Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Modern Classics Vol. 1: Phantom War by Lutan Fyah

This is a new thing I'm doing, showcasing some of the albums of the current era that I feel are, above all others but themselves, CLASSICS. Too many times we think of that word 'classic' with nothing but a old school or just flat out OLD connotation but if you REALLY think about it, we have classics being produced today and years from now, they'll be regarded as such. I'm just getting a head start. I will briefly recap/review each tune on the album and at the end seek some type of conclusion within them.
{note: Only albums that qualify will be those released after the calendar year 2000 ended}

Lutan Fyah - Phantom War (Greensleeves Records, 2006)

Back in 2006, a year which featured big time releases such as J.M.T., the long awaited second Greensleeves studio album from Vybz Kartel, Sizzla Kalonji’s Waterhouse Redemption, Busy Signal’s debut album Step Out; another line of HARDCORE modern Roots from both Norris Man and Natural Black with Home & Away and Far From Reality, respectively; HUGE international albums from Buju Banton (Too Bad), Beenie Man (Undisputed) and [Baby] Cham (Ghetto Story) and the incomparable Tanya Stephens’ Rebelution album, a rather surprising entry was the one who took the title as best of the year. Lutan Fyah’s Phantom War was an absolute PERFECT modern Roots Reggae album.

#1. Plant A Seed (I & I) - Produced by Anthony Martin (bka Lutan Fyah)

Essentially an acoustic intro (and an outro, more on that in a bit), the self produced Plant A Seed is more or less a BIG chant to set things going, which it does wonderfully.

Line of the song: “I’m reasoning with the God of Isaac, Moses and Jacob”

#2. Blood Stain - Produced by High Fence Recordings

This POUNDING tune was one of the highlights of the album and has remained one of Its more popular selections down the line. The song speaks, metaphorically, of the evidence pointing to who is REALLY at fault with much of the violence in the world.

Line of the song: “The same youth you know turn drunken fool, slew you for the dollar bill them playing by the politician rule”

#3. Wi Nuh Gangsta (Fighting For Equal Rights) - Produced by Stephen ‘Gibbo’ Gibbs

Definitely more than a bit of an edge to this one. Wi Nuh Gangsta stresses the role of the Rasta in the worldwide community as some have gotten it twisted (as some have twisted it). As he says, the goal is to fight for equality, not be gangsters and gunman (MUNGA!).

Line of the song: “Why can’t we all come together and set a better trend and put away the differences, we all can be friends”

#4. Rasta Still Deh Bout featuring Josie Mel - Produced by Brotherman (M7F5)

Call it the greatest thing Brotherman and his Minor 7 Flat 5 imprint have given the world. Rasta Still Deh Bout was MASSIVE! The case can legitimately be made that it greatly helped establish both Fyah and Mel (although Mel less so) and in doing so provided so many people with a musical translation of a very common situation as it detailed the family and friends reaction to one coming into sight of His Imperial Majesty. BRILLIANT.

Line of the song: “Go tell them say Rastaman been yadding this across the ruins of creation. No got no time, no date, I got my destination. Say King Selassie I need no duplication, so welcome to Rastafari Nation!”

#5. Phantom War - Produced by Patrick Henry (Loyal Soldiers)

A rather odd choice for the album title, although it did kind of sneak up on the masses. This BIG stepping tune factually sets the tone of the album and at the same time begs the question: What is this Phantom War? Fyah’s Phantom War is one which is against a known but nameless and faceless opponent: The war of poverty and crime, waged in the ghettoes of the world which really only has one casualty: The poor.

Line of the song: "How could you say we got no reason to live? You give us no hope, no chance nor no privilege”

#6. Bits & Pieces - Produced by Pow Pow Productions

The Blaze riddim had the perfect blend of CRISP Roots production and downright frenetic and urgent pacing for such a tune and Lutan Fyah used it better than anyone not named Richie Spice. Bits & Pieces urged humility and COMMUNITY in a very unique way. Lyrical mastery by its end.

Line of the song: THE ENTIRE FIRST VERSE!

#7. Wipe Those Tears - Produced by Ancient Mystic Music

To my ears, Wipe Those Tears is the finest tune you’ll hear on Phantom War altogether. Riding Ancient Mystic’s stirring one-drop track, the Hit Man, this song has since become one of my favourite from Lutan Fyah’s entire catalogue (he seems to be quite fond of it as well as it is a staple of his live performance) and is a shot against DESPAIR and HOPELESSNESS.

Line of the song: ". . . Us to be, good not bad. Us to be, happy not sad. We won’t be ruthless or mad, as long as I know there is a God”

#8. Mother Earth’s Healing - Produced by Ray Stephenson (Vertex)

A SWEET but almost overdone (intentionally) riddim backdrops this tune which is an uplifting tune for the Earth itself of MAMMOTH proportions.

Line of the song: “It’s a very good feeling to till the soil, plant the herbs, sew the seed, watch the tree as it grows. Mother Earth is the healing, she’s always ready to feed her children”

#9. Screaming For The Poor - Produced by Kemar ‘Flava’ McGregor (No Doubt)

At the hand of the master. Screaming From The Poor came in over McGregor’s MASSIVE Triumphant riddim and the tune was a lyrical triumph for sufferers all over the world. It painted such a bleak picture but the combination of that downright ENCHANTING riddim as well as Fyah himself offered a glimmer of hope.

Line of the song: "Nuff youths walk the streets, confused and perplexed. They never know what’s coming up next"

#10. U Left Me - Produced by Yahbell

Across a smokey and ADDICTIVE old school vibed one-drop, U Left Me saw Fyah playing the jilted lover to some apparently WONDERFUL woman. We’ve all been there at one time or another, excellent capture of that emotion.

Line of the song: “. . . me and you together makes sense, at least that what you showed me. Yes, I’d rather to be alone than to be lonely”

#11. Reflections - Produced by Dwight Heslop (Zionic)

A much happier (and a little better) lover’s tune. Kind of set up nicely here as the aptly titled Reflections is a reflection of a not so happy moment (like U Left Me) and is one SWEET vibes, showing the necessity of a Roots artist to be just a small part Mr. Lover Man as well.

Line of the song: “With all those aches and pains, I thought you didn’t need a friend. Now you’ve found yourself wandering back into my arms again”

#12. Learn The Hard Way - Produced by Al.Ta.Fa.An.

Back to the bad times again! Apparently having entered the relationship portion of the album, Learn The Hard Way once again finds Lutan Fyah going through a tough time (not as tough as on U Left Me, however) with his special lady. This tune, for me personally, is actually more about persevering as it doesn’t exactly paint a COMPLETELY gloomy picture, instead one that can ultimately be repaired (perhaps because it comes over a riddim, the Tsahai, reportedly named after Fyah‘s own daughter). BEAUTIFUL.

Line of the song: “You say you love me, take time to know me. Make sure you make the right choice”

#13. Rich Little Ghetto Girl - Produced by Kurt & Andre Riley

The most beautiful woman I have ever met in my entire life thinks that this song is the best on the album and I’m not arguing with her (because she might make me sleep on the couch) because its VERY good. Once again on the good side, Rich Little Ghetto Girl finds Lutan Fyah just jovially espousing on the wonderfulness of his woman. A girl from the ghetto who has everything she could ever want. Big tune. So says my wife, so will you.

Line of the song: “Fi a stick in the bucket she nah bend!”

#14. Bet On It - Produced by Gambling House

Having successfully mended his relationship woes, Lutan Fyah once again brings back the EDGE on Bet On It, one of the most underrated tunes of Phantom War. Bet On It almost has a freestyle quality to it as Fyah addresses a wide range of subjects with really not one unifying general topic. The trick to it, however, is here: EVERYWHERE he goes on the tune he goes skillfully, with precision and without missing a beat. AT ALL. Big tune.

Line of the song: “You can bet on it, say we no freak, we not geek. The wicked ahgo get it when we rise it!” (and the entire second verse)

#15. This Fire - Produced by Robert Mais

Keeping with the edginess and the aggressive style, This Fire comes in with a haunting style of chant at times which serves as a big uplifting vibes (haunting and uplifting at the same time). The tune is one wishing for everyone in the eyes of poverty and corruption to not lose hope and not lose the PASSION, metaphorically represented by ‘This Fire’. Another piece of lyrical BRILLIANCE.

Line of the song: “Whenever them approach you with them pretty talk. Just smile and say “blessed love” from the heart”

#16. Still Deh Deh featuring Mark Wonder - Produced by Al.Ta.Fa.An.

WICKED! Still Deh Deh was ridiculously overlooked but to me its every bit the tune that Rasta Still Deh Bout (which was a hit) proved to be. Mark Wonder and Fyah make a wonderful combination and they’ve worked together in other situations for other tunes (I think always for Al.Ta.Fa.An.), but never to this level. The tune just goes to point out how little is ACTUALLY being done despite who says what, poverty still deh deh. A really CRUCIAL tune on Phantom War (more on that in a minute).

Line of the song: “No matter the pain and stress, yes, Jah bless the youths dem who keep striving for happiness”

#17. Turbulent Time - Produced by Judi K (Old Capital Records)

What a sweet piece of riddim was the Rasta Pickney which backed Turbulent Time. The tune slows things down a bit but doesn’t take any of the necessary ‘spirit’ of the track down even a single notch. The tune outlines the mission for overcoming the negativity in the world to the most minute of details.

Line of the song: “Mi no fraid them guns, them bombs and scud missiles!”

#18. Snares Of Death - Produced by Gregory Williams (Enrapture Productions)

What starts off sounding like a lover’s tune quickly develops into a conscious tune (when that organ kicks in) to uplift the masses. Quietly, its one of the best tunes on the album, but lets keep that between me and you.

Line of the song: “Step away from them snares of death, don’t be lost in cyberspace, Babylon internet” (OOPS!)

#19. Plant A Seed (Reprise) - Produced by Lutan Fyah

Completes what began wayyyy back on the (minute shorter) opener. All together, it’s a LOVELY chant for His Majesty and an excellent way to began and end things.

Line of the song: “I’m reasoning with the God of Isaac, Moses and Jacob”

Synopsis: Going back to the title and the title track: It’s clear that the Phantom War album (which, oddly enough, didn’t have an executive producer credited, although I’m almost certain (with the number of different track producers being so high in the 19 tracks with only Al.Ta.Fa.An and Fyah himself taking credit for more than one tune, two in both cases) that Lutan Fyah himself would be said executive producer) focuses on the war of poverty and just the general struggle that so many in the world face. Its to that theme that I say that track #16, Still Deh Deh, is so important and especially from a lyrical standpoint as it gives something more TANGIBLE speaking at the time (and of course now) that in spite of all of these so called things like programs and charities being done, the shit is still there and the shit is thriving! Also with tunes like Rasta Still Deh Bout and the relationship tunes which don’t exactly fall into the line of sufferer’s tunes are still very important to making the album what it is because it shows that in that picture there is still life. There are still family problems, there are still relationship problems and there is still DIRECTLY a way to His Majesty which so many of these same youths being talked about in tunes like Still Deh Deh and Phantom War are finding. At the end of the day, Lutan Fyah’s Phantom War was a 19 track POWERHOUSE of an album. It was and remains one of my favourites of all time and is a MODERN Reggae CLASSIC!

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