Run The Track: June 2010

Wailers with Koolant

CAPLETON NUH KILL OUT NO ARTIST [FLASH FORWARD]

ROMAIN VIRGO: LOVE DOCTOR [PENTHOUSE]

WAILERS: SHINING STAR [WAILERS]

CAPLETON NUH KILL OUT NO ARTIST [FLASH FORWARD]

This is a profoundly troubling appeal from Capleton, who implores Kingston’s ghetto youths to spare the lives of artists after two of them – Voicemail’s O’ Neil Edwards and Mad Cobra – were shot in less than a week.

“What goes around, comes around,” he warns them, before reminding us of how entertainers like Dirtsman, Pan Head and Mr. Wacky were gunned down in similar circumstances, and that even Bob Marley and Peter Tosh weren’t safe from assassination attempts in Jamaica. [And with tragic consequences in the Bush Doctor’s case.]

If you detect a trace of confusion and despair in his voice, it’s little wonder because what hope is there if even those bringing light relief to ghetto people or voicing their concerns aren’t safe from the violence?

MR. VEGAS FEATURING NEW KINGSTON & FATTA DIAMOND LOOK WHO’S DANCING [CLIFF-RAY]

MR. VEGAS FEATURING GHOST, VOICEMAIL, NATEL & ALAINE DIAMOND CAN’T EVEN WALK [CLIFF-RAY]

Look Who’s Dancing is a crossover/club tune and catchy too, but with all kinds of subtle references in the rhythm department, including a touch of Greig’s Peer Gynt Suite! Vegas is a little restrained until mid-way through, but continues to impress with every outing. It’s left to New Kingston to up the excitement levels although in the capacity of a hype man, rather than artist.

By way of contrast, Can’t Even Walk couldn’t be more different since it’s a gospel/reggae tune of real, emotional depth and gravitas. Vegas is in fine voice, and there’s an opportunity to hear Ghost and Alaine sing like we’ve never done before.

TARRUS RILEY MI HOMELAND [JUKE BOXX]

ELEPHANT MAN YUH NAH DEAL WID LOVE [JUKE BOXX]

CHINO SOUND EXECUTION [JUKE BOXX]

ROMAIN VIRGO GHETTO [JUKE BOXX]

Ansel Collins’ Stalag 17 rhythm never grows old but has continued to inspire hit songs throughout each and every era since the mid-seventies, including Tenor Saw’s unforgettable Ring The Alarm.

Shane Brown’s cut is little different, which means it still packs one almighty punch.

He’s produced an album’s worth of versions, and they’re all are worth a listen. Busy Signal’s voiced three and excels on each of them; Chino’s Sound Execution is a must for selectors, whilst Tarrus – like Elephant Man and Chuck Fenda – is yet another artist despairing of the violence currently threatening to tear Jamaica apart.

Those wanting to stir a little sweetness into the mix should check Romain Virgo’s two cuts, with Ghetto being an account of his impoverished upbringing. Other highlights include tracks by De Marco, Assassin, G Whizz, I Octane, Nymron and Kiprich, whose Suppose is a litany of real-life dilemmas, and brilliantly articulated in the form of questions.

VYBZ KARTEL SWEET VICTORY [HUMAN RIGHTS]

Vybz Kartel gets his share of bad press [sometimes deservedly so] yet he’s still an exceptional dee-jay and proves it once more on Sweet Victory, which is a rallying call for every ghetto youth who feels they’ve been victimised without due reason. “Jah guide me from the hypocrites and parasites,” he chants on the intro, over a rhythm built around slowed down snare drum patterns.

Lutan Fyah, I Octane and notable newcomer Jah Vinci all voice cuts on the same Chase rhythm, but it’s the indefatigable Mr. Palmer who delivers the main course…

TARRUS RILEY WILDFIRE [DON CORLEON]

WAYNE MARSHALL WORK HARD [DON CORLEON]

LUTAN FYAH COME OVER [DON CORLEON]

Don Corleon can turn his hand to one-drop or dancehall rhythms except he’s combined both on the Major Minor, which replicates what we’d hear at a stage show. You know the score; first the band gets the crowd rocking to a brisk reggae rhythm and then it ups the tempo and wheels into chopped-up dancehall beats, causing everybody to leap around like crazy.

Wildfire isn’t the Dennis Brown & John Holt classic but another cry from the heart by Tarrus, whose music deserves a far wider hearing than it’s received to date. He’s appealing to Jah here, not for his own safety, but that of his fellow Jamaican people as they struggle from a raft of social problems.

Wayne Marshall describes the stress placed on families by working too hard on his cut, whilst Lutan Fyah reveals his romantic side on the sweetly melodic Come Over. Best of the rest includes Kris Kelli’s Sunshine and cuts by Jah Vinci, J Boog, ZJ Liquid and Professor, who’s clearly influenced by Richie Spice.

ELEPHANT MAN DON’T TRUST DEM [JUKE BOXX]

BOUNTY KILLER & BUSY SIGNAL SUMMN A GUH GWAN [JUKE BOXX]

Juke Boxx can unleash dangerous dancehall beats as well as classic reggae rhythms and Damage Control definitely fits in the first category.

Elephant Man’s strike rate over the years has been incredible, and the Energy God’s not finished yet. His mic skills are second-to-none, as is his instinct for a memorable chorus. Ally that to uncompromising reality lyrics and you have Don’t Trust Dem – a slice of wise counsel that sends out a deadly warning about informers. There’s a cut by Buju Banton on the same subject. “Who sell me out?” he asks on Let Dem Know. Romain Virgo [with Watch Over Me], Bunji Garland, Spragga Benz and Wayne Marshall are among those voicing matching cuts although the one with Bounty – heard here revisiting his Poor People’s Governor role – is a real standout, and especially with Busy in support.

JAH CURE MY HANDS [BABY G]

PRESSURE TOUCH U [BABY G]

J SOUL HEAVEN [BABY G]

There’s no mistaking Jah Cure’s mournful voice, even when it’s subjected to a dash of Autotune, as heard here. Some would argue this reduces his appeal, but My Hands won’t necessarily appeal to his usual fans anyway as it’s a love song, and he’s almost swamped by billowing harmonies. Not only that, but Baby G’s production isn’t really reggae at all, but a hybrid of r & b and pop – a setting that suits the aptly-named J Soul to perfection.

If Cure and Pressure are looking to extend their audience, then they’re in the right hands. Purists on the other hand, are recommended to check out tunes like Save Ourselves.

WAILERS FEATURING KOOLANT SHINING STAR [WAILERS]

It’s been a long time since the Wailers released anything but with new singer Koolant now fronting the band, the only way is up for Bob Marley’s former musicians. Shining Star is the kind of reggae one-drop that sticks firmly in the brain after just one or two plays, and it’s tailor-made for FM airplay as well. It’s lovers rock of genuine international class in fact, whilst Koolant’s soulful vocals are reminiscent of the late Mikey Simpson’s – the Jack Ruby singer that is, and not the UK soundman/producer.

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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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