Today we take a look at the album history of an artist who has definitely become a favourite of mine throughout the years and someone who I feel may even have a 'next level' waiting for him when history begins to examine his work, the fantastic Lutan Fyah. The Spanish Town chanter has, at least for me, largely made his name based on being a very sizable model of consistency and a SPECTACULAR lyricist (probably the best in Roots Reggae to emerge largely after the turn of the century). When you take that into consideration, while you end up with catalog which may have a few soft-spots, there is ALWAYS something significant to be said and watching him develop his skills over the years has been an absolute joy. But let's take a closer look. Discography: Lutan Fyah.
|The music of Lutan Fyah|
"Dem No Know Demself" [Minor 7 Flat 5 - 2004]
Starting line. Minor 7 Flat 5 was an ultra active label based in Spain, if I recall correctly, and while they didn't stick around, they definitely made an impact during their day and had several rather outstanding distinctions. Definitely something of significant note is the fact that it was they who actually released Lutan Fyah's debut album, "Dem No Demself" to the masses, just a month or so ahead of what would turn out to be his more well known second set. I've had such an interesting 'relationship' with this album as I REALLY liked it when I first heard it and later not so much, but again, these days I find it rather nice. Surely that means that it's a few hairs better than average (as far as Lutan Fyah goes) and that's fine for a debut. Still, you have to credit an album like this which not only got things started, but it also gave us two sterling combinations, 'My Reputation' alongside Al Pancho and the unforgettable 'Black King' featuring Jah Mason.
"Time & Place" [Lustre Kings Productions - 2005]
Perfect time, perfect place. "Time & Place" wasn't the first album Lutan Fyah did, but it was definitely the first one he did which was undeniably GREAT and one which showed that he was even capable of such a winning moment. This album, for me, remains so wonderful because it's a record which is literally full of GREAT songs. It may not have that kind of seamless appeal that the album I'm going to tell you about next, but song after song was spectacular. 'Don't Waste Your Time' with Yami Bolo, 'No More War', 'Fire In The Barn', 'Speak Softly', the title track, definitely 'Upliftment' with Jahdan Blakkamoore, 'Rise & Shine', 'Ithio First', 'Woman Of Principle' . . . all of those are bonafide CLASSICS in my mind and every other song isn't far either.
"Phantom War" [Greensleeves Records - 2006]
The modern classic. I don't know where I'd rank it, but I think maybe in the range of four or five or so - "Phantom War" is one of the best single best albums I have EVER heard . . . From anyone! It says a lot in how much I loved this album that when we began our "Modern Classic" series, the first edition was for this album. I've even thought about going back and writing a sequel with different trains of thought now for the music on this album which was something more than great and was in the category of being landmark and lifelong favourites. AMAZING!
"Healthy Lifestyle" [VP Records - 2006]
The aftershock. The "Healthy Lifestyle" album is one which hasn't aged very well in terms of how popular it would ultimately become. Being released in the same calendar year as "Phantom War" surely explains some of that, but 2006 was a very good year of firsts for the Fyah, so where the previous album was the first for him from Greensleeves Records, this was his debut for VP Records (iconcidentally, Jah Mason did the same thing in the same year with "Princess Gone … Saga Bed" and "Wheat & Tears", respectively), so it would figure to have some type of longevity. It wasn't a bad album either. 'Thief In Jah Garden', 'Rough A Yard' and 'Natural Herbs' are probably the most lasting favourites.
"You Bring Blessings" [Cousins Records - 2007]
Solidly. SOLID is definitely the word which comes to mind when I think back to the "You Bring Blessings". It did have it spectacular moments, but throughout it was just . . . well, solid! The album was one of a handful produced by In The Streetz around the same time and it came via the solid Cousins Records who had a very solid operation going for a few years (before they vanished from the music making business and preceded to vomit up their vault digitally, which I think they still may be doing actually). 'Never Stop Hailing Rastafari', for me, is the signature moment from this album, but it had several more, including the closer, 'After All', alongside Norris Man. These days, I hear a heavy correlation in terms of sound, between this album the "Time & Place" set. Obviously this wasn't as good, but it may have been a lot closer than most gave it for.
"Live In San Francisco" [2B1 Records - 2008]
How nice. I still find it some kind of remarkable that Lutan Fyah actually has a LIVE album to his credit. Although they're no longer around the EXTREMELY useful 2B1 Records served the role for several artists. "Live In San Francisco" was amongst their very best. The lineup of tunes included big, big moments as well as a bonus track, all of which , retrospectively, served as a bit of a forecast of what was to come from the same label next.
"Africa" [2B1 Records - 2008]
Over us all. I've said SO much about this album and I could continue to do so and be very happy doing it. "Africa" was a compilation - that's it. It was a two disc compilation of some of Lutan Fyah's popular and best work around the time that 2B1 Records pulled together and pushed and seriously changed the status of the artist for a lot of people in putting him on so many different and new listeners' radars. Looking back, it's kind of weird, because really this isn't a 'greatest hits' styled release, it's just a basic time-centered compilation, in the middle of an artist's career. I can't think of something like that, perhaps the closest would be the "Words Of Truth" by Sizzla Kalonji, with the obvious difference being the second disc was a live one (extremely interesting on its own). Obviously there're too many tracks to name, but THIS was the album that carried both 'Mightier Than Them All' and the power surge that was 'Watch Over Me'.
"African Be Proud" [Rastar Records - 2009]
The changeup. Rastar Records had a plan to change things up and that's exactly what they did with their album from Lutan Fyah, "African Be Proud" and . . . I wasn't ready for it. If I recall correctly, this was an album which was literally YEARS in the making, it was forthcoming for quite some time so the anticipation built and when we finally got it, it showed itself to be a Hip-Hoppified set from someone who doesn't really fit into that style well (and I'm not a fan of Hip-Hop either). My passionate dislike of this album, however, has died a bit, but these days I don't have much of a prevailing feeling for it at all outside of a couple of moments, all of which can be found on the album's first half, unsurprisingly.
"Justice" [Philadub Records - 2009]
Mighty. I actually haven't gone too far from "Justice" the still very much MASSIVE album from Philadub Records (who needs to do something new these days) back in 2009. It hasn't left my players for more than a month or so in the three years of its existence and I think that, in total, a great case could be made for it being somewhat underrated, but I still have a very healthy appreciation for this album. Although it was recorded years earlier than its release date (thus, you have the version of the artist who wasn't necessarily at his prime in terms of melodic capabilities), this STERLING set features arguably the finest lyrical display of the Fyah's entire catalog, outside of "Phantom War" (of course). Lasting highlights are numerous but are pinnacled by potential classics such as 'Show Some Love', 'Selassie I Within', 'Battlefield' (which has grown on me substantially over the years) and 'Plant the Herbs'. Nearly essential (and by "essential" I mean 5/5).
"The King's Son" [John John Productions - 2009]
HIM first. Much like the earlier "Healthy Lifestyle" album we dealt with, I think that "The King's Son" is a record which has kind of faded away in many respects, despite the fact that, at least ostensibly, there're so many qualities here which make it a standout. John John produces (thus making it an album also FOR the king's son) with a vault of riddims at his disposal and Lutan Fyah made a powerful usage of several of them here. The prevailing opinion of this album, which could have gone in so many different directions is that this album, while lacking in the EXCEPTIONAL department, is so solid that it eventually pulls itself up into the top half of albums you'll read about here. And it should also well be said that I've personally identified this one, in the nearly three years of its existence, that "The King's Son" is an album which very much grows on you and I have a greater appreciation of it and for it today than I did in December of 2009. The title track is HUGE, but also check a pair of mighty combinations, 'The Motherland Calling' and 'Hail Him First', which feature Ras Shiloh and Natural Black (who "hail King Selassie I The First"). 'Praise Jah' and 'Jah Works Must Be Done' also light up the album which I probably like more even now than when I started writing this paragraph.
"Music" [No Doubt Records - 2009]
Digitally speaking. I didn't know whether to include this basically lost album now (literally, it doesn't really exist anymore, though "Choices" is essentially the same album, if you're looking for it) but I ultimately decided to (because Bredz had already included it in the picture) (biggup Bredz). The flatly titled "Music" is a compilation of songs produced by No Doubt Records and although, as you might expect, it isn't the best album he's done, it is still pretty good. Released at virtually the same time as "The King's Son", this piece, which never arrived on CD (neither did the next, very very strange, album I'm going to tell you about) has/had one major selling point to it and that was the fact that it contained 'Gun' a MASSIVE combination featuring Roots princess, Etana.
"Rising Up" [2009/2011]
Real phantom. Where do we begin??? I got this album way back in September of 2009 and it was supposedly being prepped for release and a few pieces from the same label, Kickoff Records, did actually materialize, including a very nice album from Empress Robertha, "Solid Ground" - but "Rising Up" was nowhere to be found (which lead a lot of people to link us to ask where it was from. It did eventually pop up a couple of years later (last year) and did so in a different form and was apparently released by the artist, himself. Also, some of the tunes appear on a next release by the name of "The Best of Lutan Fyah" and ANOTHER release by the name of "Lutan Fyah Meets Prince Jazzbo". Somewhere between all of them, you're likely to find the original version but this album, clearly, is best remembered for its odd arrival and departure rather than its music. It wasn't the best, but there were some pretty big tunes . . . depending on which version you track down.
"A New Day" [Starplayer Music - 2011]
First real love. It had been a couple of years from last Lutan Fyah delivered an album and definitely anticipation was running high by the time "A New Day" jumped up. Much like the last time such a thing happened, however, just ahead of the "African Be Proud" album, I don't think that people (Me) got what they expected here. Starplayer Music would push a project almost entirely built of love songs. That's a very unique approach and while I'm not thrilled by what was to be found on the album, I'm not going to bash it either, because I think it's a pretty good idea and, by this point, it was fine for someone to try and stretch Lutan Fyah's vibes just a bit. They did hit the mark on a few occasions here, most notably in the album's second half where tunes like 'First Real Love', 'Home', the fiery 'Give It Away' and 'Tangled Up' could be found.
"Truly" [OneDrop Productions - 2012]
My purpose. And lastly and most recently is an album which hasn't found its way off of players from sense it found its way onto them. Looking at the list now "Truly" is the third finest studio album Lutan Fyah has ever done (which excludes "Africa" obviously). This album which brings back the memories of "Time & Place" and "Phantom War" and it may have a better melodic command than the latter (which also gives one an idea of how POWERFUL that album was because it wasn't high on melody and still absolutely fantastic) - it's a very entertaining Roots Reggae album. 'Selassie I No Partial', 'Nah Trim' and a whole heap of others highlight an album which also included features of VI Reggae stars, NiyoRah and Ras Attitude.
So! As I said, there may be one or two less than stellar moments in the lot, but in full, Lutan Fyah has put together a fantastic catalog for himself to date and, simultaneously, he's given the entire genre of Roots Reggae music in the modern era one of the greatest albums that it has ever seen. So definitely fill in the blanks of your collection and enjoy the music of one of the most consistently impressive artists of the day, Lutan Fyah.