Run The Track: February 2010

Capleton

RIHANNA REDEMPTION SONG [FOR HAITI] [DEF JAM]

A singer from Barbados pays tribute to the suffering people of Haiti with a song written and recorded by Jamaicans. Wailers’ keyboard man Earl “Wire” Lindo is characteristically modest about his contributions, but others who were there swear that he wrote Marley’s best-known and most heartfelt political song.

Rihanna’s isn’t the best version we’ve ever heard, mainly because she doesn’t yet possess the gravitas a piece de resistance like Redemption Song demands. There’s no mistaking her sincerity though, or her and the track’s appeal.

SHAGGY, SEAN PAUL, ETANA, SEAN KINGSTON, TESSANE, ALISON HINDS & DESTRA RISE UP [BIRCHILL]

As well as performing to audiences worldwide, Shaggy does a tremendous amount of community work in Jamaica. “Me can’t stand hopeless and not offer aid,” he chats by way of explanation on this gospel-fuelled, monster jam of committed individuals – singers who share a desire to speak out against the poverty and violence they see around them, and which has touched all of their lives in some way or another.

Mass collaborations aren’t uncommon in reggae. It’s a music that stays close to the people and Rise Up rings with authenticity. The song’s message is clear – that difficulties can be overcome by pulling together, and voices heard if they join in unison. Such records are rarely championed outside of the core market. Let’s make this one an exception…

NAS & DAMIAN MARLEY AS WE ENTER [GHETTO YOUTHS UNITE]

Nas and Damian Marley are a natural pairing – two successful artists revelling in exploring their common ground, and fusing their respective genres in such a way you’d be hard pressed to see where reggae dancehall starts and hip hop ends.

The rhythm of this one’s similar to House Of Pain’s Jump Around and after you’ve finishing wrecking the furniture, check the lyrics and styles. These two “revolution rhymers” have flows and skills to burn. Both are strong on their own turf, and don’t change from what they are and what they represent. It’s just that they’re so damn complementary.

CAPLETON HAITIANS [TREMMA HOUSE]

Capleton lets rip on behalf of the “first freedom fighters,” and appeals to Barack Obama and Tony Blair [surely Gordon Brown?] to act swiftly in helping to rebuild Haiti and save people from the “confusion, chaos and despair.” King Shango is in fiery form, as is often the case when he’s stirred by the subject matter and preferably angry as hell. His gnarled vocals and the slamming dancehall rhythm make this one compulsive listening for Capleton fans, but its real mission is to spread awareness of the tragedy affecting Haiti, and galvanise people into action. A serious tune, it succeeds on both counts.

JUNIOR X GANGSTER LIFE [REVOLUTIONARY RECORDS]

Every so often, a record leaps out the pack and reminds us of why people love reggae music so. Listening to this one, it’s like springtime’s come early because Gangster Life is a beauty with its bubbling ”live” rhythm, sprays of horns and catchy melodies.

Junior X is a bright new singing talent – with just a touch of Sizzla in his delivery – who’s shot from nowhere right to the top with this breezy, urban morality tale. “Mama tell him say war ah no fun t’ing. Mama tell him say go put down the gun t’ing…” If the boy had listened to Mama, he wouldn’t be dead or in jail today. It’s homespun philosophy, but the song’s a real winner.

SHEMA & MS KITTY INDEPENDENT [LADIES ANTHEM] [DI GENIUS]

As the daughter of Freddie McGregor and Judy Mowatt, Yeshemabeth is reggae royalty, “I’m an independent first lady. That’s the way my mother raised me,” she sings on this joyous mix of pop, dancehall and rap. Her brother Stephen really lives to that “Di Genius” tag on this one. It’s lightweight compared to his tunes with Mavado but if the doors are still open to dancehall on the Billboard charts, this may be the record that gets him there first.

ALBOROSIE KINGDOM OF ZION [GREENSLEEVES DIGITAL EP]

“Old school, real school, there’s no other school,” sings David Hinds on the brilliant reworking of Steel Pulse’s Steppin’ Out found on this five track digital EP.

Alborosie is an old school reggae master reborn, but he injects his music with a vitality and freshness that could only come from a young man riding the crest of an underground wave. [And who’s genuinely immersed in Jamaica and reggae music culture.]

The Sicilian’s music is heavily steeped in roots, dub and early dancehall tradition. Blue Movie Boo sounds as if it’s arrived straight from King Jammy’s circa 1987; Kingdom Of Zion is a speaker-box rattling steppers whilst Rub-A-Dub Style takes you right back to the days of Ranking Joe and Lone Ranger. Both the opening Kingston Town and Steppin’ Out are outright killers as well, and worth the price of admission on their own.

NADINE SUTHERLAND THE UNIVERSE

Nadine is best known as a panellist on Jamaica’s No. 1 talent show, Digicel’s Rising Stars, but magical things can happen when this lady steps inside the studio. The Universe sounds more like a demo than actual song since it’s sung to just acoustic guitar, and her voice is strong, powerful and naked, in both timbre and intensity.

Strong, powerful and naked… That could easily be a description of the song itself. It’s the cry of someone tired of everyday struggle; who longs for freedom whilst being torn between hope and despair. It’s profound in a very real sense, and sang with searing intensity. There’s no one else like her in Jamaican music. In fact she’s a national treasure.

GAPPY RANKS THE BANK [UCAYJA RECORDS]

Dashing off hits on the back of old Studio One rhythms was clearly just by way of introduction, because it’s tracks like this that’ll spread Gappy Ranks’ name wide and far.

The Bank is a classic dancehall record, and the equal of anything coming out of Jamaica with its dramatic backdrop, inspirational lyrics and versatile mic skills, because Gappy – the brightest star on today’s British reggae scene – often changes styles in the course of a line or verse. [And does so brilliantly.]

TARRUS RILEY NOBODY KNOWS [DON CORLEON]

JAH CURE 2010 [DON CORLEON]

GENTLEMAN LONELY DAYS [DON CORLEON]

Feelings is Don Corleon’s latest one-drop rhythm and just like Drop Leaf and Seasons, it’ll be playing for months in both roots and dancehall sessions.

The best line comes from Tarrus. “Success has many fathers, but when you fail you’re just like an orphan…” He’s Jamaica’s No. 1 singer right now, and wears the mantle with distinction. Jah Cure isn’t so strong or direct, but has soul in abundance. 2010 is a plea to save the world, whilst Wayne Marshall’s I Need To Know is a clever mix of singing and dee-jaying.

Every cut has merit in fact, and especially those by T.O.K, Professor and ever improving Tifa.

ANNETTE BRISSETT LIFT YOUR HEAD UP [T.A.C / ZOJAK]

This lady is a seasoned reggae veteran with serious credentials. A talented writer and musician, she penned I Shall Sing for Marcia Griffiths, made an album with Sly & Robbie and has a marvellous, earthy voice that evokes memories of Marley.

All of this, coupled with an original, deep roots rhythm and uplifting message [offering strength to the Rasta faithful], make Lift Your Head Up hard to resist. There’s an album to follow, and on this evidence it’ll be a scorcher.

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About johnmasouri
John Masouri is a long-time author and music journalist specialising in reggae and its many off-shoots including dub, ska, roots and dancehall. The author of Wailing Blues: The Story of Bob Marley's Wailers, published by Omnibus Press in 2008, he is currently working on a biography of reggae singer Peter Tosh, due to appear next year. In addition to book projects, he continues to write articles and reviews for Reggae Vibes (France), Riddim (Germany) and Echoes - formerly Black Echoes - which is renowned as Britain's No. 1 black music monthly. His work has also appeared in Mojo, Music Week, the Guardian, the Observer and the NME, as well as magazines in the US, Caribbean and Japan.

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