Sunday, October 14, 2012

Discography: Gentleman

One of the most fun things about writing these things, from a personal standpoint, is just kind of going back and not only examining different albums and songs, but also thinking of how my own opinion of a particular thing has change and grown and diminished in some cases and how the more 'majority' opinion of someone or something has evolved to a certain point as well. Today we have a listen back to someone who has become one of the most popular and skilled Reggae acts in the entire world today and someone who is still, very much, right in the midst of enjoying his apparent musical prime. With his first album now coming through more than thirteen years back, German Reggae star, Gentleman, has powered his way to a big standing in the music and now is not only extremely popular, but respected amongst more hardened Reggae fans alike and has also earned the respect of many of his peers as it has been his penchant, throughout his career to work with so many of them and to work with them well. Exactly how and where he's been up to this point is what we now have a look at. Discography: Gentleman. 
The music of Gentleman
"Trodin' On" [Four Music Productions - 1999]

Fade away? For some reason I almost always have a difficult time recalling that what was Gentleman's actual first album, "Trodin' On", even existed (kind of like how people, when speaking of Perfect, just tend to neglect the existence of the "Karma" album) (theoretically like that, not actually, this album wasn't absolutely horrible), but that's my issue and probably mine alone out of anyone who know that it is actually around, because it remains fairly well regarded thirteen years later. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that, when compared to the artist's later work, his debut was a decidedly much more Dancehall-ish release and, while it doesn't rank as my favourite Gentleman album, again, it wasn't at all a bad album. Its top ranking moments were extremely good Dancehall to my opinion. Highlighted by the nearly massive and somewhat strange, 'Right Side of Life', "Trodin' On" also included nice pieces such as 'Jah Jah Never Fail', 'Fade Away', 'War & Crime' and others. Also of note here is the fact that the album also served as an omen of what was to come from Gentleman as it featured him alongside a whole heap of big talents - most notably Mighty Tolga, Terry Linen and future frequent sparring partners, Richie Stephens and Jack Radics. Probably a better album than even most people who liked it gave it credit for being and also likely a pretty good choice for a 'Vault Review' someday.

"Journey To Jah" [Four Music Productions - 2002]

Rise. Gentleman's sophomore set, "Journey To Jah", would have been, if I recall correctly, where I became a real fan of his and for good reason - it was fantastic in almost every way. This album has very much gone on to becoming a kind of unusual album in terms of how it is remembered. While very popular, it still retains somewhat of an 'underground' appeal more than a decade following its release from an artist who has certainly become something other than "underground" during his career. Highlights here were just… IMMENSE, if not being somewhere in the 100% range out of the album's fifteen efforts. On paper, tunes like 'Runaway' and 'Dem Gone' have really become signature moments for Gentleman and his fans and both are really just massive pieces of encouragement to keep this one near your players at all times. Tunes like 'Leave Us Alone' ["everything wi build up, dem waan trample down"], 'See Dem Coming', 'Fire Ago Bun Dem' and others have also found a very welcoming home as well. Also, looking backwards, when you compare the vibes of "Journey To Jah" to "Trodin' On", you really almost seem to be listening to either two different artists or one who is experimenting with sound on at least one of those halves and that is the case despite the "JTJ" album more than a tiny bit of Dancehall influence of its own. Combinations abound and in a major way with Bounty Killer, Capleton, Junior Kelly, LucianoMikey General (on the same tune), Morgan Heritage, Jack Radics and Jahmali & Daddy Rings (on the same tune) ALL joining in for this amazing album. Fittingly, maestros such as Bobby Digital, Black Scorpio, Pow Pow and the Firehouse Crew also leant work to this 'journey'. It should also say something, right here, to the strength of this discography that not only is this the second best album you'll find listed here today, but it is clearly #2 to an album which was as close to perfect as possible.  
"LIVE" [Four Music Productions - 2003]

Live it up. "LIVE", Gentleman's first up close and personal piece is another one which tends to elude my memory at times, despite the fact that, in its case, it is excellent. Along with the Far East Band, the German star put on a fantastic display during a big performance on a stage in Cologne, Germany which would become a very healthy live album with consistently at least good and energetic audience reaction and big tunes done near their studio-finest versions. Apart from that, you really cannot ask for much more from a live album… I mean except for maybe a DVD or something like that and… yeah, they did that here as well. It also featured a few contributions from friends (that's just how Gentleman does things) including a stirring jump from Martin Jondo and Tamika on 'Rainy Days' I really like now, looking back, that they chose to do this piece when they did because it didn't follow the "Journey To Jah" album very far at all and it shows, in retrospect, just how popular Gentleman had already gotten by this point which means that we're nearing now a full decade (and probably eclipsed it by now) having been able to enjoy the artist at his absolute prime. Not a bad time to be on the planet at all. 

"Confidence" [Four Music Productions - 2004]

Intoxicating. "Confidence" is one of the best albums, from anyone, regardless of genre, EVER. It isn't "one of the best albums I've ever heard (… well it is, but I'm trying to make a bigger point here), it's one of the best albums EVER. Who cares who made it and who cares what type of music it is?! Fortunately it is Reggae and Gentleman made it (or we couldn't have included it today) and while I always try to avoid using words like this, because they really only apply in either the most obvious situations or in the most unobvious and personal occurrences, "Confidence", at least for me (did you catch that???), was a LANDMARK release and for no other reason than just how strong it was. Certainly it was very popular and the eight years following its release date have not only failed to diminish it in any way, but they've also improved it and built upon magical moments such as 'Superior', 'Intoxication', 'Send A Prayer', 'All That You Had', 'Rumours', 'After A Storm' (a tune which I just CANNOT stop playing right now), 'Face Off'… Do I name every song here? I could. It always says so much that despite this album checking it at twenty tracks, there were no soft spots. It remained stellar throughout. Anthony B, Tony Rebel, Ras Shiloh, Cocoa Tea, Barrington Levy and others tuned in to ensure that it stayed that way and they were successful in their efforts to spice up one arguably the finest European Reggae set since the turn of the century (and I say "arguably" to be respectful only, I can't think of anything on this level from the top of my head). So vibrant, so melodically masterful and just a powerful and never-ending album featuring work from super-producer Don Corleon, who always brings some of the best out of Gentleman. MASSIVE!

"Another Intensity" [Four Music Productions - 2007]

Evolution. For some reason (because it's over), I don't actually recall the three year wait between "Confidence" and its followup, "Another Intensity", being exceptionally long and I would probably have an even more difficult time waiting for a next album after that master class today than I apparently did back then, despite the fact that I'm a few years older now. The "Another Intensity" album is very unique because it's not at all as well known as its two immediate predecessors and nor was it as popular as the next album I'm going to tell you about, but it's still well regarded and respected in a way which isn't just the norm and expected 'it's a Gentleman album' manner. I think that's because the album wasn't necessarily as 'quickly' adapted piece. It took a few minutes to grow on you in some spots and that was so despite the fact that the prevailing sound here was pretty electric, but it wasn't as explosive as either "Journey To Jah" or "Confidence". Highlights were, once again, plentiful: 'Different Places', 'Serenity', 'Hosanna' and 'Celebration' all shined, but the album is probably best known for having carried 'Lack Of Love', the gorgeous combination featuring Gentleman alongside the incomparable Sizzla Kalonji. Alborosie, Jack Radics and even the wonderful Diana King also appeared.  

"Diversity" [Bushhouse Music/Universal - 2010] 

Everlasting. The "Diversity" album is one which didn't figure, at the time of its release, to fade away from memory any time soon and now about two and half years from then, that has definitely proven to be the case. Gentleman's first album in three years (again) (so I guess that means that 2013 is A year yeah?), "Diversity" would be made available, ultimately, in no less than FOUR different forms after being picked up by VP Records earlier this year and was a very substantial set (did I even need to say that after the first part of that sentence - isn't that clear?!). There was original version (regular), there was a deluxe version, there was a boxset and then the VP version as well. The boxset and deluxe offerings were probably a bit too long at twenty-eight tunes (the boxset actually contained the deluxe and a whole heap of other things), the regular version was also probably too long at nineteen and the fourteen-tracked VP release was a bit too thin (especially when you can sit there and compare it to everything you did not get if you bought it). HOWEVER [!], somewhere in there was a GORGEOUS album with songs like 'Everlasting Love', 'Nothin' A Change', 'Along The Way' and the biggest winner, Changes. Sugar Minott, Da Professor, Tanya Stephens, Million Stylez and others appeared as did, once again, work of the masterful Don Corleon. You should really already have this one, at least in some form or another, because it was a HUGE release and after you dug through it, it probably had a 5/5 album somewhere in there. 

"Diversity: Live" [Bushhouse Music/Universal - 2011]

Replay. And Gentleman would also followup the "LIVE" album of 2003 with a live display of the "Diversity" project alongside The Evolution. I didn't actually recall ever listening to this album with any type of detail prior to looking it back for the sake of this post. Wow! It's yet another really strong live set from the artist with even more energy and an even more receptive audience (which is difficult to have considering that the first was very much into it). Of note here is that it wasn't a straight performance of the album and instead, big renditions of future classics such as the aforementioned 'Runaway', 'Superior' and others are also performed on a tracklist for a set which I should have paid a bit more attention to, obviously. Once again, Gentleman also served up this piece in an audio and VISUAL form, continuing to show just not only just how popular he's become, but just how skilled of an artist an a performer. VERY impressive. 

"Live Your Life" w/Richie Stephens [Pot of Gold/VPAL - 2012]

And lastly we mention again the forthcoming "Live Your Life" album which featured Gentleman alongside longtime friend and collaborator (who appeared on "Trodin' On"), popular veteran vocalist Richie Stephens. Given the German star's proclivity to push big combinations with a wide variety of different artists, it's somewhat surprising, I suppose, that it took this long for such an album to arrive, but apparently he has that kind of wonderful musical chemistry with Stephens so this was the choice. You can see and hear just how much chemistry when "Live Your Life" arrives in stores on November 27. 

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