Run The Track: March 2010

Romain Virgo

VARIOUS ARTISTS LISTEN 2 THE CALL [HANDEL TUCKER]

Raymond Azan originally wrote Hear The Calling – now renamed Listen 2 The Call – for Luciano, but once talented musician/producer Handel Tucker heard it, it became an all-star tribute to the Haiti earthquake disaster starring not just Luciano, but also Alaine, Mutabaruka, Beenie Man, Tarrus Riley, Jimmy Cliff and Cherine Anderson, among others.

Recorded at Tuff Gong, it’s an appeal on behalf of people “who through no fault of their own are forced to seek our help.” Dalton Browne’s acoustic guitar is the lone accompaniment at first, but then Sly Dunbar’s drums start up and it finishes with a mighty, choir-like flourish that can’t fail to stir hearts and minds – and especially once people have seen the video.

RIHANNA RUDE BOY [FX REMIX]

RIHANNA & AGENT SASSCO RUDE BOY REMIX [BOARDHOUSE]

RIHANNA & DE MARCO RUDE BOY MILLION DOLLAR REMIX [ALRIC & BOYD]

Rihanna may be a global superstar but when she was first interviewed in Echoes it was as a reggae newcomer, not r & b style diva. Rude Boy is taken from her Rated R album, except these cuts couldn’t be more different from the Stargate version.

The FX remix is almost dub reggae and tailor-made for more adventurous selectors whilst the Agent Sassco cut is dancehall-friendly with its rough chat and slamming beats. Both work for sound-system but everything hinges on Rihanna’s catchy, repetitive hook and whilst De Marco’s Barrington Levy impersonation has merit, the Million Dollar Remix is way too busy – so much so in fact, it detracts from that sultry come-on.

AIDONIA JAHOVIA WATCH OVER ME [DI GENIUS]

This could well prove the biggest tune of Aidonia’s entire career. It’s his equivalent of Mavado’s On The Rock and once heard, never forgotten. The lyrics tell us it’s gospel, as does the full scale choir, but the production and arrangement is state-of-the-art dancehall as only Stephen McGregor can make it. It’s exhilarating, the kind of song that has the hairs on the back of your neck standing to attention as Aidonia stands defiant, empowered by his belief in Jahovia and the determination to live clean, no matter the forces lined up against him. [“Because look what the system did to Garga Mel.”] A true classic, and real as your life…

BUSY SIGNAL BIGGER HEADS [DI GENIUS]

BEENIE MAN RUN MI DOWN [DI GENIUS]

AIDONIA BAD PEOPLE [DI GENIUS]

Stephen McGregor again, only this time fusing driving ragga beats with techno as only he can. The result’s like Jamaican Hi-NRG, except there’s no denying this music’s power, or its dancehall roots.

There are well over twenty cuts of the Bad People rhythm so far. Aidonia’s irresistible again on the title track and Beenie Man’s Run Mi Down is his best vocal performance in a while but if you’re searching for lyrics with depth, feeling and compassion try Busy Signal’s Bigger Heads – a blistering defence of the poor that fair takes the breath away, and is matched for skill and commitment by his second cut, the bruising girls’ tune Gyal A Wine.

Best of the rest include tracks by Cham – with the powerful reality tune Cause and Take It Outside – also Mavado, T.O.K, Chino, Elephant Man, Bramma, Flexx, Frisco Kid, Laden, Singing Sweet and too many others to mention.

KONSHENS & BOUNTY KILLER THE REALEST REMIX [SUBKONSHUS]

Expect big things from Konshens this year. His duet with Tarrus Riley on Good Gal Gone Bad turned heads in 2009, but this plea to the Almighty could well become his signature tune, and especially with the War Lord keeping him company. Bounty doesn’t contribute much in truth, yet still makes his presence count. What’s most impressive is the power, range and sincerity of Konshens’ delivery, since he’s both singer and sing-jay rolled into one. There was talk of VP or Greensleeves signing him. In any event the young reggae star is a name to be reckoned with, and the Realest Remix a definite winner.

DIDDY FEATURING SERANI DIRTY MONEY: ANGELS DANCEHALL MIX [BAD BOY]

“It’s Serani…” Daseca’s youthful dancehall star is captured in full flow on this pulsating track from P. Diddy’s label which again underlines the continuing influence of Jamaican music on US hip hop. Listening to this Angels Mix, I’d hazard a guess the one-time Puff has been digging out some old Music Work sides since the production’s similar to what Gussie Clarke was doing in the late eighties, when Shabba and J. C. Lodge were running mainstream club DJs ragged and most dancehall tracks were still anchored by thundering drum and bass. All of which is fair recommendation…

MATISYAHU & AKON ONE DAY [MIKE D REGGAE REMIX]

Matisyahu is the Hasaidic Jew from New York who unlikely as it seems, has succeeded in winning over a large, international following with his conscious brand of reggae. He’s trying to re-enact Marley’s No Woman No Cry here, not only in terms of the rhythm and melodies, but that emotive rush Marley captures on the live version that shot up the UK charts during late 1975. The difference is in the lyrics. Whereas Marley’s original painted a picture of his early life in Trench Town, this one looks forward to a utopian future where children play happily in the streets and… Well, you can imagine the rest.

This song could be huge given the right exposure. That said, I just can’t shake off the feeling there’s something ghoulish about it…

BERES HAMMOND STILL WAITING FOR YOU [TECHNIQUES]

MORGAN HERITAGE HERE TO STAY [TECHNIQUES]

Beres tours here over Easter, which is something to look forward to. In the meantime, this is a rare outing for him, since the majority of his songs are self-productions these days. With his regular drummer Kirk Bennett laying down a one-drop rhythm, lovers rock JA style doesn’t come much better and it’s matched by Morgan Heritage’s Here To Stay – a song of enduring love led by Peetah, but with the family chiming in on harmonies and Gramps lending close vocal support.

Selectors and radio DJs be warned, because there are excellent, matching cuts to this Eternity rhythm by Timeka Marshall, Voicemail and former Penthouse singer Torch.

JOHNNY CLARKE & FANTAN MOJAH REBEL WITH A CAUSE [MAXIMUM SOUNDS]

TARRUS RILEY POVERTY NUH INNA FASHION [MAXIMUM SOUNDS]

KONSHENS NO MORE TEARS [MAXIMUM SOUNDS]

Bunny Lee’s cut of Burning Spear’s Creation Rebel was a big hit for Johnny Clarke during the late seventies. Fantan Mojah lends considerable urgency to this reworked version, which relies heavily on the original and yet still manages to sound fresh at the same time – no mean feat.

Roots selectors will hear plenty to interest them in every cut, including those by Luciano & Mikey General, Anthony B, Chezidek & Daddy U Roy, Gappy Ranks [Heavy Load], Anthony B and the ever-impressive Konshens, whose No More Tears is a killer sufferers’ tune – just like Tarrus Riley’s Poverty Nuh Inna Fashion. You’ll find the latter, together with the Johnny Clarke & Fantan Mojah piece, on Maximum Sounds’ Bobo Revolution 2 album – a compilation that’s definitely not to be missed.

ROMAIN VIRGO WHO FEELS IT KNOWS IT

Two years ago, Romain Virgo won Digicel’s Rising Stars – Jamaica’s answer to X Factor, only with more credibility – and he’s been steadily winning over audiences ever since with his strong, yet sensitive tenor and appealing personality.

He’s got a great voice and considerable charm but now he also has a song with lyrics to make everyone sit up and take notice, because Who Feels It Knows It is an anthem for everyday working people, who set out early each morning, and work all day without ever breaking free from the cycle of poverty and hardship.

A flagship release from VP’s latest signing, and an inspired one too. Can’t wait for the album…

MR. VEGAS & BROWN SUGAR ADDICTED [DON CORLEON]

SEAN PAUL FIRE BRIGADE [DON CORLEON]

JAH VINCI RUMOUR [DON CORLEON]

Don Corleon’s Gala rhythm is fast-paced dancehall, although the one-time boy wonder plays around with the tempo midway through, and in the absence of a bass line, lets the top end carry the momentum.

Mr. Vegas is enjoying more success than at any time since his breakthrough Heads High well over a decade ago. Addicted continues that run, whilst Jah Vinci lends a dose of reality on Rumour, talking about his experiences with “hypocrites and parasites.”

You’d expect Sean Paul to run riot on a rhythm like this but Fire Brigade’s unconvincing, despite its clever imagery. Luckily, there’s no shortage of versions, with Vybz Kartel, Elephant Man [Around Round], Cecile, Sheba and a dozen others all joining the action.

SLY & ROBBIE FEATURING DEAN FRASER SO FAR AWAY [TAXI]

KEN BOB TRACKS OF MY TEARS [TAXI]

KEN BOB GOT TO GIVE IT UP [TAXI]

It’s been a long time since we heard an instrumental showcase for Dean Fraser’s wonderfully emotive sax playing. One of Jamaica’s very best horn players and a highly successful producer in his own right, he invariably raises his game whenever Sly & Robbie’s Taxi Gang rolls into the studio and this time was clearly no exception, since he’s playing his heart out on this soulful, strutting, old school style reggae groove.

The Riddim Twins switch to a mix of soul and dancehall for Ken Bob’s two songs, both of them made famous by former Motown stars. The one-time High Times’ singer even sounds like Marvin on Got To Give It Up, whilst Tracks Of My Tears opens with delicate guitar before Sly Dunbar’s irresistible drum patterns turns Smokey’s tearjerker into a celebration.

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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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