Monday, April 25, 2005

Yami Bolo and Ragga Ragga Ragga 2005

Yami Bolo
When Yami Bolo was but a wee pickney in the 1980s, he was part of Sugar Minott's Youth Promotion sound. From the age of 13, he's been perfecting his trademark "Aye! Aye! Aye!" Bolo demonstrates this depth of experience and ability on Ministry, a nice collection of duets with folks ranging from Jack Radics, Lee Perry and Dennis Brown to Sizzla, Bounty Killer and Capleton. With a record chock-a-block with strong singles, it's hard to choose highlights. "Put Down Your Weapons" with Capleton deserves a rewind, as does Bolo and Ken Boothe's reworking of Simon & Garfunkel's "Richard Cory." Strong tunes for spring! 9/10

Ragga Ragga Ragga 2005
Billed as uncut, X-rated dancehall, you'll be hearing this selection of the hottest riddims and the slackest lyrics blasting out of a car stereo sometime soon. 8/10

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Jah Cure and Chezidek

Jah Cure
Freedom Blues
Siccaturie "Jah Cure" Alcock has been in prison since 1999 on what he sees as spurious robbery and rape charges. It's not my role to determine just how false or true these charges are, but to simply review a terrific album by a tremendously talented artist. Though he's to be incarcerated until at least 2008, through access to recording equipment Jah Cure has gained almost legendary status. From the stunning (there's really no other word for it) "Jah Bless Me" to the somewhat old, yet still great, "King in the Jungle" featuring Sizzla, Jah Cure's plaintive voice has a sense of longing and earnestness that is unique among reggae singers. If I sound overly maudlin, it's because he's simply that good. 9.5/10

Rising Sun
Nice, conscious roots sound from the artist formerly known as Chila Wrench. Good choice on the name change, now go voice some of the wicked one-drop riddims out there. 7.5/10

Friday, April 01, 2005

Universal Message 3

Universal Message 3(VP)
Sure, I like Lee Perry as much as the next obsessive reggae fan, but if the majority of your reggae collection is still living in the 1970s, sit up and take notice. You need Universal Message 3. Run, don’t walk to pick up this collection of some of the top ranking Jamaican tunes of 2004. It’ll provide an excellent intro to what seems to be a conscious reggae renaissance. From the haunting “Living in Love” by I-Wayne to Fanton Mojo’s infectious “Hungry” to Capleton’s powerful “That Day Will Come” to Jah Cure’s incredible “Jah Bless Me”, there aint no weak tracks here. Luciano, Bushman, Sizzla, and Gentleman (yes, he’s great and he’s a white dude from Germany) demonstrate the power of positive vibes, and acoustic performances by Tanya Stevens and Anthony B round out a representation of some of the best roots and culture out there. Somewhere, Bob Marley is smiling.

Vybz Kartel

Vybz Kartel
More Up To Di Time(Greensleeves)
One of the top dancehall dons, Kartel’s had a controversial year, what with being one of the main artists called out for homophobic lyrics. He’s thankfully now vowed to stop recording and performing anti-gay tunes and I, for one, hope he sticks to this plan because he’s one of the most exciting performers out there today. His album, Up To Di Time was in such high demand that Greensleeves had to release a new edition. Folks just couldn’t get enough, so More Up To Di Time features five new tracks sure to please the dancehall massive. Kartel’s flow is crazy hot and the terrific production, mostly courtesy of Donovan “Vendetta” Bennett, makes this selection of tracks sure to nice up any party. Just try and stand still while enjoying the verbal gymnastics and top ranking riddims in “Real Bad Man”, “Why You Doing It” featuring Wayne Marshall, “Sweet to the Belly”, or “Tekk.”

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Natty King and Jahranimo

Natty King
No Guns to Town
Listening to Natty King, it's not surprising that he cut his teeth singing Luciano tunes. Like Luci, he's committed to positivity and has a terrific voice. But Natty King is a bonafide singing sensation himself, with two huge number one hits, the reality tune "No Guns to Town" and the capitalist-questioning "Mr. Greedy." No Guns to Town features the big tunes (plus bonus videos for both hits), link-ups with Sizzla, Chinna Smith and Trinity, as well as the lovely romantic track "Love Me." The umpteenth reason why folks should take a listen to new, conscious reggae. 9/10

Jahranimo Real Life (Lightning Ball)
Someone needs to tell Vancouver-based Jahranimo that he doesn't need hip hop in his reggae - especially since he's otherwise quite nice. 7/10

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Beenie Man and LKJ

Beenie Man
Kingston to King of the Dancehall: A Collection of Dancehall Favorites
Since the Jamaican music industry is completely single-driven and artists are bloody prolific, rockist demands for solid, consistent albums are rarely, if ever, fulfilled. But when you've got a guy like Beenie Man with 50-plus number one hits, a compilation is going to kill. Kingston to King is a series of these top-ranking tunes (plus a DVD with a featurette and a bunch of videos), presenting Beenie Man's uncanny ability to spit out lines that get stuck in your head ("zim zimma," anyone?). With all the controversy surrounding Beenie's homophobic lyrics, it's good - and heartening - to remember that the most popular tracks are all good fun. 8/10

Linton Kwesi Johnson
Live in Paris with the Dennis Bovell Dub Band
LKJ's dub poetry is brilliant and bloody prescient - "music blazing sounding thumping fire" indeed. 9/10

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Shock of the Century and Gregory Isaacs

Shock of the Century
(Sir Coxsone)
On March 30, 1986, at the Jubilee Hall in Brixton, Sir Coxsone's Outernational sound system (so named in tribute to the late, legendary Clement "Coxsone" Dodd) presented the Shock of the Century dance. A testament to why '80s dancehall is vastly underrated, it was, like most dances worldwide, taped, copied and circulated via a vast network of obsessed fans. Thanks to Sir Coxsone, you need not search for a crackling, hissy version of what is hailed as the "most popular live dance of all time." With Supercat, Nicodemus, Nitty Gritty, Eek-A-Mouse and Frankie Paul performing live and direct, this is not just a CD compilation, it's a historical artefact. 9.5/10

Gregory Isaacs
Sings Dennis Brown
The Crown Prince of Reggae recorded an album of his bredren Isaacs' tunes. Here, the Cool Ruler returns the favour. What's not to like? 8/10

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Luciano and Babylon OST

Reggae Max 2
(Jet Star)
The Reggae Max series is a great way to get introduced to some of the best music Jamaica has to offer. Given that folks like Luciano (why'd he ever change his name from Jetpher McClymont?) are prolific as all get out, it's tough to know where to start. But never fear, you name the artist and Jet Star's sure to have already done the selecting work and released a Reggae Max showcasing the best tunes. As an added bonus, the CDs aren't that expensive. This compilation is full of hits, from "Lessons in Life" to "Ulterior Motive." 9/10

Babylon OST
This 1980 flick about a West London soundsystem remains a fabled dream to me. Hopefully the reissue of the soundtrack (with wicked tunes by Yabby You) means a DVD release ain't too far behind. 7.5/10