Run The Track: January 2010

Anthony B

 

ANTHONY B FREE UP THE GENERAL / VERSION [TRUCKBACK]

COCOA TEA BUJU / VERSION [ROARING LION]

Listening to these first two Buju Banton tributes and you’ll be left in no doubt whatsoever he’s innocent of all charges. Both are voiced with absolute certainty although the tone couldn’t be more different. Cocoa Tea sounds a little mournful as he prays that his friend gets justice. “I’m down here on my knees…”

Anthony B meanwhile, is more insistent. “Free up the man,” he demands before ringing Buju on his cellular. The conversation that follows is surely faked but whoever’s impersonating him has the Garga Mel’s mannerisms down to a “T.”

Both will get nuff plays in the weeks to come, and there’ll be an avalanche of others to follow no doubt.

AGENT SASCO MY STORY / INSTRUMENTAL [40 / 40]

Producer Stephen “Lenky” Marsden will be forever remembered for the Diwali rhythm except he’s continued to push at the boundaries of Jamaican music and has more vision than a good many of his contemporaries, hence that label name.

Agent Sasco is a tough talking reality MC in the style of Assassin and Cham. He has a gravelly tone of voice, never descends into self-pity or violence but simply tells it like it is, unadorned. This is his story and voiced over a rhythm that’s part-rare groove, part slowed down dancehall, it’s a compelling one.

CORNADOOR WE AIN’T LEAVING / MICHAEL ROSE FIGHT I DOWN [BASSRUNNER]

FANTAN MOJAH HOT / WILDLIFE CONCRETE AND STEEL [BASSRUNNER]

MILLION STYLEZ BORN IN THE SYSTEM / 3GGA & EMILIANO TOO FAR [BASSRUNNER]

This month’s most serious roots rhythm again hails from Germany, and the Michael Rose slice is especially good. In classic sound-system tradition it starts daintily enough, but then the horns strike up, a siren rings out and the bass plunges through the floor before being cushioned by female harmonies.

The Uhuru man’s career has been revitalised by rhythms like this, and given such a mighty backdrop for that trademark “tu tu tway” and a brand-new set of freedom lyrics, there’s no stopping him. His version stands out here except you overlook the other two at your peril.

ETANA AUGUST TOWN / DELROY WILSON WORTH YOUR WEIGHT [NECESSARY MAYHEM]

GREGORY ISAACS & BLACKOUT JA INNER CITY LADY / ETANA HEARTBROKEN [NECESSARY MAYHEM]

Listening to Etana’s August Town, you’re suddenly transported to a dance in Jamaica – Kingston 7 to be precise, and her home community. The bass line’s rumbling like thunder, people are enjoying themselves “and then all of a sudden…” You can guess what happens next. Another Wild West scenario where someone loses their life, the partygoers flee in terror and the police lock down the sound. It’s a tragedy that’s been repeated so many times, except it’s now documented by a true Jamaican songbird and whose talent is surely destined for wider recognition.

Like Delroy Wilson’s Worth Your Weight, Gregory’s Inner City Lady is an old favourite and was first voiced for Gussie Clarke, except Curtis Lynch Jnr’s production makes it sound fresh as daisies.

MAVADO & STACIOUS COME INTO MY ROOM / VERSION [DI GENIUS]

The sound of young Jamaica, and a sexy dancehall tune that’s liberally sprinkled with r & b – an impression strengthened by the sultry vocals of female singer Stacious and sparkling production from Stephen McGregor. Club DJs should give it a try, despite Mavado threatening to put her “in a coma…”

BUSY SIGNAL CAN’T STOP ME / VERSION [COLUMBIAN]

BUSY SIGNAL GAL NEED A MAN / VERSION [LOUD DISTURBANCE]

BUSY SIGNAL GOOD GOOD / VERSION [COLUMBIAN]

“Dutty heart can’t stop me…” Busy is so prolific these days and yet he’s always worth listening to. Can’t Stop Me combines conscious lyrics with straight-talking reality, whilst the rhythm’s bristling dancehall, and hard as nails.

Gal Need A Man and Good Good are pure slackness, but cleverly done and liberally sprinkled with humour. His mic technique is characteristically excellent as well. The former’s got hit written all over it in fact, and delivered over an insanely catchy soca/dancehall rhythm that’ll liven up any party.

ELEPHANT MAN SHELL DOWN / VERSION [BIG SHIP]

T.O.K FOREVER / VERSION [BIG SHIP]

BRAMMA NUH FEAR NOBODY / VERSION [BIG SHIP]

Stephen McGregor’s Outbreak rhythm sounds closer to techno than dancehall, which almost exempts it from being reviewed here. The lyrics and delivery of artists like these remains unmistakably Jamaican and there’s no mistaking McGregor’s skills as he gives every cut a different mix and feel. The results are undeniably exciting, but they’re intended for a different audience to that brought up on reggae or early dancehall.

Bramma steps to the plate with arguably his most powerful tune to date, whilst Elephant Man attacks the rhythm with relish, as if he’s been rocking rave parties all his life. Some things never change, even as the music undergoes its most controversial transition yet.

JAH CURE PROTECT YOU LIKE A SOLDIER / VERSION [LIV UP RECORDS]

SIZZLA STRONGER THAN BEFORE / VERSION [LIV UP RECORDS]

LUTAN FYAH THE SYSTEM / VERSION [LIV UP RECORDS]

There’s an entire album’s worth of versions on Liv Up’s Stronga rhythm by both deejays and singers – Konshens, Anthony B [Good Life], Capleton, I Wayne, Mr. Vegas & Da Ville, Perfect and Gyptian included. It’s one of those gentle rhythms that allows songs to breathe and the range of material is thus far-ranging, from the sweet lovers rock of Christopher Martin to Rasta hymns by Everton Blender and Horace Andy.

It’s Sizzla’s uncompromising herb tune that stands out however, together with another yearning piece de resistance from Jah Cure and powerful reality lyrics from Fantan Mojah [Recession] and Lutan Fyah.

ETANA BAD MIND / VERSION [NO DOUBT]

CAPLETON SAVE DEM / VERSION [NO DOUBT]

RICHIE SPICE WHY SHOULD I / VERSION [NO DOUBT]

DJ Flava has produced some sizable hits over the past few years, Queen Ifrica’s Daddy [Don’t Touch Me There] among them. This loping, rub-a-dub style Rock Steady rhythm again suits a decent variety of styles and so there are plenty of cuts to choose from.

On a lovers’ tip, we have sides by Cocoa Tea [Sweeter], Stevie Face, De Marco, Glen Washington and Konshens, as well as Lutan Fyah. Those favouring more hard-hitting cultural and reality tunes should check out Fantan Mojah’s Rising and the songs listed above.

Capleton isn’t the force of nature he was ten years ago, but Save Dem is another heartfelt anthem for the youths as he urges them to “turn a new page,” whilst Etana’s Bad Mind is pick of the bunch, and delivered as if she believes every word.

MARK WONDER, I WAYNE & FIRE STAR THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT LIFE / VERSION [Al. TA. FA. AN]

Mark Wonder’s such a fine singer. He writes good, cultural material and always make decent records yet just can’t break into the higher echelons of the business. As a consequence he’s criminally overlooked, but shines on this beautifully executed roots tune for Al. Ta. Fa. An, whose rhythms are never less than salutary. It’s one of those records that won’t necessarily get a crowd jumping for joy, but that you’ll still be playing in years to come. Give it a chance and see…

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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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