Detailed. When it comes to Reggae music and music in general really, there're precious few 'brands' which, when attached to a project, really signifies its quality in my opinion. We can look at so many different things and look at them in a virtually infinite amount of aspects and from a virtually infinite amount of points of views and while they may actually denote one or thing or another, they’re still likely to fall very far from virtually guaranteeing that the musical output is going to be stellar each and every time. When looking at certain artists, this is especially true. No matter how much of a fan I may be of yours, I'll have to admit when you do something that I don't find to be up to your standards and not only that but, part of being a good fan, in my opinion, is sticking around after one of your favourites fails to capture your highest of appreciations on a few occasions. When you look at Reggae labels, however, you can see some type of patterns forming with some of the more active and truly capable of imprints. For example, recently we dealt with the stellar Moving Riddim which came via, arguably, the genre's most gifted current producer, Stephen 'Di Genius' McGregor. That sterling one-drop composition was a deviation from what typically comes from the young maestro, but you really had no doubt as to how strong it would be if you were familiar with McGregor's work. Similarly, few labels, if any at all (although one of the two that I'm going to talk about today may be one such) are on a streak even remotely near where the Virgin Island's biggest player, I Grade Records, is today. In their case, they almost seem to be reveling (not directly, of course) in their successes with such a wide variety of artists that they done wonders for in recent times. Today, it's gotten to the point that I don't even care who is doing the vocals (or if there're any vocals at all), if it's an I Grade album - I'm interested (although apparently it will matter next, if the rumour that their next project is from Lutan Fyah - more on him later). Now I could look to add to that list and do so with sure-things like Don Corleon or Tuff Lion and the likes, but for me 2012 has been the third consecutively that I've been greatly impressed by what has become a favourite label of mine as well a stamp of quality-certainty, Oneness Records.
Besides probably forever holding a chunk of my affinity via dropping what was rather easily one of the best Roots Reggae album of the modern era, "Long Journey" by Naptali The Great (biggup Naptali), 2012 has been another outstanding year for the Germany based label. Already to their credit goes what remains the best riddim album I've heard this year, the ReggaeVille Riddim (Da Ville!) and also one of the best albums I've heard this year, and one of only three 5/5 ratings we've given over the past twenty-one months (didn't have one in 2011) "Working Wonders" via the shining Mark Wonder. Also, they played a heavy hand on the Raspect Riddim which we told you about just recently. Add to that a very good 2011 showing and… I'm a fan, when you see the words "Oneness Records" attached to something kind of Reggae-ish, it means that goodness awaits within.
|The music of Oneness Records|
Currently awaiting your attention and mine alike is the latest wicked release from Oneness Records, the Rub A Dub Man Riddim. This set comes, as I alluded to, virtually in tandem with the Raspect Riddim which obviously makes for an odd instance, of Oneness competing with… Oneness for your attentions and affections, but as you would have suspected, both ultimately prove to be well worth a listen and a purchase. For its part, the Rub A Dub Man is one THICK piece of old-school vibed composition (with an electric guitar thrown in for texture) which, like its predecessor the Reggaeville, strikes you as maybe being a bit older than 2012 and there was a much older riddim of the same name, but as far as I can tell this version has not only no relation to that King Jammy's produced piece, but to any other as well and, instead, kind of has Oneness' own stamp of gorgeous yesteryear sentiment which has well become a big trait of their output to date. Besides the riddim itself, this is a Oneness track which, as you know if you read us to any degree at all, means that there is something most interesting occurring with the artist selection here as well - because that's just what they do. First of all, on that topic, most interesting about the Rub A Dub Man is the fact that there're only twelve vocal tracks on the riddim as opposed to seventeen on the Raspect and about six-thousand on the Reggaeville if I recall correctly. That isn't a bad thing at all, but what it does is kind of make more of a microcosmical (WHAT!) version of what the label typically does in choosing artists to voice on a particular riddim, which has to be considered amongst the most colourful of any label going today and probably ever. Unsurprisingly, they manage to cover all of their bases as, within the eleven tunes, we once again get consistent staples of Oneness' material, both new and old, new artists, big artists, up and comers, combinations and pretty much everything you could ask for. As usual, we also get a very good album and one which very much carries a flame of QUALITY which is seemingly getting hotter and hotter by every release which Oneness pushes. That's very interesting by itself because, at least presumably, we're at the point where they just cannot flop a riddim. Doing so would just be damn strange and, literally, I don't know if they're capable of such a thing at this point. No worries from that direction come in the Rub A Dub Man Riddim is another big set, but you already knew that.
|"Come Wid It" by Denham Smith |
Besides that logo on the upper-right corner of this album's cover, another very good sign of its apparent quality came in the form of what was probably its earliest display on an album from not too much earlier this year by the name of "Come Wid It". That album, which came via Kingstone Records was for an artist by the name of Denham Smith who, incidentally, gets us up and going on Oneness Records' new Rub A Dub Man Riddim, with the riddim's title track. "Come Wid It" was a pretty nice album and definitely is going to make quite a few new fans for the very versatile Smith and this tune was just as surely one of its biggest moments as the colourful singer very much turns back the clock on his own for one SWEET piece of song and he won’t be the last to take that route. Next in we have a couple of frequent faces on Oneness recordings as South African artist, Crosby, links up with the inescapable Fyah T for 'Clean The Streets'.
"Wi si dem come fi promote corruption
While wi clean di streets, some bwoy dem waan fi buss gun
Si dem running up and down like a madman
Tell di youth dem it no pay fi be a badman"
"Well innocent youths blood ah run down di drain
You haffi si life inna different mind-frame
From you kill yah brother, a nah nuttin you go gain
Fyah T and Crosby pon a peace campaign"
"Just as if dem owna life dem try bring to shame
Bredrin killing bredrin fi fortune and fame
But life is not a video, life is not a game
And then di system eat dem up like I ah nyam sugarcane
Caah even walk safe a road, bad bwoy come try shoot wi
Nah go touch no gun, dem ting nah suit wi
Nyahbinghi Order - dem caah recruit wi
Fyah bun dem guns weh dem kill Lucky Dube"
"More righteousness is what dem youth dem must achieve
So show some interest in what the youth dem believe
Respect and dignity, give or receive
Stop turn dem inna liar, stop turn dem inna thief"
"Come mek wi realize, wi haffi accept reality
Cut out di negative and spread positivity
Set a foundation for the younger generation
Dem nah show respect for The Father of Creation
Increase the peace and decrease the violence
Wi no waan to hear no gunshot, wi waan silence
Come mek wi save Planet Earth
Cut down wid di shooting cah dat wi nah deserve"
MAD! This tune is, as you can tell, more of a social commentary, but in typical Fyah T fashion, it's one with the foot firmly pressed on the gas. Also hitting the accelerator on the Rub a Dub Man is Statian wizard, Achis Reggae favourite and probably the single biggest name present here, Ziggi Recado, with a tune which reached on his sublime EP from a few months back, "Liberation", 'Green Medicine'. This tune, obviously, features the artist espousing on the many virtues of one of his own favourite subjects (which is an 'art form' at which he is quickly becoming one of the leads at displaying in Reggae music) (biggup Ras Batch), so you know that the quality is high and just hearing from Ziggi is a big deal and we're definitely happy that he finally found his way to Oneness Records, after doing so much big work for so many other big European labels.
There really isn't a single tune on the Rub A Dub Man Riddim to dislike. I found (without over-digging), nothing here to throw a grand critique at and when you make an album like this which, as I said, only has eleven vocals. If all eleven are strong, and they are, it actually seems like a much more dense project (somewhat similar to the magic that was "Judgement Time" by Chezidek from a couple of years back) when you listen to it and that's another credit that goes here. For example, take a piece such as 'Program' which, ostensibly, may have nothing striking about it apart from the 'built-in' uniqueness of its star, Raymond Wright, whose voice is absolutely spectacular. If you listen to the song, however, you'll likely find it to be very good, just like I did. Similarly, VETERAN Tony Curtis also takes advantage of the vibes of the riddim to push the very nice 'Wine Fe Me'. Curtis has pretty much been around from the same time they invented sound (any kind of sound!) and he's still doing big tunes like this and very much remaining relevant and I believe this is his first tune with Oneness Records. Sugar Roy & Conrad Crystal take a similar course, returning after appearing on the Raspect Riddim also, with their selection, 'Roots Music', which gives a big respect and credit to artists of years gone by and artists of today as well. This is a big song and a definite highlight on the Rub A Dub Man Riddim and probably the best tune I've heard from the duo in quite awhile.
"Now wi haffi talk bout di new generation
Suga Roy & Crystal, Anthony B and Fantan
Alborosie and Gentleman
Capleton, The Fyah Man
Sizzla and Buju Banton
Perfect and Lutan
Ifrica, Ce'Cile, Etana: The Strong One
Richie Spice and Jah Cure, Wi music haffi live long
Biggup Turbulence, I-Wayne and Gyptian
Everyday wi sing another hit song"
A surging Piero Dread also does fine on the riddim with his 'Turn Up The Radio', which I'd initially taken in an incorrect direction, given the way several of the songs were going. Instead of another kind of older focused set, Dread delivers a more consciously aware offering which is well still in the process of growing me as of this writing. I've been very impressed by this artist in just a few tracks and hopefully he continues to not only record for Oneness, but I also just have a feeling that Piero Dread might be one of those artists who’d just… pop up with a full album out of nowhere and now, I'd be just as fully interested in hearing it. Also check 'Vuela Alto' by Zuri from out of Spain. This song just fits in with the label's style of adding a tune or two which don't follow the standard course and although my Spanish would have to improve significantly just to be completely shitty these days, the sonics on this track are amongst the finest on the entire riddim.
A trio of pieces on the Rub A Dub Riddim registered even higher than those to my opinion (and I'd probably also put 'Clean The Streets' on this level as well) and go to comprise the class of material on the composition. Check 'War' by the still impressing Skarra Mucci who came through earlier this year with a big album, "Return of The Raggamuffin". Skarra has this really nice situated but free-flowing type of style which just really makes nice music to my opinion and his social commentary effort here is another winner. Indonesian sensation, Ras Muhamad is also still blazing via Oneness' creations in taking aim with 'Blow Them Away'. I don't think that calling this tune BRILLIANT (which is what I'm doing) is a fa stretch at all. This may be the single finest tune I've ever heard from Muhamad and one has to think that a full new LP from the artist can't be too far off (you would also have to think that the obvious combination, alongside Fyah T, would have to be somewhere in the offering as well). This track tears a hole in the Rub A Dub Man Riddim with a nearly stunning combination of knowledge and passion which are oft-given traits of Muhamad's. Still, unsurprisingly, for me the riddim's biggest moment comes courtesy of another combination of artists, one of whom is absolutely amazing in every way and the other of whom is extremely talented and has one of the best names in Reggae music today. Of course I'm referring to 'Trying' which features Achis Reggae and Earth favourite, legend-in-the-making Sara Lugo (another name which virtually guarantees high quality output), alongside the flaming Kabaka Pyramid. The two also came together on the Reggaeville Riddim for the infectious ‘High & Windy' and are proving to have a beaming level of musical chemistry together as they shine the brightest here.
"Yes I am trying, trying, trying - to catch a vibe
Trying, trying, trying to get it right
But I don't feel it
Can't you see it?
We can try but we can't fool ourselves"
"So many people dem get wrought up and caught up inna di system
Dem try fi be somebody dat dem not and end up di victim
DI IMAGES DEM DEPICTIN' - FAR FROM WHAT DI SCRIPTURES DAT WAS WRITTEN SAID ABOUT DI PROPHETS AND DI RIGHTEOUS SISTREN
Dem lyin to dem owna self
Dem nuh know wah dem creatin' a dem owna hell, weh dem alone ah dwell
But what you need to know -
If yah heart no feel it, then yah seed won't sew"
"Mi nah feel!
Di way weh dem ah deal wid Rastaman
Mi nah feel!
Di life weh I ah live in babylon
Mi nah feel!
Di lyrics weh some man ah put inna dem song
And di youth weh step a foot inna dem gang
Dem seh nah feel -di fyah weh mi burn
Feel, dem ahgo feel it when di lions dem emerge
Try dem ah try fi mek it work, but yah life it has a purpose
Destiny inside us from wi birth"
The song has this great way of kind of building in intensity and, when it hits its peak, you get this seamless transfer between the verses and the chorus to where it almost sounds like one giant verse in a damn thunderous tune and one of the best I've heard in all of 2012. Oneness, as usual is also kind enough to include the 'try it at home' version of the Rub A Dub Man Riddim which is beautiful and I guess I do have a complaint here: They really should have let this thing play on around an hour or so and I say that as a nerd, but you'll surely agree with me once you take a listen.
Overall, I'm also recommending that you take a listen to the entire Rub A Dub Man Riddim album from Oneness Records as it continues the mighty quality streak of the label's work thus far and while I'm not going to try, this time, to kind of put it in a ranking of any kind, I will tell you that despite its length, it probably is one of their better releases which is saying a great deal in their case (that was a really long sentence). Although it is, as I said, very much an old-school riddim, I do give it an unconditional recommendation. You'll likely have no problems with this one if you've been listening to Reggae music from fifty years ago or fifteen minutes. Once again we have one of the highlights of a riddim album delivered by a most familiar source which continues to show itself to be very fertile ground of excellence. But really you knew all of that already… I told you Oneness made it. Well done.