Friday, September 21, 2012

'Come Again': A review of "No Fear No Man" by Anthony Que

Double trouble. As far as Reggae albums go, if 2012 were to end right now there would definitely be a great deal of top ranking stories to go through. You can certainly get a point in the more typical directions and come up with so many interesting choices and candidates for them all which is a fact that already has me well looking forward to drawing up a recap of the year that was come December or January. For example, to my opinion the single best album of the year remains "Reggae Music Again" by Busy Signal who would subsequently go on to fuel a top story of a different kind with what has become of his year. You also to have to acknowledge and observe that FINALLY burgeoning potential superstar I-Octane delivered his much anticipated and long awaited debut set, "Crying To The Nation", which did not disappoint. We've also seen more than stellar returns to form from the likes of Mr. Vegas, Mark Wonder, Lutan Fyah, Tarrus Riley and others, while the inimitable Ras Batch very recently made his case for one of the year's finest as well when he pushed the brilliant, "Know Thyself". All of that is great and, for the most part, really unquestionable: As we've said in the past, there has just been some MIGHTY material released this year. Within that well sized track-record is also a very large surprise or two and, to my opinion, none AT ALL come close to what happened not too long ago when veteran vocalist, Anthony Que, instituted his "Meditation Time". I am still wondering whether or not I should just go back and give that album a 5/5 score. It was THAT good and on each and every listen, it seems to get just a bit stronger. And as I said in the moment, while I surely knew Anthony Que was talented, I had no idea that he was capable of something like that and definitely not that he was capable of something like what was to be heard on that massive shot, right now. It's become, at least for me, his most signature moment and an album which will enjoy future years gaining in momentum and popularity. So! What might the most surprising Anthony Que do to follow that up? Maybe sit around and release a new album in 2015 or so? 

ReggaeLand Productions
No. He'll link up with another surprise. ReggaeLand Productions has seemingly make 2012 when they made their very large arrival in the music known and they done exactly that and in a very unusual way. Sure, you could string together releases from big name (losing all of your money in the process), or you could 'just' make really good music utilizing some pretty significant up and comers and the latter is the method the Spanish based imprint has chosen to initiate for themselves. Prior to this latest release, in 2012 the label has already released full studio albums from Malijah, Chantelle Ernandez and Singer Jah. And while I cannot say that they are all potential Album of The Year candidates, what each one is, in their own way, is a very solid and welcomed release to the year. ReggaeLand has been doing some serious work and now their paths cross with an even more welcomed artist and one who offers up the finest of the label's quartet.

"Gimme What's Mine" by Chantelle Ernandez, "Dancin' Shoes" by Malijah & "Warrior Of Jah Army" by Singer Jah from ReggaeLand Productions [2012]
While "Meditation Time" was a surprise in and of itself to my attentions - I didn't expect it to… exist, I knew well that Anthony Que was on the radars of ReggaeLand and although I wasn't sure the project would manifest, I was SO happy when I noticed that forthcoming was another brand new set from the suddenly BOOMING Kingston native, "No Fear No Man". Previously Que had already done several tracks for RLP on their various releases over the past year or two and now, in retrospect, perhaps I should have been paying more attention than I was at the time (in my defense, I am… lazy or something like that) because much of that work, with my ears now pointed in Que's direction, is nearly stellar to my opinion. In going back through that route prior to the coming of the new album and after having heard the first album of the year, again, I was surprised. I don't know where THIS version of Anthony Que came from! I don't remember him being this talented and in this current time, in retrospect, had you told me in December that I would be in the second half of the coming September writing my second review observing an EXCELLENT album from ANTHONY QUE [!], I would have thought you even crazier than myself. Just to make it plain before we go any further: "No Fear No Man" isn't as good as "Meditation Time". It just isn't. That album, to my ears, was absolutely stunning and I think a rather fine case could be made if you wanted to call it the single most impressive Reggae album of this year thus far. HOWEVER, I'm not prepared either to say that album #2 is such a far step down from the first album, because it isn't. This album, also, is very strong and, again, I'm sitting here thinking that maybe there was this talent there all along. Certainly Que didn't just all of a sudden to start being COMPLETELY WICKED some time over the last two years, but that is obviously what he has done. Also, on the part of ReggaeLand, this album was so good, and even so much better than their already strong 2012 schedule (which also included a lovely single from veteran Mikey General, 'King Selassie I Alone'), that it now puts them in a different category in my opinion. They've now made it known that they're capable of something like this and when you take that and combine it with not only their previous works, but also with their full level of prolificacy - I'm expecting big things from them going forth as well. Should Anthony Que's own tear as well as that of ReggaeLand continue into 2013 and beyond, in producing more winners such as "No Fear No Man" then I'll have to make even more room for another pair of favourites because this album is wonderful! Let me show you why.

The first great thing about this album is that it, inherently, dictates that you go back and refresh yourself with the "Meditation Time" album, if for no other reason than to just observe the differences between the two. To my ear, the only change you'll notice (maybe) is that the first album is slightly more anchored to the old school side than its successor. Though ultimately this album is going to sound like more of a continuing sequel to "Meditation Time", rather than a deviation from it. "No Fear No Man" fires up with one of its handful of certifiable BOOMS you'll find here, 'Cyaa Stop Jah Blessings'. This tune is just one big musical gold bar. That's exactly what it is. It was far and away the single best tune on this album to my ears for eleven songs and even now it gets better and better each and every time I hear it as Que offers up an inspirational piece for the ages. 

"Dem caah stop wi blessings
Dem caah step pon wi pride
Di wicked won't last for long
Only the righteous will survive 

I know that I'm blessed cause -
I neva settled for less of
Working hard at everything I've got 
Cause I've got to reach my goal
Why some people just sit and watch your business?
Dem just waan fi know what you ah gwan wid 
So they can fight and stop you
See what they're trying to do?

Oh what is to be must be!
Jah control my destiny!
I seh life from the beginning
And I never choose a life of sin
Di wicked tried to conquer I -
But I just keep on, keep on striving" 

TEARS! Things continue to flow with the second selection on the album, the SWEET 'Rastaman House'. As you are surely doing right now, I kind of judged this tune incorrectly. It isn't what you're thinking it is. Instead what it is, is a bonafide big love song and its placement here may be a bit unusual, this album is a better one for its presence. Things take a similar course on the next tune which rounds out the opening of "No Fear No Man", the unexpected 'World Keep Spinning Around' which is kind of an inspirational love song (thus combining the two songs preceding it) and a stunning on to the degree of being one of the finest songs on the album. 

That's saying a great deal here as "No Fear No Man" proves to be stuffed full of tracks which well stick out for their immense quality. To my opinion, none are bigger on the album than the one for which it is named. This song is going to make grown men cry like babies (TRUST ME! This I know) and it had me from the very first words so casually and calmly sang which instantly gave the album its most signature of moments.

"I don't fear no man
Cause I've been giving Jah the praises all my life"

WHAT! This song just trapped a part of my mind and made me feel so good! On top of that, it's a tune which is well aimed at uplifting the masses - it has a purpose and the sonics are some of the best on the album altogether. The results are not only the best tune here, but it may've been the best tune on the “Meditation Time" album as well and it is DEFINITELY one of the finest I've heard from anyone in 2012! STUNNING! Not quite on that level, but a shining tune still, is the set which follows the album's title track - top notch social commentary 'Poor People Cry Out'. This song is featured on ReggaeLand's lovely Dem Talking Riddim, where it was a standout (on a riddim which also includes the likes of Sizzla Kalonji [twice], Norris Man, Chezidek and others) and it kind of has an 'aura' to it. It is hard to describe, but its sound is one which seems to kind of set a tone apart from the songs itself and that's a very interesting thing that I hear and a good one. The excellent 'Calm The Beast' is another tune that I'm sure I've heard before although I couldn't tell you from where and it is another big winner on board "No Fear No Man". I really enjoyed the way this song is written, it's very original with Que taking on the 'beast' [oppressive society] and dealing it with it like the most skilled of tamers. It's also a 'moody' tune with moments of urgency and passion wrapped so comfortably in a package which is predominately laid back. Not to be missed. Also on that note, check the nearly massive 'Babywrong Don't Know'

"Babywrong don't know nothing bout rights
Babywrong don't know nothing bout -
Equal rights and justice
Equal rights and justice"

This is a tune calling on future leaders of the world, the youth, to live up to lofty standards set by heroes of yesteryear to really just fix up the madness of the world because the system in place hasn't done that to any degree at all (I also LOVE the riddim on this song). After the opener and title track, my next favourite on this album is 'Holy Ground' which is sublime.

"From the banks of the River Nile to Ethiopia
To down in Egypt where they keep all the secrets
Rastafari trodding in The Congo
Through the jungle, close to Mother Nature
Jah is The Creator

Holy ground
Take off thy shoes, now you're standing on -
Holy ground
Take off the shoes, now you're standing on -
Holy ground

My Forefathers were taken from the ancient land
Brought round here to toil on the plantations
All they love in the west is their fortune and fame
Seeking now, my children, Mama Afrika is the light of salvation
It’s the cradle of civilization, bring cometh every nation
Can you feel it in the breeze?
Vibes like these!
Close to Mother Nature, near the animals and the trees!"

…I mean… don't even really know what to say there. I could have sooooooo much fun working my way through the functions of this song (and I am, whether I'm going to write it up or not is another matter) because it just makes so many succinct connections and passages between different subjects which're a bit closer than you're thinking maybe going into this tune. Brilliant. And you should also well check the electric 'Blowing In The Wind', which is very difficult to ignore as it steps up the intensity of the album and for a good reason, Anthony Que feels a change coming and he wants the world to know and to make his point he utilizes the Reggae Reasoning Riddim.

'Change The World' digital single [2012]
Speaking of changing the world, of the remaining batch (biggup Batch) of songs on "No Fear No Man", one of the biggest of them all is the previous single, 'Change The World' which I almost mentioned in the previous grouping. Though you will find stronger material on the album (I just named a few of them), you won't find any MUCH mightier than this ingenious piece which is somewhat of a love tune, but more of a relationship song. Que is telling the special woman in his life that if she sticks by his side, together they can do great things and change the world. Of course you make this a general and broad message and when you do that, you come to which is so much more interesting and crucial than one drawn in a more stereotypical direction (which you can also do here if you want to, although I'd suggest against it). 'Beautiful Mother Nature' is another song worth multiple listens as the singer stands up for the world in an environmentally conscious moment.

"Beautiful Mother Nature -
How I adore you
Beautiful Mother Nature
Oh you're a miracle
Hey what a wonderful world

And if we take care of Her
She will take care of us
I know Mother Nature cares
Stop cutting down the trees and making pollution
I see the world heading in a wrong direction"

The moving Cultura Riddim backs the equal poignant social commentary 'In This Yah Time'. Again, this is another borderline GREAT song and weren't I so inclined not to (because it's just too much damn work), I'd probably place it in the class of the previous group because it's not far from those big tunes. Also do check the very intelligent 'Good News' which wonders, in light of all the ills of the world and bad things occurring, where is the good news. Does anyone have anything positive say because such things are, most unfortunately, a rare find.

"No Fear No Man" reaches its conclusion with a trio of mixes. There's an acoustic set of 'Calm The Beast', a very colourful adaptation of 'Blowing In The Wind' (kind of techno-ish, but not bad) and lastly a most appetizing acoustic version of the title track. All of these are pretty nice touches in my opinion and ReggaeLand has shown in the past that they enjoy doing these types of things and as an add-on to a very healthy, but not too packed, thirteen tracks, I'm not complaining.

Anthony Que
Overall, I do want to reiterate the fact that "Meditation Time" is the best Anthony Que album of the year. It was that way before this album reached and it remains the case. But on its own merits, I can very much see "No Fear No Man" making the lower steps of a top ten list of the best releases of 2012 because it is VERY strong. I'm listening to both of them now and just am really impressed that not only does the singer have such a great presentation of his music, which I didn't think he did have, but he also so much to say and he doesn't repeat himself over and over. It really sounds like this album was the fitted and pre-planned second half of one grand message. Were that the case by design or it just worked out that way isn't really important. What is crucial, however, is that both Anthony Que and ReggaeLand Productions continue to soar with their brand new album "No Fear No Man" and both continue truly dazzling years in 2012. Very well done!

Rated: 4.55/5
ReggaeLand Productions
CD [I THINK] + Digital

Review #388

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