Sunday, December 30, 2012

'It's Glowing': A review of "Stronger" by King Lorenzo

So nice. Despite the fact that I'm, obviously, someone who enjoys breaking things down as much as I possibly can in some situations, as I've said in the past, I do so much love certain things which have more of an immediate appeal. The examples here generally come in the form of a song or two buried on an album which is otherwise so deep and maybe even taxing to a degree, which provide a very light moment for the project. But this even exists in broader aspects as well. Tarrus Riley is someone who, in my opinion, because of his style which is so dynamic and maybe even the most so in modern Roots Reggae music, has made these large and captivating songs which are so accessible and can be loved in so many different ways and for so many different reasons. With that being said, however, if you really ever tune into to what Riley is saying, he's also providing a great deal of lyrical substance but, again, because his music comes straight 'at’ you, that's a trait for which he may forever be underrated to many of his listeners. I'd also look at someone like Capleton who makes a brand of music which can be so aggressive and full on dazzling that the intensity can appeal to so many fans (and in his case, an extremely wide variety of them) who may never get around to observing the fact that along with being so brilliantly entertaining (and he is), Capleton, rather easily, is one of the greatest lyricists in the history of Reggae music. Jah Cure and his amazing vocals and a few more artists would be fine points of illustration of people who have found great success in making music which may be appreciated even more for its SOUND than for its actual intention/s. Prior to hearing his most recent release, the artist with whom we deal today, King Lorenzo, definitely wasn't someone who I would have placed in that same category, but after listening to his new album, which is PACKED full of substance and very crucial material, I did find it very interesting and somewhat unusual that my most immediate of reactions was to observe how EXTREMELY FUN the album was to listen to. That is an initial reaction which I don't know that I've had about a Roots album in some time so it definitely struck me as being a very unique experience and not one which I was complaining about. 

Maybe I should not have been that surprised, however. A few years back when Lorenzo was at his most active, he had found such a lovely and prolific musical home at the mighty Irie Ites label from out of France (who did not seem to be as active themselves in 2012 as in previous years, although the Stop That Sound was an excellent project). Along with several other artists, some considerably more well known than his (Turbulence, Lutan Fyah, Chezidek etc.), Lorenzo would appear on so much of II's output and, in 2009 he would have so much impressed the label that he would join the likes of the brilliant Ras Mac Bean (anytime now with album #2 RMB) and Mark Wonder (re-release) in actually having a full album for the label, the sublime "Movin' Ahead", his debut. Looking back, although I finely combed through that album (and I'm going to do the same with this one), "Movin' Ahead" was gorgeous. Certainly it is a testament to the fact that Irie Ites is excellent, but Lorenzo had already a whole heap of tunes which were just wholly entertaining modern Roots Reggae music. 
"Movin' Ahead" [2009]
Well, here's another batch. King Lorenzo now delivers, courtesy of Rocky Hill Records this time, his second studio album to date, the perhaps aptly titled "Stronger". Between the two albums, at least to my knowledge, Lorenzo wasn't very active. He recorded for a few labels and had a few tunes (and I did actually hear him all over a new mixtape recently, where he sang a portion of the title track of this album), but it wasn't until I saw a coming soon photo for the new album that I was aware that he was actually in the studio brewing with some new material which would become his sophomore release. In that regard, the existence of 'Stronger" is somewhat surprising, but I was damn happy to see it arrive before the end of the year as it continues the wonderful stretch of top notch album releases that 2012 ultimately proved to be. If you are unfamiliar with King Lorenzo's style, I've always very much likened him as being some of a mixing of two different artists in terms of his sound. The first would be the aforementioned Chezidek. As weird as it may sound, because Chezidek is a very unusual vocalist, I do hear a similar sound in voice in Lorenzo and I also hear a bit of the also previously mentioned Turbulence. The latter, when he actually attempts to, has an amazing singing voice and I think that, again in terms of vocals, King Lorenzo absolutely combines the best of the two Xterminator products and adds his own organic originality to come up with what may just be one of the most gratifying styles in Reggae music today. Also, as we'll examine closer in just a second, he's a fine writer, a quality which was on full display throughout the very well received "Movin' Ahead" set. On "Stronger", he's once again shown himself to be someone incredibly capable of delivering a very poignant and clearly aimed Roots Reggae album and one which, at least in my opinion, is going to be received very well by many of the same fans who came along for the first album. While this album has seemingly lacked the promotional vehicle of the first (and credit should well be given in the case of Irie Ites who usually do a very good job in pushing their material) (especially in more recent years), for everyone who does take a listen, I think it's almost guaranteed that you're going to full enjoy what you hear. Let me tell you why! 

Like Ras Batch and Perfect Giddimani before him (also another Irie Ites veteran, Spectacular, who I believe is now Burning Spectacular officially) Lorenzo has formally now become 'King Lorenzo' While there is another artist of the same name(from out of Nigeria, I believe), I'm always all in favour of artists changing their names to something which will help them stand out just a bit more. If the name change didn't work, surely the wonderful music on his new album, "Stronger", would take care of that and things get up and started with the sublime 'Guide My Footsteps'

"Guide my footsteps Jah
Protect me everyday
Jah, You move all obstacles out of my way
Guide my footsteps Jah
Give I the strength to pray
Jah, You move all obstacles out of my way

All of the things that I've been through and all of my pain -
Through all of my tribulations, your love still remains
So while I's on life's  journey, I won't complain
Cause You are my rock and my shield!
Your power never fail!
So I say:

Guide I footsteps Jah
Protect me everyday
Jah, You move all obstacles out of my way
Guide I footsteps Jah
Give I the power, I pray
Jah, You move all obstacles out of my way

See I've got my hopes and dreams
I've got my plans
But without You, they all are nothing
Its all in your hands
I used to think that I have it real bad, but I understand
Your love only made me stronger

BOOM! This song is such a powerful way to start an album and it exemplifies the type of song I'm speaking of. I'm not trying to make the point that this album has the effect of… Soca or Dancehall music or anything like that, but for what it is, and if you really listen to it, it is completely entertaining and I'm sure I won't be the only saying that after hearing this lovely opener. Next in is an arguably even better song with a lovely old school vibed track (a sound which dominates throughout "Stronger) behind it, 'Mighty Long Time'. This song just brought a giant smile to my face and if my ears could smile, they would be especially. Besides having such a fascinating sound, lyrically it is so impressive ["I'm not looking for no sympathy. No cry, better you pray for me"] as Lorenzo talks about everything that has gone wrong for him, before righting his ship and he's now ready to enjoy what his troubles and his work has brought him on a huge tune. And wrapping up the opening trio of songs on the album is the first of a trio of combinations, 'Head Up High', alongside Clifford Fyah Henry, a traditional Gospel singer to my knowledge. The tune is meant as an inspirational one and it does inspire and does so with some of the strongest vocals found on the album in such a nice sound as well. And definitely biggup Fyah Henry as well.

On paper, looking up and down the tracklist of "Stronger" there was a couple of tunes which really stood out to my eyes, that I was definitely looking forward to hearing. The first, of course, was the title track which I think should always provide the listener with at least some idea of the privileging intent of the entire album named after it. 

"Why should I be afraid of the wicked and the things they say?
And all the obstacles in my way
I'm getting stronger everyday
I won't be afraid of the wicked and the things they say
And all the obstacles in my way
I'm getting stronger

I never worry about tomorrow
Yesterday is the past
I've got my life today
I'm gonna live it as if it's the last
I am so grateful
I am so thankful
I'm gonna keep my joy
There's this love inside of me, no one can destroy" 

I do so relate this one to the opener, although it doesn't have such a sizable spiritual anchor (which makes it a very compelling comparison) and what I take it from is an inspiring song and that is a theme prevalent throughout "Stronger" the album. The other song here which really got my attention would ultimately become my absolute favourite on the album, unsurprisingly. 'This Life' finds Lorenzo linking with the venerable Nereus Joseph, someone who I could probably listen to ENDLESSLY (and hopefully he gives me at least a partial opportunity to do that in 2013 with a new album). This song just caught me. Somewhere between smiling and rocking my head I feel in love with it. Joseph and Lorenzo make for one very strong musical pairing on a tune which is divine from beginning to end. 

'Feel Like Dancing' has a title which seems to be a song which I probably wouldn't enjoy very much, but I did. You may well be able to sit there and imagine correctly what this song is about and maybe even how it sounds, but it is still a nice and infectious song and I think its presence makes the album a better one. VETERAN U Brown joins King Lorenzo on "Stronger" and makes a sweet appearance on an equally lovable tune, 'Keep On Rising'. I'd like to see that song get a bit of a push because I think it could really grow on a lot of different people. It's one of the better immediately pleasing sounds here. And speaking of pleasing sounds, check the love song, 'Something About You', which appears to find Lorenzo going Tyrone Taylor style on the Cottage In Negril Riddim

The remaining songs on "Stronger" continue to offer up big moments, as all five of the selections prove to be amongst the very best on the album. That's definitely the case with the very familiar 'Pressure Me Hard' and 'Live Up'

"Dem ah pressure mi hard
Mi no like what a gwan
No I just can't take no more
I'll keep climbing up the ladder
I'll be pushing down the door
Dem ah pressure mi hard
Mi no like what a gwan
No I just can't take no more
I'll keep climbing up the ladder
I'll be pushing down the door

Well I've tried to live my life upful and right
Still they try to take advantage
Work day and night, inna sacrifice
Still they try to take I for granted
But now that I've learned, the tables shall turn
I'm gonna stand up and be counted
I've got to defend myself
Nah depend on no one else" 

If you wanted to call the former the single best song on the album I wouldn't argue with you at all. It is that good. As for the latter… it is too. 'Live Up' is about one of the more dazzling selection that can be found on this album. At its core, it is a social commentary and a mighty one which is to be well registered. The joyous 'Thanks For Today' begins the final lot of pieces on "Stronger” and it does well. The tune, as you can deduce from its title, is a praising track, but it is a SMOOTH one. I really liked the 'mood' on this one because it goes both passionately and coolly and calmly in one track which quickly becomes very colourful. 'Where Is The Love' may just have the best riddim I heard here. You hear so many small and beautiful intricate sounds behind the base here and they all combine to make something I'd LOVE to hear an instrumental of. For his part, Lorenzo uses the curious composition to push a message essentially saying to keep away from negative people who do not bring love into your life. In the middle of the tune, when it really peaks, at least for me, it's full on exciting music (and I'll elabourate more on this in just a second) and a big, big tune. Finally, "Stronger" concludes with an acoustic piece (becoming less obligatory on Roots albums as the days go by in my noticing), 'Back To The Roots'. While not one of my favourites here, I will tell you that it has grown on me just a bit from the first listen. The song is about returning to a more natural and organic way of life and way of thinking and I think it was somewhere in the lyrics where I began to make a real connection here. But I'm still working on it, so definitely have a profound listen for yourself.
King Lorenzo
Overall, I do want to go back to the premise of this review and something I just alluded to, for me, "Stronger" is a lot of fun to listen to. Along with Anthony Que's downright masterful "Meditation Time" album, it may be one of the most entertaining Roots Reggae albums that I've heard this year. You don't take such a statement in regards to this genre to mean anything else, on any other scale because "fun" isn't necessarily the word most would attach to Roots Reggae music, but this is a good time to listen to, checking in at just under an hour in length. Also, while it is a very entertaining piece, I don't want to overlook the core strength of the album. I probably didn't do a very good job of it, but I was trying to make a point that you can have music, like Tarrus Riley, like Capleton, like Jah Cure (Gentleman would probably be another), which can strike you as dazzling, fun and all of these other kind of flaring adjectives, but it still very much exhibits and displays the more typical values of Roots music. So "Stronger" is fun, but it is also challenging and educational and spiritual and crucial and relevant and, for everyone who chooses to listen to it deeper (and I did), that becomes such a large part of the enjoyment of it as well. Here, we find King Lorenzo pushing yet another strong project and should he actually get any "stronger" than this some day, well then I'll have to come up with some even "stronger" words to call him. Absolutely delightful. 

Rated: 4.15/5
Rocky Hill Records

Review #408


  1. King Lorenzo,one of the reggae best vocalist

  2. Greetings all di way from Aotearoa - New Zealand. 1Love, jah blessings.