Wednesday, May 27, 2009

In The Shadows? The Best Of Greensleeves' Rhythm Album Series

Maybe for the fact that the label was the biggest in the world on it's own; Maybe because they promoted the LIFE out of the thing; Maybe it was just better; Or maybe it was just the cool ass name alone. For whatever the reason, when it comes to Riddim or 'version' albums VP Records' Riddim Driven virtually LOCKED the market in terms of having a success level which reached outside of the typical Reggae circles. However, for HARDCORE Reggae and Dancehall heads Greensleeves answer to the Riddim Driven their (badly in need of a name) Rhythm Album series was just as, if not even MORE, valuable. The main difference between the two was that GS would routinely reach for the more hardcore and less crossover friendly riddims, while VP sought out those which were not only popular amongst the Reggae faithful, but those which wouldn't have much difficulty finding a home on international radio either. At it's finest, the series once released a whopping TWENTY releases back in 2004 and even though any artist (not named Sizzla) had problems getting their work out from Greensleeves, producers had no such gripes with the UK based outfit. Thus, having already conquered Riddim Driven {see Here}, I now submit for your approval, the top ten best of Greensleeves Rhythm album series.

#10. Ghetto Whiskey [#86] -2006- Produced by Stephen McGregor

The latest numbered installment of the series you’ll find on this list and the only by a producer in McGregor who would have absolutely DOMINATED this series had he arrived just a couple of years or so before he did. The Ghetto Whiskey followed the (very similar) Red Bull & Guinness riddim from McGregor (which also made the series) and at a time when the prodigy was being criticized for making similar riddims for Delly Ranx, the still similar GW arrived on album with SO MUCH power that it was unignorable. Stocked full of no less than TWENTY-SEVEN tracks full of the hottest established and up and coming names in the Dancehall on a DARKLY HYPE riddim, the Ghetto Whiskey album was ridiculous!

Big Hit: Bruck It by Vybz Kartel
Best Tune: War Monga by Aidonia

#9. Mad Ants [#33] -2002- Produced by Don Corleon

If memory serves me correct, the Mad Ants, as far as albums are concerned, would have been the debut of one of the most powerful Reggae/Dancehall producers OF ALL TIME. Many at the time would have solely associated Donovan Bennett (bka Don Corleon) as the mastermind behind the emerging craziness which was Vybz Kartel be he was so much more and it came through on the album and the VERY unusual sounding and paced yet downright BRILLIANT Mad Ants riddim. Besides Kartel (alongside Wayne Marshall), the riddim also featured heavy hitters such as Ele, Beenie Man, Sizzla, Wayne Wonder, Bounty Killer and even Cobra and Capleton of all people, all of whom scored on some level in the process.

Big Hit: New Millenium by Vybz Kartel featuring Wayne Marshall
Best Tune: No Hail Mi by Elephant Man

#8. Amharic [#46] -2003- Produced by Jam2

Seriously the Amharic may just be one of the most underrated Dancehall riddims of ALL TIME and how it somewhat HID in the middle of Greensleeves’ series is a mystery to me. This thing was SO dark and just HEAVY and with it’s kind of rolling techno style it made itself so hard to ride but, as is the Jammy’s camp signature, Jam2 picked so many top notch acts to go after it that the results were no less than sterling. Vybz Kartel, Mad Cobra, Sizzla, Bounty Killer, Spragga Benz, General Degree, Lady Saw and Anthony B’s efforts were amongst the twenty different tracks which compiled the album which may have an outside claim to being the best RIDDIMS (not albums) the series has seen.

Big Hit: Nah Climb by Vybz Kartel & Ward 21
Best Tune: Nah Climb by Vybz Kartel & Ward 21

#7. World Jam [#73] -2005- Produced by Frenchie

In retrospect: What a WONDERFUL idea! In the midst of the already remade riddim backing Damian Marley’s MASSIVE hit Welcome to Jamrock, Maximum Sounds head Frenchie remade the Taxi Gang’s original masterpiece (and I’ll spare you that story because, four years later, and I’m still tired of hearing it) which effectively opened the riddim for an entirely previously exiled group of Reggae artists from the KNOCKING riddim. Had this thing just come back for the usage of Marley, while he definitely did an excellent job, it just wouldn’t have been fair. Frenchie opened it for the likes of Anthony B, Luciano, Richie Spice and even Beenie Man. Not all of them hit the mark but enough got close enough to make that unavoidable riddim into a nice album and PERFECT for this list.

Big Hit: World A Reggae Music by Anthony B
Best Tune: World A Reggae Music by Anthony B

#6. Double Jeopardy [#13] -2001- Produced by Scatta

Scatta was the second of four real superstars of Greensleeves’ Rhythm album series (not counting McGregor of course, he would have been five) and I believe the Double Jeopardy was his first installment. The producer, at his core, is VERY varied, he has several different styles which he uses but when he makes the kind of HEAVY Dancehall (which is a style which also earned him number three on this list) the results are probably best. The Double Jeopardy was HEAVY indeed and subsequently packed the ammo to field such a riddim with co-producer Ce’cile taking center stage as she appeared and shined on no less than three of the tunes from a riddim which really didn’t seem up her alley.

Big Hit: Bad Gal, Bad Man by Ce’cile & Elephant Man
Best Tune: Bad Gal, Bad Man by Ce’cile & Elephant Man

#5. Good To Go [#44] -2003- Produced by Don Corleon

Call the Good To Go one of the best ‘recruiting’ jobs EVER in the history of modern Dancehall insofar as a producer STOCKPILING big names for a riddim. Elephant Man, Bounty Killer, Vybz Kartel, Assassin, Ward 21, Wayne Wonder, Lady Saw, Sizzla, T.O.K and even BABY CHAM who RARELY finds himself outside of the cool confines of the Madhouse studios and were that enough, there was a time when Predator and Wayne Marshall and Bling Dawg, who did a really good job, (UNFORTUNATELY) meant quite a bit in the Dancehall and all of them were even on board. The riddim itself was SLEEK and modern Dancehall with another unusual type of pace. All of that talent on a big riddim meant a ‘can’t miss’ which was exactly what the Good To Go album proved to be.

Big Hit: Why You Doing It pt 2 by Vybz Kartel featuring Wayne Marshall
Best Tune: It’s Burning by Sizzla

#4. Masterpiece [#34] -2002- Produced by Lenky

Insanity! Lenky was the third of four superstar producers consistently hitting the series (after Scatta and the producers of the second title on this list and before Corleon) and definitely, in regards to the series, the BEST. The Masterpiece had mighty shoes to fill (those of the #1 album on this list) and really I would have to say that in regards to a younger producer, although Lenky had played so many roles in the business by that point, was probably as strong of a follow-up following a big riddim that I’ve ever heard, he definitely avoided the ‘sophomore jinx’. This thing was BEAUTIFUL, drifting in and out of different versions for different artists just as its predecessor and CONSISTENTLY keeping such an intensity that you couldn’t help but be attracted to it. Another of the most underrated pieces in recent years and EASILY one of the best this series has ever seen.

Big Hit: Ever Blazing by Sean Paul
Best Tune: Own Man by Tanya Stephens

#3. Martial Arts Vol 1 & 2 [#22 & #23] -2002- Produced by Scatta

Calling them a pair. The Martial Art riddim (there was only one) was a riddim PROJECT if I ever saw one. So confident in it was executive producer Colin Levy (bka Iley Dread) that he went and voiced no less than FORTY different songs on the riddim (he may have actually voiced more) and Greensleeves aptly bought it up and spread the tunes out amongst two different albums despite not having any functional difference between the two. This was probably because the riddim RULED the Dancehall for a minute or two, notoriously backing yet another stage (and a well heated one) of the seemingly infinite feud between Bounty Killer and Beenie Man. Rounding out the tracklists were artists such as Sizzla, Capleton, Merciless, Mr. Vegas and even Shabba Ranking alongside A LOT of up and comers.

Big Hits: Karate by Sizzla & Give Dem Di Shabba by Shabba Ranks
Best Tunes: Karate by Sizzla & Give Dem Di Shabba by Shabba Ranks

#2. Bellyas [#1] -2000- Produced by Ward 21

The insanity going on in the Ward was the first superstar producers to grace the Greensleeves Rhythm Album series and they were in fact the first to do so PERIOD. Going on a decade later the Bellyas still remains near the cream of the crop of the series as well as one of my favourite Dancehall riddims EVER. The riddim itself BRILLIANTLY MAD just as the Ward was itself in their heyday. It combined elements of both new and old school Dancehall and scored on both fronts simultaneously and immediately. It was evident very much in their selection of artists, ranging from Spragga Benz, Mega Banton, Beenie Man and Capleton on one end down to Goofy, Ele and Kiprich on the other. The album remained either on point or VERY near throughout its twenty tracks and really set the trend for the series itself and, as I said, was masterful!

Big Hit: Who Dem? By Capleton
Best Tune: Who Dem? By Capleton

#1. Diwali [#27] -2002- Produced by Lenky

LOVE. Say what you will of the Sleng Teng, the Stalag, the Joyride, the Whatever. In terms of ALBUM, NONE of them have ever sounded as good as the Diwali riddim. The piece which originated from a producer well known in the industry as a jack of all trades and as Buju Banton’s keyboardist was DESTINED to go worldwide on the strength of a couple of familiar faces in the Dancehall and also a few who weren’t so familiar there at all as artists from all over the world began to fall in LOVE with the seemingly INDESTRUCTIBLY ADDICTIVE Diwali riddim. It also introduced production values (most notably the hand clap) which caught on with Lenky’s peers to a great deal and it introduced one of the most CREATIVE faces the game has seen to the top level. Lenky went on to deliver riddims all over the place which had and continue to have such a DISTINCTLY unpredictable sound (if such a thing exists) which he has subsequently made his own. He has yet to equal what he did on the Diwali and as far as this series goes; no one else has either.

Big Hit: No Letting Go by Wayne Wonder
Best Tune: No Letting Go by Wayne Wonder

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