CD Reviews – May/June 2010

The new music that is reflecting the region right now

Keith “Destiny” Waldron. Photograph by courtesy Werner SchornMajor Stitch at a YP dance. Photograph courtesy Soul Jazz Records

No Hiding Place

Keith “Destiny” Waldron

You can’t expect to put out a reggae album and not be compared with Bob Marley. But Keith “Destiny” Waldron might welcome the comparison, since, according to his liner notes, he considers himself Marley’s spiritual descendant. Waldron does his best to channel Marley, and the Marley inflections are noticeable – although at other times you’d think you were listening to Steel Pulse singer David Hinds.

Comparisons aside, No Hiding Place is a decent effort with simple lyrics set against old-school reggae. The Trinidad-born Waldron sings about love, as in “Crazy for You”, his spiritual beliefs (“Lamb’s Book of Life” and “For His Majesty”) and about crime in “For Humanity”. He calls his music a mixture of blues, reggae, jazz and pop, but “D’Jigg” is the only song on the disc that features that combination.

Even though there are only 11 tracks on this set, the songs are long – his CD might be great for a road trip. No Hiding Place is good – just don’t expect fireworks.

Essiba Small


 

Crucial Times

Sizzla

In a time when Gully and Gaza (the Movado vs Kartel feud)  have become imprinted on the minds and hearts of young dancehall listeners, Sizzla is like a cool Caribbean breeze after a storm.

Crucial Times, which reunites Sizzla with Homer Harris, the man noted for discovering and naming him, packs a hell of a punch, both lyrically and musically. Just listen to Sizzla on the title track admonishing young girls to “make good use of yourself, go to school and not prostitute yuhself”, while urging the ghetto youth to make a difference with his life.

He waxes poetic to his lady in “Charming”, while “Jolly Good Time” is a feelgood musical romp on hip-hop terrain. Check out the musical risks he takes on “Sufferation” and “Poverty”.

Other noteworthy tracks include “Take a Stand”, “Rat Race”, “Progress”, and “Atta Clap”.

After almost 15 years in the business, Sizzla may be considered old school, but he can still hold his own in any Gaza/Gully dance.

ES

 


 

The Stylistics in Reggae

Ariwa Sounds

If you are a Stylistics fan with a love for reggae, this album ought to satisfy both appetites.

Stylistics in Reggae features 12 tracks from the group’s 70s catalogue. Various  artists give their own treatment to these classics, while still evoking that smooth, soulful vibe that the Stylistics lead singer Russell Thompkins Jr made so famous.

Tracks include “Betcha by Golly Wow”,  “Ebony Eyes” and “Children of the Night”. Among the standouts are “Stoned in Love with You” by Ajay, Paula Tajah’s take on “Stop. Look. Listen” and Annette B’s version of “You’ll Never Get to Heaven”.

I was hoping for a reggae version of “Hurry Up This Way Again”, but lucked out. Still, a good compilation for your collection.

ES


 

Dancehall: The Rise of Jamaican Dancehall Culture Vols 1 and 2

Soul Jazz

Throughout the Caribbean, Jamaican dancehall is the music of the moment.  Artists such as Beenie Man, Buju Banton, Sizzla and Sean Paul have kept the dancehall style in the public consciousness, both at home and overseas, stoking their inter-island and transatlantic fan bases by collaborating with soca stars and hip-hop icons.

But in Jamaica, as author Norman Stolzoff argues in his book Wake the Town and Tell the People: Dancehall Culture in Jamaica, the dancehall has always been the public space in which the Jamaican masses have expressed themselves, and since sound-system culture has always been the place where the popularity of new music is established, it’s difficult to put an exact date on dancehall’s genesis. Nevertheless, it’s clear from these four CDs of pivotal early dancehall material, issued as companions to Beth Lesser’s excellent dancehall photo exposé, that the late 1970s and early 1980s were a crucial era.

As is typical with releases on Soul Jazz, the London-based boutique reissue label, the CDs have somewhat random track listings, compiled more for musical flow than any thematic grouping or chronology.  But the quality of the music is high throughout.

Disc One of Volume One has the biggest proportion of name-brand classics, such as Ini Kamoze’s “World A Music”, Tenor Saw’s “Pumpkin Belly”, Michigan and Smiley’s “Diseases”, Eek-A-Mouse’s “Wa Do Dem”, and Barrington Levy’s “Here I Come”. But there are surprising inclusions too, such as Gregory Isaacs’ “Soon Forward” (more lovers rock than dancehall) and Jacob Miller’s “I’m Just A Dread”, (basically a roots record), strongly contrasted by Early B’s side-splitting “Deaf Ears” (which uses the ultra-sparse digital format of late 1980s dancehall).

Disc Two feels more substantial, for aside from Half Pint’s “Greetings”, there are the lesser-known delights of Cornell Campbell’s superb “Mash You Down”, Trinity’s censorious “Uptown Girl”, Madoo’s spirited “Coming From Time”, Toyan’s infectious “Spar With Me”, and Horace Ferguson’s “Sensi Addict”, one of the earliest digital recordings.

Volume Two continues in much the same vein: on Disc One, Nicodemus warns potential “shottas” that “Dog Better Than Gun”, Papa San demands equal distribution of wealth on “Money A Fe Circle”, Half Pint decries the world as “One Big Ghetto”, and a young Shabba Ranks salutes his elders on “Respect”, one of the best singles of his entire career. Disc Two has the comical “So So So So” by master stylist General Trees, Barry Brown’s delightful “Tourist Season”, Johnny Osbourne’s autobiographical “Trench Town School”, Tiger’s hilarious “When”, Professor Nuts’ wacky “Ina De Bus”, and young Buju’s grim “Massa God World A Run”.

These CDs are a reminder that the term “dancehall” encompasses a wide range from whimsical proclamations backed by live musicians, up to nonsensical ramblings set to computer beats. Here’s hoping for further volumes.

David Katz


 

Antilles Traditions

Yon Kalawang, Aurélien Chambaud & Caribop
Air Mail Music

Air Mail Music is an independent record label based in France and devoted to the traditional folk music of the world.  The company seeks to present undiluted forms of folk, without being motivated by the passing fads of the marketplace. The recent release Antilles Traditions thus focuses on different folk traditions from the French Caribbean, in which European melodies blend with African rhythms, as interpreted by session player Aurélien Chambaud and the Yon Kalawang group, and by the ensemble Caribop, one of France’s best-known exponents of Francophone Caribbean folk.

A beguiling number of styles are explored here: the opening track “Chouval Bwa” draws on the 19th-century Martiniquan form of the same name, centred on flute and accordion; “Mizik Vidé”,’ “Nou Ka Koupé Kann”, and “Gwoka Revolution” all feature the intense gwo ka drumming style of Guadeloupe; “Tagada Biguine” uses the Martiniquan hybrid created from elements of the traditional belé dance of Dominica and the polka melodies of Central Europe. There are also older forms such as the quadrille, which reached the French Caribbean via St Lucia, and the mazurka, whose origins lie in Poland.

Much of the music is instrumental, with saxophones, flutes, accordions and drums leading; the few vocal tracks, like the celebratory “Yo Kolé” and the Creole ballad “Prié”, are equally atmospheric.  Fans of traditional Caribbean folk music will certainly not be disappointed.

DK