
For the principle of goodness briefly in a line
JAH KNOW IT'S MORE DEFENDER ASSURE AND ARRIVE -
AGAINST ALL DOMINION THAT EVIL CONTRIVED 
THE WISDOM OF JAH IMPLEMENT AND PRESCRIBED 
Removing with equity and still sure to decide -
Justice with swiftness, hands-on applied
Some flailing away as defending a lie
When they wrong, even the root caan right
Protecting the harvest from mildew and mold
Fire that purify soul, curious gold
Sheen of the spirit, force-field tenfold
Scattering the centering, crystal ball
Chalice of the earth, clouds of smoke
Waters of the earth, filters float
Faceless defender in deep sen dem forth 
Who's approaching the gate?
Mental teleport
Intercepting the scene, no one rocking the boat
Stealth rider come in, deadly report
AMONG THE MINISTERS OF THE KING'S HIGH COURT"

TEARS! ABSOLUTE TEARS! This isn't a GAD-like torrent of words. It is more structured and exact and, at least to my opinion, it has no equal on the whole of "Living Testament". BOOM! Continuing that ultra-high level are both 'Keeper of The Gate' and 'Who is the Rejector Who is the Reductor'. The former sounds extremely familiar to my ears and it is a lovely composition espousing on the wonders of the ultimate Custodian of Records. The riddim on 'Keeper of The Gate', though it may be the very definition of 'minimalistic' at times, GLOWS! It is SO BEAUTIFUL and Benjamin puts it to might use. I will say that 'Keeper of The Gate', the second shortest song on "Living Testament" does come off as a bit brief, though THE shortest tune here, coincidentally 'Holding The Amen Key', does not have such a setting at all. For its part 'Who is the Rejector Who is the Reductor', well keeps the quality high on a note which struck me as sort of subtly BRIGHT (if that makes any sense) (any at all) within a message which appears to be intent on crushing negativity and poor behaviour, in particular, wherever it may be found. This tune definitely requires a hefty amount of attention as it features several lyrical BOMBS from Benjamin. 

"Who is the rejector of the peace thread?
Who is the reductor of the truth grid?
Spiraled with speed have proceeded 
They distract and deliberately misleaded"

'Cream Of Joy' is one of the highest points of interest that I've found on "Living Testament". Just listening to it -- based strictly on HOW IT SOUNDS -- I do not love this one. It's decent. It has a very basic riddim behind it which doesn't do much at all (it does develop later on, but not by much and it doesn't do so permanently either). It's serviceable and not much else. HOWEVER, when you really listen to what is being said, 'Cream Of Joy' slowly begins to tick up just a little. The vocalist says that while the sweetest things in life do certainly exist, reaching them does not come easy and will require some work and effort ["There's work to do in life. There's pain, sorrow and strife. There's problem-solving time, in all strata of life. So we better be behaving civilized, in the vicinity the courteous kind"]. That's fantastic and the way it is presented may not make it so immediately accessible to some people (or that may just be my issue, alone) but if you do find yourself not LOVING what you hear, musically, I will say that, as the words say, don't have a problem with putting in a bit of work because what you'll receive will be worth it. The curious 'Reforms Unseen' is much better as it wins both lyrically and instrumentally (like that guitar) and does so instantly. Not all is bleak, even when it may seem so as there are those factors which may not be as immediately perceptible as others that are still working in our favour ["Through you don't believe, you have no tangibilities. Haile I Selassie I reforms unseen"]. The album's closer, 'S on The Chest', does suffer from an undeniable amount of... desync and disassociation (it literally sounds like two (or three) different songs are playing simultaneously at certain times here, especially early on) but, apart from that, you have a selection of serious quality. Where I am currently with this one is that 'S on The Chest' is a kinda/sorta praising track. It's set in a way where it lifts up certain forces as "superpowers" but they are such WELL BENEATH the level of The Almighty. You observe their power, it is undeniable ["Every disobedient youth, a pure bump and bruise"], yet DWARFED by that of His Majesty. What results is, as I said, a more complicated method of giving praise and one standing within the scope of a social commentary, but one no less potent at all. I also have to mention that, despite the awkwardness of it all, I do so thoroughly enjoy the delivery on 'S on The Chest'. It is as 'low-tech' as you can imagine but dazzling at times and fully appropriate for the purpose of distributing this particular message.

I do want to say that, as far as criticisms, I would have had no problem had they fleshed "Living Testament" out more with two or three dubs. A few of these songs would definitely work well in that form in my opinion (like 'Keeper of The Gate' and 'Rebellion Running') and TFM have done that before on prior releases as well (I was actually surprised not to see any dubs on this album, actually) (they did an album by the name of "Move Different" by Fikir Amlak just last year. It had three dubs and one of them, for a tune called 'Higher Place', was SPECTACULAR! It was really, really good. Never an expert on the subgenre (or anything else, for that matter), but that track was probably one of the best displays of Dub music that I've heard recently and I wish they would have given this one a similar treatment.
Overall, judging it for what it is and even by comparison to some of the artist's other work, "Living Testament" is excellent.  My immediate thought of what about it, especially, stands out to me right now might just be how accessible it is. I don't say this much about the work of Akae Beka anymore because I've done so many of these and I can only judge it with my own ears which have been well indoctrinated by now but, if you are not at all familiar with the artist or if you are and just have never been able to fine an appropriate place to 'jump in', this may be the turn for you. That is a credit that I'm giving to Trinity Farms Music as pretty much ALL of their work is like that, that I've noticed. They focus on heavy Roots Reggae music, primarily, but it is a very open and PLEASING style with artists who may not be known to more casual fans of the genre (people like Ras Abja and original nine fingers, Xkaliba) Now, with that being said, at the same time the album will not alienate long time fans (I don't think THAT is even possible) (at least not on a good Akae Beka album) and if you are at all like me (seek help), "Living Testament" figures to provide you with YEARS of delight to come. This may be the final Akae Beka album recorded and released but it means, tangibly, nothing at all. This man has left us with SO MUCH to do in digging up the messages within these wonderful songs. That is a 'job' which has no end and it will EVOLVE. A month from now, I won't at all be shocked if my thought and even if my POINT OF VIEW has changed for each and every song on this album. It's happened before. When THAT is your legacy and THAT is what you have done, there is no such thing as an ending. The first great Reggae album of 2024. 

Rated: 4.5/5
Trinity Farm Music/Go A Chant Productions
2024

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Bunji Garlin has a Contract with Carnival.

Every year they go hard like nail.

This song..... this song may be perfect.

Friday, February 9, 2024

Treat Me Good: A review of Life by Norris Man

Ascending. Fortunately, no one is perfect and the concept of what it means to be 'perfect' would be absolutely lost on us, as a species, in my opinion. If you walk enough eventually you will stumble and if you talk enough eventually... you'll say something really stupid. So although it's certainly possible to do something for a very long time at a very high level, to do it fantastically each and every time out is NOT. I think that it is at least partially because of that, that I try to do the best hat I can in highlighting when someone --especially a familiar someone-- is enjoying a very good spell in their career because you do not know how long it will last and, when it does end, if you will EVER hear it again. This is even the case with some of the most consistent of outliers such as Luciano, Bushman (whose time is a prime example of the hills and valleys artists demonstrate throughout their careers, despite being super consistent for the most part) (if that makes any sense at all) and others. If you follow them closely enough, you're likely to observe them during certain stretches where they seem to hit higher points even than usual. In some of these cases, especially given the level of talents we're talking about, what results is downright CLASSIC material surrounded by work of a nearly equal caliber (if you think about it, you may be able to think of a song or a full album that is universally well regarded by an artist and then think of another around the same time which may not be as celebrated but you adore). This is timeless work that will exist beyond them and the rest of us and will be amongst the first things to come to mind not only for that individual, especially, but often for the genre, as a whole. This is the greatest of the great. On the other hand, you might also have someone who, though they may not reach those loftiest of levels, can go about showing that they've made adjustments or just generally improved to a point where their music has hit that proverbial (and downright mythical) "next level" [dramatic music and pause!...]. They've found A VIBE. You know who's found a vibe as of late, at least for me? Norris Man. I've been trying to stress the point across the past year and a half or so but either something has changed in his work or something has changed in my appreciation of it because the Trenchtown native has been dealing in recent times and he's made himself into an artist (like Mark Wonder, Perfect Giddimani, Reemah and Skinny Fabulous these days, specifically) who I'll just find myself seeking out new material from every few weeks or so just to see if I may've missed anything and when I have, what I have missed is almost always at least solid (and even when it isn't very good, it's interesting or it's leading into something else that I may be interested in). It's gotten to the point where were I to begin naming my current favourite artists... I'd have to put Norris Man's name somewhere in the top ten or so and that most certainly was not always the case.

I had a thought/theory about Norris Man's career over the past decade-ish, but it's one which I'm entirely too lazy at this point to flesh out to any thorough degree (but I'm still going to let it fly) (because why not??): Does it seem like it to anyone else that, one day all of a sudden.... Norris Man just started releasing tons and tons of albums??? While I can't actually call him "inactive" for any decent sized stretch of his career in terms of putting out albums, for me it seemed as if he experienced a BOOM once upon a time and as someone whose interest in his work has historically gone through hills and valleys, I feel like I may have missed one or two of them entirely. These days, however, I'm experiencing no such wavering at all and if Norris Man is putting out new music, he has my attention. 

2023

Most recently, this was the case in May of 2022 when the artist teamed up with Train Line Records for the solid "Deep Conversations" set. It was very strong and has aged well and  and currently sits somewhere in my top... maybe eight-ish or so favourite albums Norris Man has ever done. Also, it was just very well presented and carried through showing that someone had cared for it both inside and outside of the studio, seemingly knowing that they had a winner on their hands (we've basically passed the age of digital media, certainly when it comes to music, but I would have LOVED to have "Deep Conversations" on disc). Just ahead of that was 2000's unique "Emerge", in continuing the prolificacy, Norris Man was back at work throughout 2023 for one special outfit, in particular. We have covered Reggae coming from out of Denmark a couple of times over the years, most notably, probably, with the well underrated and talented Jah Turban and, when I found out that the source of some of Norris Man's output (or one giant tune, in particular) was a Danish label that I don't think I had ever come across by the name of E.Turn.A.T. Records. The Copenhagen based imprint released an interesting track/project by the name of Rhythm of the Ocean (more on that in a minute) over the summer or so and it carried one of the finest tunes from Norris Man that I'd heard in quite awhile.... maybe four or five years or so and it definitely got my attention. It would not take long for another Norris Man/ETAT collaboration to materialize (which I wasn't crazy about) (more on that later too) and, before we knew it, what we had just heard were the first and second singles from a forthcoming full length release by the name of "Life", in late 2023. A new Norris Man album?! BOOM! In retrospect, 2023 was a fairly delightful year for Reggae albums and had you told me ahead of it that Norris Man would also be making an appearance (along with Queen Omega, Chezidek, Anthony B, Chuck Fenda, Buju Banton, Beenie Man (even though they didn't turn out  too well), Burning Spear, Tiwony and others) he would have gone to near the top of my most anticipated, even with "Deep Conversations" still being quite fresh in mind. Not being very much (if at all) familiar with the producers actually made me even more curious to hear "Life". By comparison, what they do at Stingray, who backed the aforementioned "Emerge", is no mystery to me at all and I can fully  recall being curious as to how that union would ultimately work out; in this instance I was just fully captivated in hearing how the style I heard on the first couple of tunes wouid play out through a full listen (and how much fun it would be to review. It's been a minute since I've done one of these). Also, looking over the tracklist presented, along with what I already knew of, one potentially MAMMOTH moment during this 'lifetime' that I was damn eager to hear. So how did it go?? If you aren't doing anything better (and you aren't) (life isn't treating you too good these days) I'd really like to tell you about it.

As it turns out, although far from perfect, "Life" definitely has far more peaks than nadirs. In terms of the sound and the quality of the music, it is nothing You (experienced and passionate fan of Roots Reggae music) have yet to  hear or will have a problem with and, by its end, the album is fairly straight forward and finely put together and while I cannot say that it finds the artist at his zenith (used "peak" and "zenith" in the same paragraph. That has to count for a few points??) for the most part, Norris Man is near the same form which has turned me into such an enthralled listener in recent years. Now with that being said, however, I am not a fan of the opener, 'Doors Are Open'. I've gone back and forth on this one but I don't think I've ever gotten to the point where I would actually say that I necessarily like it. 'Doors Are Open' certainly isn't bad, but it comes off as.... kinda.... maybe CURSORY is the best word? It sounds like they went into the studio to make a song (or an album) and they had a chorus (which is nice and probably the best part of the song) and 'Doors Are Open' is what emerged. It isn't bad, it isn't even close to it, but there is absolutely nothing remarkable about it either. It is an average love song. Skipping ahead just a bit, compare 'Doors Are Open' to 'Get To Know You', which is another love-ish song and considerably better to my opinion. This is another one which feels very open (even more so than 'Doors Are Open') and I wouldn't be at all surprised if it were vibed and improvised to some degree, but it has such a SWEET vibes to it that, regardless of how it was constructed originally, 'Get To Know You' works for me. It works all over. Dropped right between the album's first two love song is Norris Man's afore-alluded to cut of the Rhythm Of The Ocean and my choice as the single biggest track on the whole of "Life". 

'Folly Deeds' is the type of song I would point to were I attempting to sell some new listener on the work of Norris Man altogether as the spiritually themed social commentary finds him in not only a fine form but also demonstrating his somewhat unusual style of chanting near its colourful best as well. Norris Man does what he does best on a song like 'Folly Deeds' and it DAZZLES. He continues to impress in rounding out the project's opening lot of selections with the also fairly sizable 'Lesson To Learn'

"All man shall see and know yeah
You've got to believe it yeah
We all have a lesson to learn 
Dem can't deny it"

As its title would suggest, 'Lesson To Learn' is about growth and gaining wisdom and life experience. It's also very skeletal. That passage that I just quoted is the lead-in to pretty much every mini verse and that isn't necessarily a bad thing (though I wouldn't call this one of the better written songs on the album and that is largely due to that) but what develops around it is very well done and it features this very HEAVY level of humbleness and humility which you'll typically get from Norris Man's music but it plays even more into the theme around 'Lesson To Learn'. 

I mentioned that I wasn't in love with the second single from "Life", which just happened to be the song for which it is named and that still is the case but I do have more of a general appreciation for 'Life', the song. It's both sort of bright as well as laidback but somewhere in between both exists a very nice and infectious (and I mean that in very non typical way. It's just pleasing to listen to is what I'm saying here). It doesn't accomplish much in its time (shortest song on the album by fifteen seconds), which is probably the biggest reason why I, initially, didn't enjoy it; but 'Life' has grown on me just a bit, I will admit. The same could be said for 'Never See This Coming', the first of two tracks featuring Norris Man alongside Danish songstress, Cisillia: It also took some time and I still wouldn't say that I LOVE it right now. This track, another love-ish one has some Pop/R&B elements to it which I won't say drags it down to any degree, but it definitely places it into a different light and makes it THE changeup on "Life". The next  time we hear from Cisillia is on the slightly better terms as she brightens up the more Reggae-centric and decent 'Worthwhile'. Another one which is more on the open side 'Worthwhile' quickly discovers its groove and settles in (literally by the time the first verse begins, it's THERE) and it is just NICE although nothing special. It is a solid love song and, going forward, while I don't think my usual listening routes are likely to run me back into the work of Cisillia, hers might be a talent worthy of a detour. We'll see. Check 'Live It Up' which sits clearly as one of the set's finest offerings altogether. There is a palpable and FILLING simplicity in this song which, when linked with a very slow and lumbering pace, makes for a LOVELY tune and, for his part, Norris Man definitely makes the most of the moment on a tune which I'm even more confident in saying was just a VIBE... this time turning out in a wonderful way. The other tune here in the middle portion is PROBLEMS! 'Red In Babylon' features Norris Man alongside longtime favourite of ours (who it would be really nice to get a new album from in 2024), the brilliant Lutan Fyah. This isn't the first time the two have linked as they've previously worked on at least two separate pieces that I know of. A few years ago was 'Live There' on which Legal also displayed his talents (biggup Legal) and, prior to that (and most notably) was 'After All' which was carried on Norris' very strong "Home & Away" album, ridiculously, nearing two decades old at this point. 'After All' was outstanding and, to my opinion, 'Red In Babylon' is nearly just as strong. The tune begins, arguably, the single finest stretch of music on the whole of "Life". This includes what is my choice as the album's clear finest love[ish] song, 'I Will Remember'. This one, as opposed to several that I've mentioned thus far, comes off as far more detailed and planned out, although it does retain a sweet, rugged charm about it (a quality ever-present in virtually all of Norris Man's good work) and musically speaking, 'I Will Remember' is somewhere in the clouds. With a horn, delightfully, refusing to sit its ass down, the riddim on this song is mighty and, as it nears its conclusion in particular, the song hits a groove where it could have SAT DOWN and I remained for hours and not gotten a single complaint from me. 'Still Run' continues the winning ways as, EASILY, one of the standouts here.

"No focus pon di tings you si ah gwan, yes
And all di devil deeds dem ah perform
Rastaman forever will chant, yes
Dem folly comes to light what's inna di dark, yes
Yuh si dem dutty remarks and their thoughts-
Trying to sop wi from di righteous path
Then si di words of Revelation part
Nuff a dem walking in di dark!

TELL DEM A RIGHTEOUSNESS STILL RUN DI EARTH
TELL DEM A LOVE MI AH PROMOTE AND PUT FIRST
Man ahgo bun out dem god weh dem a serve
Dem nah do Jah work"

Norris Man absolutely BLAZES 'Still Run' with a big message of no matter how bleak things may seem, there is a positive force that ultimately is in control. I've said it (and others have) that if you take Norris' voice in pretty much any other capacity, it might not work -- the odd kind of wailing he does -- but if you think his voice is "bad" (and I have seen it described as such), I'd point you to a tune such as this one where he takes not a single poor step in terms of delivery. 'Still Run' is excellent. Lastly, is the not unexpected praising piece, 'Jah Love Me' which also does just fine. If you've listened to more than a few of these things, you aren't jolted at all to see an album like "Life" end with a drum-heavy song about The Almighty. It's what happens. This one, in particular, isn't the greatest of them that I've heard but, again, it has its moments. I would direct your attention, especially, to the last minute or so of 'Jah Love Me' where the artist just... almost seems to start just pouring out his thoughts. He does pay attention to and respect the melody, but this is something else and one of THE most stirring passages on the entire project in my opinion and an explosive not to end on.

Overall, "Life" slots in comfortably on the mid to lower end of Norris Man's GOOD albums. I don't think it's quite what "Deep Conversations" was (which is nothing to be ashamed of. As I said, that one is still getting better and were it not for the love songs here, I would predict a similar fate for "Life"), but it is within that scope of quality for me. Perhaps even more importantly, it continues a winning run of form for him and maintains my piqued interest (and apparently I won't have to wait very long to get back in as I've seen another Norris Man album scheduled for release this summer by Tad's already by the name of "Free Man") (Norris Man with Tad's just sounds fantastic). "Life" also serves as a solid introduction to the work of E.Turn.A.T. Records. Throughout the album, the music is exceptional or very close to it and I'm well looking forward to what they will do in the future. The present is very nice as well: It isn't his finest work to date, but if you do enjoy the work of Norris Man, "Life" you will SURELY find something beautiful within. Well done. 

Rated: 4/5

E.Turn.A.T. Records

2023