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LUCIANO THE QABALAH MAN

LUCIANO  THE QABALAH MAN

With another nice one, smoothness bleeds out the vocals of this here Jah messenger. Coming through with many new pieces and collaborations, including the likes of Bob Andy, Naptali, Mark Wonder, U-Roy and more, “The Qabalah Man” emits a cool sound sure to ease any vibrations.

While the production of the album as a whole may feel slightly “busy” and possibly overwhelming at times with the multitude of elements present, the fire in Luciano’s voice binds it all together for a proper delivery. In general, the track list runs quite consistently, though a few stand outs are “Create Our History” with Bob Andy, “Black Man Government” with Naptali, and “Weapons of War”. Another tune worth mentioning is “Tribute to Dennis Brown”, simply for the respect it offers to the general. Certain melodies, such as the chorus in “Organize” with U-Roy and Ziggi Ricardo, will also ring with familiarity in the ears of devotees. Expectedly, consciousness remains omnipresent throughout the entirety of the piece.

Overall, this is an album one could boom on the sound system to confidently get the blood flowing. While it may not set the charts ablaze, Luciano stands firm with consistency in his work with “The Qabalah Man”.

Ites up,

Felix

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MATTHEW MCANUFF BE CAREFUL

MATTHEW MCANUFF – BE CAREFUL

                Despite his physical departure from this world, Matthew McAnuff’ studio album Be Careful has sweetened the summer of 2013. Upon first exposure, before the youthful yet collected vocals even reach the walls of the ear drum, the sheer musicianship on each and every track pierces the soul – a manifestation of the veteran experience and cohesion stirred in this pot. Various other potent ingredients, such as the accordion-sounding melodica or the regular piano, add even more dimensions to these tunes.

                Be Careful brings forth the potential in McAnuff’s abilities, which could have very well propelled him within the established ranks of Jah army. While many of his verses may sound familiar to those who regularly dwell in the pools of roots reggae, songs such as “Jah Bless”, “Trod On”, or even the title track “Be Careful” ring with nice idiosyncratic tendencies.

The vibrations here are most definitely good!

Felix Yuan

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U ROY PRAY FI DI PEOPLE

U-ROY – PRAY FI DI PEOPLE

 

DJ Kool Herc, Public Enemy, NWA, Wu Tang Clan, Mobb Deep and more…All stem from a firm tree with roots running deep. Omitting the historical details, MCing can look back at its ancestry in Jamaica through the style of “toasting”, skimming the grooves of reggae music, with The Originator Daddy U-Roy bringing forth many of the earliest specimens.

Considering the classic likes of U-Roy riding the waves of a version, Pray Fi Di People delivers original recordings, although these do include a few covers, such as “Ebony Eyes” or “Pumps and Pride”. The ultimate fun in the album is that it features collaborations on all but one song, being the title track. These expressions “inna combination style” bring about souls ranging from the veteran conquerors (Marcia Griffiths, Horace Andy) to the rising soldiers of the present (Tarrus Riley, Chezidek, Sophia Squire), with some refreshing international connections (Harrison “Professor” Stafford of the American group Groundation, Tiken Jah Fakoly of Côte d'Ivoire). Subjectively, the latter two convey aqueous flowing tunes emitting the most feel; the lighthearted “Call On Jah” (featuring Professor) providing everlasting reassurance that H.I.M. stands indomitable while the francophone flavored “The Hard Way” (featuring Tiken as well as Balik of Danakil) vibrates at just the right cadence.

For those unfamiliar with the many landscapes painted by U-Roy’s musical sounds over the past few decades, Pray Fi Di People may not be the most appropriate gateway to discover such a place; opt for classic collections including Versions Galore or Natty Rebel to truly take the dive. Nonetheless, for the current disciples of The Originator, from the times of both new and old, this album is definitely worth the session. 

 

Felix Yuan for Toronto Reggae

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BERES HAMMOND ONE LIFE ONE LOVE

BERES HAMMOND – ONE LOVE, ONE LIFE

                YES, in 2012 Hugh Beresford Hammond is still coming in hotter than a bowl of steaming dumplings, almost as if 1976 was creeping right under your bed. Indeed, it is the second decade of the 21st century and Beres still shatters all anticipations with the likes of the 20-track deep creature called One Love, One Life. Summer time vibrations are felt thoroughly when the album is plugged in, with each tune depicting the scene of a man savouring a sweet riddim after having marched through the studio doors with soulful intentions. It has even been said that Hugh produced the record in its near entirety, further legitimatizing his affectionately given status of “legend”.

                It nearly goes without saying that “No Candle Light” along with the unexpected tag team combo “I Humble Myself” (featuring Samantha Strachan) command the right to remain in heavy rotation as part of the daily morning uplift sessions.  Along with spewing feel good waves towards the people, One Love, One Life boasts Beres’ innate ability to maintain factory-like productivity by continuously stacking classic after classic over the decades. Give this album a listen and life will taste that much better. TRUTH!

 Felix Yuan

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TARRUS RILEY MECOUSTIC 2012

Whether it be the family legacy or past successes , all expectations must be set aside when stepping into Tarrus Riley’s Mecoustic , which features tunes, both old and new, in a light quite different from his past albums.  While not being a completely “acoustic” album (take “Paradise” for instance), the classic one-drop sound is absent during its entire duration. However, consciousness remains and the mood set by Tarrus maintains a certain “reggae-less” roots reggae feel with the likes of “Marcus Garvey” (new version of “Love Created I”) and the smoothed out version of the already smooth “Africa Awaits”.

                In the eyes of many, Tarrus may be classified within the “Lover’s Rock” genre. Nevertheless, such strict shelving must not be given heed to, for Mecoustic brings about many personal faces of the musician, with Rastafari proving to be a dominant force in these representations. Such is strongly felt in the Nyabinghi flavoured tunes “One Two Order” and “Eye Sight”.  Although not extremely hard-hitting, this album is definitely worth the listen for it just may transport you to a place different than most reggae devotees are accustomed to.

 

Felix Landry Yuan

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Sanchez Love You More 2011

Love you more. Kevin Anthony Jackson, aka Sanchez, announces it all with the tittle of his new album. One thing for sure, he did not give up on his trademark and is truly inspired by love, which is what we've come to enjoy from him throughout the years. Indeed, without a surprise, his street lover style is present all over this opus. Furthermore, we retrieved a few already known songs, which is part of the particular art of this talent-challenged cover singer. Amongst them we can find – ‘Love TKO’, and ‘In My Time’, two very smooth and familiar Sanchez-esque tracks signed by Teddy Pendergrass; the latter being part of the amazing R&B songbook Sanchez is known for putting his flow on. His recognizable emotional vocals are also present on some other R&B covers on this album, such as ‘Caravan of Love’ from Jasper Isley and on The Spinners's hit ‘How could I let you get away’.

To my disppointment, only two tracks on that opus really stood out to my ears, ‘How Could I Let You Get Away’ and Richard Marx's ‘Right Here Waiting’, where Sanchez's honeyed and mellow voice gives a sweet trippy tone to two worldwide loved instrumentals.

Love You More’ is somehow expected given Sanchez romantic style. To sum it up, it's not a bad album at all, it's just nothing new, which got me a bit bored by the end of this 12-track opus, which fortunately closes-off on an amazing cover. The declarations of love and few well-worked covers were already known through the artist's past albums. A little too light.

Loyal fans should be easy to please and new listeners will board on the love boat for a soft cruise on the waves of romance. No need to wear your life jacket though, you most likely won't fall off.

 

 

 

Sizzla The Scriptures 2011

Sizzla Kalonji, the veteran. After releasing 5 dozen albums and compilations over the last 15 years, we might think a new Sizzla opus would no longer be a surprise nor offer anything new. But we would be mistaken!

Sizzla the unpredictable. The Scriptures, produced by  the famed sonic  craftsman Lloyd “John John” James, is a seamless, fresh, organic blend of mostly rootsy acoustic cuts melded with the incomparable talent of Jamaican musicians and harmony vocalists, such as Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare, Fiona Robinson, Connie Francis and Sherida, just to name a few.  After his last two roots-flavored albums for Greensleeves, Kalonji is following the same path. But differently. 

Sizzla the defender. The album starts off with a captivating opener, World’s Cry, dedicated to the children of the world. Sizzla’s sorrowful lyrics and mellow voice accuse the governments of the world of spending money on bombs and wars instead of children. This emotional track might tempt the listener to believe the entire album will be saturated with bemoaning overtones. Not so fast…

Sizzla the cautioner. The whole world is watching you, be careful because they’re tracking you. With The World is Watching, Sizzla and rapper Peter Jackson (who compellingly delivers a few hard-hitting bars) are offering a more energetic track on a bass-driven, hip hop infused beat.

 

Sizzla the optimist.  Then we’re caught off-guard with a radical change of tone. Big time. In Jamaica is a joyful tribute to his homeland. With lyrics like “Poor people live decent” and “Things run different” Kalonji delivers an anthem with a decidedly positive message. Finally. How many songs have you heard in the past about a troubled Jamaica? Probably more than you have fingers to count them. Not that I don’t have a  tremendous amount of respect for the Royal Family of Reggae, Morgan Heritage, but to my ears’ guilty pleasure, I thoroughly enjoyed exploring Jamaica through Sizzla’s vocals.

 

Sizzla the soul cleanser. The reggae horns and strings on Cleanse My Soul will open hearts and minds to a stirring ode to humility: Sizzla implores Jah to “Wash my hands, cleanse my heart, save my soul”.

 

Sizzla the religious. Religious professions softly sung over an irresistible melody that will accompany you throughout the day? Sizzla did it! Without a doubt, this track could become everybody’s morning song. At my first listening of Jah is my Shield, I felt like he was taking me on a cultural journey. If being  vegetarian wasn’t part of the deal, I would have converted to Rastafarianism by the end of these 3 minutes and 19 seconds.

Sizzla the believer. The title track is another Rastafari anthem, maybe a bit more spiritual. It could easily be used as a holy model to follow. It’s love, it’s faith, it’s treasures from the heart and not from the hands: “Material things will fade”, when “Love is worth more than riches”. And guess what? You can’t help but be carried along in a whirl of strong and positive vibes.

 

Sizzla the joker. During the first 20 plodding seconds of Jump for Joy, I didn’t really feel like jumping. But as soon as the rhythm speeds up, we rediscover the good old Sizzla that we’ve come to know and love. His cracked, gruff voice and blistering energy starts kicking in, intensely reminiscent of some powerful Jamaican Ragga-Dancehall sound systems.

 

Sizzla the entertainer. Your best friend’s birthday is coming up soon (or later, that works too). Spread the word, spread the song. Happy Birthday is probably the most entertaining cut of the album. Wait, the most original as well with its Ska overtones. This tune will reinforce the idea that reggae / dancehall adepts are good at celebrations, since “the party’s going and it’s worth taking”.

 

Sizzla the leader. Last but not least, Music in my soul speaks for itself. This track’s infectiousness is undeniable as “Everywhere you go, everybody knows good music”.  While the “Selecta keep on playing”, we are delighted by the buzz running through our veins while listening to this tribute to good music. Our music.

 

One step back. On Sizzla’s past albums (and generally speaking), not every tune would be a standout, we know that for a fact. The Scriptures is unfortunately not an exception to this rule. This can be seen from songs like Let It be (yes, but let it be somewhere else), which is a reminder to love in all its forms that falls flat, God Bless you Mama which definitely sounds like deja-vu, and I Love You, another quite potent love song. These are just too trivial, too far from Sizzla’s universe. What a Whoa leaves me puzzled. The vibrant and classic “Jah fire will be burning rhythm” is an asset for sure, and even though the Bobo Ashanti movement Sizzla subscribed to in the mid-1990’s was barely delved into by the artist throughout the album, I am still unable to state whether or not I like this song. I’ll let the listener make up their own mind

So even though none of his cuts were truly a disappointment, they were still a notch below Sizzla’s standards and what we’ve come to expect from him.

 

9/13 With nine standouts out of thirteen cuts, we definitely have a consistent opus here. Much to my relief,I found Sizzla’s fingerprints all over this well-worked rootsy album. The brutal and aggressive Sizzla seems to have found peace and unity here (somebody just whispered Almighty?). This is a grown and mature Sizzla taking you for a smooth, but not sluggish, ride. His gruff tone seems to have been smoothed out to an engrossing sweet and honeyed voice.

One thing with Sizzla, it’s hard to keep track of the numerous albums and compilations he’s been releasing since the beginning of his career in the mid-90’s. But while some artists come and go, Kalonji remains. And he proves his point once again with The Scriptures.

 

 As if his greatness was still to be demonstrated.