2012 has been very good to us. If you haven't been paying a very good attention [shame on you], with just the very first third of the year having recently wrapped up, we are in the midst of a virtual storm of big named artists and lesser known, but extremely impressive names, releasing very strong albums and it doesn't appear to have stopped now and it may not anytime soon. Such a year doesn't come to mind at all in recent times, as far as looking at it in the middle of the front of it (maybe 2009) and, given the times, we may not see it again for a while to come so definitely take a second (you can do it right now, go ahead) and stop and go on your favourite site and roll down a list of exactly who has done great things in 2012 thus far. So, with that being said, perhaps it's slightly forgivable if you've just totally missed out on a few lesser paid attention to gems along the way and I've probably done the same thing myself to someone. If you look at just the last few albums that we've covered, there's a fine example of an album in there which is currently be coma'd on by fans who would certainly love it and that's "Where I Lead" by Toussaint The Liberator. Given just how much discussion there was surrounding his debut set (you should know what that's called by now), one would think that its inevitable followup, whatever it was going to be, would grab up just a tiny amount of that and, as of yet, it doesn't seem to have done that (although I did find an excellent REVIEW for it floating around online). So, maybe if you've been sleeping on Toussaint, for now, that's excusable. Maybe even if you're doing the same in regards to Midnite's entirely better than expected "In Awe" album (I told you no one else was going to review that album), we can overlook that as well. It is Midnite after all and you may still be in the medium of being dazzled by 'their' previous release, the well pushed "King's Bell". And it is Midnite . . . You can always just get the next one. However, when I look around and I don't seem much talk surrounding a certain other release which I had well circled on my calendar (or would have if I had a calendar) (I'm sure I must have one somewhere) I have to wonder: You people do know that Mr. Lloyd Brown put out an album this year. Right???
|Lloyd Brown 2006-2010|
Okay, I know what you're thinking and that is partially his fault I suppose. No this isn't November and while he usually does his business in the same month annually, what he did was to delay things to February this time around and he had a pretty damn good reason if you ask me. A few years you hopefully recall a fantastic Lloyd Brown album by the name of "Silver". Very recently, in studying up for this review, I've come to realize that I think Silver is the best album of his entire career. You can talk about "Against The Grain" [Hey Denise!] or some of the others, but for me it's "Silver" and that album, to celebrate his twenty-fifth ['silver'] anniversary in the music, was released in 2007. Fast forward a very brief half decade and I don't know the applicable colour for that (although my friend Google just told me it was green) and apparently Lloyd Brown doesn't either - because he's just calling it "30".
Lloyd Brown, at least over the past few years (I would say from the beginning of the Cousins' years) (remember Cousins???) has had a very much of a JOB type of an approach to making music. What I mean is that, he's had everything down to even when wanted to release his albums and because he's been in charge over the actual production of his music at that same time, he's probably had things like deadlines for himself and everything. And it's a formula which has largely worked out for him. He now enjoys a very unusual place in the music where he stands as this very much not over-the-hill elder, particularly in terms of UK Reggae and we see how that's growing on an almost daily basis with people like Gappy Ranks. And it's made even more interesting because it's not something that he shies away from at all - as you can see by the name of this album - Brown is very quick to talk about just how long he's been at work while many of his peers haven't made the same commitment. So he's still current and pertinent and, personally, he's someone who I just look forward to writing about because, in that same business like approach, he's always fun and he has a very clever and laid back style which just works for me, especially these days. That all comes to a culmination when "30" rolls out because, as I'll go into more in just a second, he really seemed to LOAD UP for this one and rightly so. The album marks just the second time, following last year's "Cornerstone", that he's releasing a project through his very own Riddimworks Productions imprint. Through his career, Brown has taken advantage of some of the biggest producers and distributors in the UK (like the once mighty aforementioned Cousins and the once even stronger Jet Star), but he is the PERFECT person to take things into his own hand and with all the things his label does, making music, making videos and other things, for his thirtieth year celebration to be done COMPLETELY on his own terms seems more than appropriate. But, just because he's been making music pretty my entire life (I'll be thirty-one, and thus virtually useless, in August) doesn't mean he earns a pass (it actually does mean exactly that). The album still has to be good and that doesn't prove to be a problem at all because he does deliver his finest piece of work, in my opinion, since his last celebrated anniversary.
|Lloyd Brown by Jerry Neville|
Two things stand out immediately, even before you get into the music on the album. The first, obviously, is the cover. Famed artist, Jerry 'Jeremiyah' Neville drew the cover which displays Lloyd Brown throughout various stages of his career, leading up to today. Most remarkable, to my eyes at least, is how Neville seemed to use album covers as inspirations and he absolutely nailed two of them. On either side of the current Mr. Brown, you'll find illustrations which seem to have been taken from the "Deep" and "Rhyme & Reason" albums, respectively. Most interesting would be the latter where I always thought Brown slightly resembled famed boxer, Mike Tyson. The other thing I noticed, as someone who writes reviews and mentions every song the album, is that the pretty consistently 'chatty' Lloyd Brown has gone even further this time around. His albums generally have a large number of tracks on them ("Brownie Points" would have been an exception), but this time around, having three extra months of preparation, he's pushed it all the way up to twenty tracks and a playing time nearing an hour an half. That means that we better get started (and I suppose I need to stop playing Scrabble) and getting us started is a big 'Thank You' from Lloyd Brown on his new album for 2012, "30". This song is typical laid back niceness from the vocalist, albeit somewhat surprising. Here, we literally find him expressing his large gratitude to the music, itself.
"Music, you've stood by me, thick and thin, these past thirty years
You've lifted me from my woes and the depths of despair
It fills my heart to pass you on, to those are willing to hear
You bring pleasure into my life
There's no measure
I'm eternally grateful to you!
I just wanna say thank you, for all the love you give to me
Just wanna say thank you, for all the joy you give to me
Music's my food of love and life, it keeps my belly full
Sustenance through the pain of life, inflicted by those who are grudgeful
It fills my heart to let you know, how you make I feel so real
You bring happiness in my life
There's no measure
I'm eternally grateful to you!"
Next up, the ever-present veteran makes a statement to his doubters when he tells them yuh ahgo 'Tired Fi Si Mi Face'. This is the quintessential example of what I meant when I said that Brown doesn't at all shy away from his status and longevity in the game - he revels in it and it's readily apparent on this, one of the album's finest. It should also be said that the tune can, retrospectively, be looked upon as being sung by a younger and more ambitious Lloyd Brown making a statement of what exactly he's going to do in music. Superb. 'What Part of No Don't You Understand', massive title and all, is another very typical track from the vocalist, with its very clever dismissal ["what part of NO didn't you understand, as part of yah bullshit scheme"]. So many people, myself included at times, have a problem saying "no" to people, but clearly Lloyd Brown isn't of those. The fourth track on "30", 'Catch The Feeling', is the first changeup on the album and what a changeup it is. The song utilizes a slightly Jazzy-fied (and gorgeous) cut of the Could You Be Loved Riddim and from a purely sonic standpoint, it may just be the best tune on the entire record. And to wrap up the first quarter (yeah, that's how I'm doing it), Brown mines another classically vibed track for the SWEET 'Get To Know You'. The song sounds absolutely nothing like the tune preceding it, but it's similar in the sense that both come in with such a wonderfully intoxicating sound that they're probably going to grab a superficial amount of attention before listeners really tune in to what is being said, but upon doing so they're sure to recognize both as all-around big selections. Five tunes to start = Five winners.
'Get To Know You'
Though the second quarter (told you) of "30" may not be as wholly impressive as the first, it still serves up a pair of big moments for me as 'On The Other Hand' and 'Stop' are big tunes. The first of those is a remake of a song I'd never heard, made popular by American Country singer, Randy Travis. It's just a very cleverly done song and one which I could see well finding a place in a genre like Country. 'Stop' is somewhat of broad and nice social commentary which has such a moving vibes around it and is very much a tune 'in motion', that it really caught my ears and kept me listening through it a few times before moving on. This is the type of song which gets buried on an album like this (especially when it has nineteen other options surrounding it), but there're A LOT of people who could really be better off hearing 'Stop' and then taking its sentiments to heart. Also in this batch of tunes is 'When Will I See You Again', which sounds like something from circa 1975 . . . And that's about correct. The tune is a remake of an old song of the same name from R&B trio, The Three Degrees. I don't dislike this song, but I dislike that I find myself suddenly starting to like it - so I'm going to cut that off now. Before I run off, however, I should tell you that the song is the album's first of three official combinations, this one featuring veteran UK songstress Julie Payne alongside Mr. Brown. Both 'Right There' and the better 'Got A Thing For You' are fairly decent, but the latter is just one or two somethings away from being downright special. I have a really nice feeling about this one and wouldn't at all be surprised if, a year or so from now, it's my favourite song from the entire project by that point.
At this "point", however, my favourite song on "30" is definitely in the next quintet, the OUTSTANDING 'Just So That You Know', which to my ear would have stood favourably on just about Lloyd Brown that I've heard to date.
“Just so that you know-
Mi ahgo plant some faith, make it grow
The seeds of doubt that’s a no-no
The winds of change, let it blow
Simple as mi talk:
Vacate from out the dark
Come and let Jah light shine through
Careful how you walk-
There are ‘nough harbour shark-
Biting off more than they can chew”
The song just so recently appeared on the STERLING "Jah Golden Throne" compilation from Zion High Productions and the Zion I Kings and it's even grown on me from that point. Here, Brown basically says that he has your back if you're inspired to do positive and righteous works and help to make the world a better place. He just thought you should know that. Excellent. 'Sharing' this lot with the album's finest is another remake in 'Sharing The Night'. Apparently this song originated in the 1970's as well from someone called Dr. Hook and it's given a more kind of Jazzy type of rinse here. Its not really even a Reggae song, but it's cool as hell whatever you want to call it, still. 'Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye' is another remake, in this instance from The Casinos, from the late 1960's. I don't like this one as much as some of the others, but I kind of find myself just enjoying watching (hearing) which songs Brown chooses to cover. He does some on every record and it always shows that his own mental reference is about as vast and varied as that of anyone's (now if he could only cover a Mighty Sparrow song). Rounding things out here are the HEAVY 'Make Time For Love' (which my Wife says sounds like Danger Mouse) and the easy 'Sunshine'. The first of these is not only amongst the best material you'll find here, but it's also a song which follows well in the line of others before it and after it, which really want to infuse more and more love in the world and subsequently, perhaps, besides celebrating the occasion of the album, that is its lasting theme. 'Sunshine' is just a really cool vibe and while totally unsurprising, "30" is better because this song is on it.
The fourth batch of five songs on the album (this was a pretty good idea, I think) features a trio of tunes which are going to standout, on paper even before listening to them, for various reasons. 'Private Life', which features the legendary Grace Jones and the just as legendary Sly & Robbie is a remake and remix of a tune by the same name made famous by Jones. This isn't just a matter of a song being done in the same fashion as the primary version, Lloyd Brown adds quite a bit to it and spices it up. Not my favourite on the album, but one sure to get a nice sized chunk of the album's spotlight. The same goes for 'Pass It On' which you know from The Wailers and here, Brown didn't choose to go after the tune alone either. Instead, as he did on 'No Thank You' from "Cornerstone", he enlists the help of three of his peers in the UK, Don Campbell, Delroy Pinnock and Wayne Marshall (not THAT Wayne Marshall, the other one). I DO really enjoy this song and all of its stunning nostalgia, it's just LUSH! "30" hits its actual end with another tune which stands out, but for a different reason. You'll see the word 'Tribute' and ask the natural question which is -a tribute to who?- and when you get into the tune you see that the singer throws a large and sweeping homage to some of the greats of Reggae music. Dennis Brown, Sugar Minott and Gregory Isaacs, particularly, are the names receiving the accolades with the latter two, of course, having just recently transitioned in the last couple of years. The song isn't so much of a song as it is a PRESENTATION as you hear clips from interviews from the three Kings of Reggae music and although it isn't altogether unexpected from someone like Lloyd Brown, this moment on the album is about as powerful of a statement as could be made and it's totally made more crucial when helmed by someone of Brown's stature in the music.
“Father Dennis, how I miss you so
More than you will know
I’m giving thanks for your music
Father Gregory, I wonder if you see-
How much you mean to me
Still giving thanks for your music
See I can’t count how many times I’ve been inspired by you
See I can’t count how many times I’ve been uplifted by you
Oh Father Sugar, Jah has called your time
Still I must take this time-
To thank the I for your music”
And lastly, not to be overlooked are 'Better To Have Loved' and 'Pay No Mind', which are both GOOD songs really. For its part, 'Better To Have Loved' kind of wears its intent on its proverbial sleeve as the vocalist recounts a now soured relationship with not completely bad feelings. It's pretty relatable and, while it's not very high on emotion, it kind of is because you can almost hear that . . . Very odd state of confusion or 'expressable confusion' (if that makes ANY sense at all) that comes with breakups. And 'Pay No Mind' is just SOLID in every sense of the word and one of my favourites on the LP. The song really relates well to what I said was my choice as the best single best composition, 'Just To Let You Know', in that it's an uplifting and inspirational song, but it isn't one that REALLY presses the fuel. It's a more sensible and a concrete form of inspiration, in this instance one which says to just ignore everyone trying to bring you down if "from you good, you know you good, you're living good now, no one can hold you down".
Overall, like I said (despite being well over three thousand words at this point, this review was very easy to write and I thoroughly enjoyed it) I think that it "30" is Lloyd Brown's best work on an album since he last celebrated an anniversary with "Silver". Yes, making a twenty track long album is kind of difficult (biggup Rebellion The Recaller) unless it's a greatest hits release, but while this album may have been slightly better sans three or four certain tunes, I can confidently say that each and every one of these efforts is interesting and at least worth the time of their creation in that respect. So was the total operation! Look, I know it's hard to keep track with the Sizzlas and the Busys and the Romains and the Bunjis and the Octanes (Bunji Garlin released an album the same year Sizzla did two and I-Octane made his debut) (WHAT!) of the world doing what they do, but it's time to press the button labeled COMMON SENSE and pick up the latest from Mr. Lloyd Brown, "30". Well done.