EXCO LEVI COUNTRYMAN 2015
April 4, 2015
Toronto’s own lion, Exco Levi comes through with a blazing effort in the form of “Country Man”. With its “easy roots” feel, this album should have no problem reaching a greater audience. In fact, the stand out single “Storms of Life” (the one where, in its music video, Exco can be seen cruising around Hamburg on a bicycle) had already generated hype when released in 2012. The overall vibe places you under the sun and makes you feel alright while maintaining a tone pushing for a simpler life, away from the trials and tribulations of the city.
As one could expect from the title, this dichotomy is a prominent theme throughout the track list. Tunes like “Yutes Dem So Violent”, “Life In The Factory” and “City Life” depict the hardships of urban living whereas others, including “One Room Shack”, “One Suit”, and the title-track “Country Man”, allude to the favored countryside.
You should also look out for some heavy collaborations in this piece, such as Romain Virgo’s assist in stressing the importance of youths’ education in “Get It In Your Head”. In “El Shaddai”, Exco and Jahmali revisit the latter’s break-out song from 1998, while Black Uhuru’s “General Penitentiary” gets redone alongside the mighty Michael Rose.
So pick this one up as soon as you can! Before it fetches this man another Juno!
Review by Felix Yuan
TARRUS RILEY LOVE SITUATION
August 16, 2014
TARRUS RILEY – LOVE SITUATION
With roots reggae music at the helm when it comes to the propagation of its words of positivity in this day and age, its predecessors are not to be left on the shelf. Though the quick tempo ska has received considerable attention and regard, the intermediate form of the two hailing from the 1960’s, rocksteady, is often overlooked. Thus, Mr. Riley attempts to shine light in its corner in this 21st century.
Digging up grooves and rhythms from the era, Tarrus and backups season these with modern day vocals, which, together with sound effects and skits, bring about a flavour not necessarily reminiscent of the days of the USSR. This should be not be confused as a bad thing, since it is this novelty which emits the sweet aroma of the album. The overall feel is further developed with the presence of elders (U-Roy, Big Youth and sax-master Dean Frazer) as well as other lions (Konshens, Whippa Demus and Mr. Cheeks of the Lost Boyz) on feature tracks
Upon riding this album, one may experience familiar vibes in terms of the revisited melodies of a past generation (John Holt’s “Strange Things” in “Cum Get Your Ish”, The Melodians’ “I Will Get Along Without You” in “Cry No More” and Alton Ellis’ “Big Bad Boy” in “Lost For Words” amongst others) though a more recent refreshment is served with the likes of “One Drop Remix”, a version of Tarrus’ original “Gimmer Likkle One Drop” from 2012.
Give this one whirl, good energy will flow!
PROTOJE - THE 8 YEAR AFFAIR ALBUM REVIEW BY JAMIE J MELO
August 16, 2014
PROTOJE – “8 YEAR AFFAIR” ALBUM REVIEW BY JAMIE J MELO
This time, we are talking about Protoje’s album “The 8 Year Affair” released in February of 2013. Yes it may be a little out dated, but this man’s contributions to the reggae music scene of today should be recognized. This album has a wide variety of sounds and vibes throughout the whole album, blending roots reggae with hip-hop and pop sound. Giving it a more modern look at how reggae music has progressed over the years. The record starts out with the title track “8 Year Affair” the lyrics combine hints to a tribute to some of his heroes such as Hugh Mandell, Peter Tosh, Bob Marley, Jacob Miller. “I&I” shows a more “to the roots” groove and showcases his beliefs for the Rastafarian culture.
From tunes like “Kingston Be Wise” talking about the struggles Kingston is facing to soulful ballads like “Someone like You” featuring the amazing vocals from Tessanne Chin to “Hail Ras Tafari” which speaks about the highly noted Haile Selassie. This album displays a wide variety of melodies, vibes and conscious upbringing, and really shows how reggae is evolved from when we lost Bob Marley back in 1981. Protoje has showcased what may be his best album so far...
LUCIANO THE QABALAH MAN
December 27, 2013
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”.
MATTHEW MCANUFF BE CAREFUL
September 15, 2013
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!
U ROY PRAY FI DI PEOPLE
June 29, 2013
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
BERES HAMMOND ONE LIFE ONE LOVE
March 11, 2013
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!
TARRUS RILEY MECOUSTIC 2012
November 25, 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
SANCHEZ LOVE YOU MORE 2011
February 29, 2012
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
February 29, 2012
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.