CD Reviews – January/February 2011

The new music that are reflecting the region right now

cb107-2-80_img1_fsLeon Foster JonesPositive

FABRICLIVE.54

David Rodigan

Something of an institution in Britain, David Rodigan has been spreading awareness of reggae for over 30 years. Broadcasting a weekly radio programme since 1979, the “Gentleman Rudeboy” also presided over a now-legendary night at London’s Gossips nightclub for over 20 years, and undertook a pioneering series of radio clashes in Jamaica during the 1980s, pitting his DJ skills against Barry Gordon of JBC. He has since gone on to be the victorious champion of countless sound-system battles in Europe and North America, as well as in Jamaica, Antigua and Trinidad. That a “baldhead Englishman” is now the best-known reggae DJ in the world may be something of an anomaly, yet Rodigan has always maintained exceptionally strong links with Jamaica, and has never wavered in his commitment to fanning reggae’s flames.

Over the years, it was only natural that Rodigan would become involved in reggae compilations.  His past efforts have tended to focus on aspects of the music, such as the Massive Reggae series, which presented the latest dancehall hits, and Rewind Selekta, which had dub and lovers-rock volumes, or the more recent Real Authentic Reggae, which formed a broad introduction to roots reggae classics. But this latest compilation, part of the acclaimed FABRICLIVE series, is something of a departure, in that it spans the length and breadth of the music, joining the dots between old-school reggae and up-to-the-minute dancehall, peppered by excavations from the digitally-driven 1980s “foundation” dancehall era, along with conscious new roots recordings, and even a smattering of dubstep, the new techno-dance craze that has drawn heavily on the mixing techniques of Jamaican dub. All of which makes perfect sense, since fabric is an ultra-trendy London nightclub at the very epicentre of the techno music scene.

The compilation begins with Augustus Pablo’s immortal dub track “King Tubby Meets the Rockers Uptown”, but soon reaches contemporary territory with Etana’s chilling “August Town”, Romain Virgo’s anthem-like “Live Mi Life” and Chezidek’s excellent “Borderline”, hit material from three of Jamaica’s most promising rising stars. Later, the era of the late 1980s and early 1990s is revisited on Super Cat’s “Don Dada”, Tenor Saw’s “Ring The Alarm” and Pinchers’ “Bandelero”, which lead nicely to Cham’s “Ghetto Story”, Shaggy’s “Church Heathen” and Alborosie’s “Kingston Town”.

Similarly, Errol Thompson’s compelling 1970s dub cut of the “Joe Fraser/He Prayed” riddim finds its recent counterpart in Lenky Marsden’s re-make of “Blackboard Jungle”, plus the re-working of “Stop That Train” by the dubstep producer known as Cadenza. Even more surprising is the superb devotional track by Mr Vegas and Konshens, “Help Me Praise Jahoviah”, while Midlands-based singer Bitty McLean contributes the excellent “Plead My Cause”.

There is plenty to love on this compilation. The overall verdict thus clocks in as pure niceness, making the CD highly recommended, both for novice listeners and diehard reggaeheads alike.

David Katz

 


 

Sonic Revival Project

Sonic Revival Project

The rock music scene in Trinidad is just about big enough now to give rise to Orange Sky’s School of Rock as both a summer camp and a reality TV show. But, 20 or so years ago, when Skid Nevely were still in short pants, two-thirds of what is now the Sonic Revival Project were cutting their chops as the trio Brothers Grim, playing Nirvana covers and one or two originals, including their hugely energetic, riff-driven magnum opus, “Green”.

This year, lead and rhythm guitarist Francesco Emmanuel (who answers only to ‘Cesco) and lead singer/drummer Andrew Moffat (who spells his name as “Andru” on the CD liner notes) got together with Christopher Ng-A-Fook (who clearly began with a rock-name advantage) to record the 2010 version of the groove that began as the Brothers Grim and evolved through Big-Eyed Grief and other bands to emerge as the Sonic Revival Project. The good news for Bros Grim aficionados is the big song made it on to the 52-minute CD. The boys – now men – are graceful enough to thank original bassman, Orlando “Landy” Pyle – and that, and the acoustic guitar intro to “Green”, is about all the grace there is to find on the CD.

The eponymous album holds 11 tracks (discounting the whimsical intro and outro) of heavy rock music, where even lilting guitar-picking, no matter how prolonged, leads to crashing barre chords. You can sing along to the melodies – particularly easily, in the case of “Revival (What Started Tonight)” – but this is music you listen – and occasionally bang your head – to. In the hands of a top-notch producer, the Sonic Revival Project could go far, as this debut CD shows.

BC Pires

 


 

What You Don’t Know

Leon Foster Thomas

You know how sometimes you have to listen to a CD repeatedly to allow the music to grow on you? Well, take heart – you won’t need to do that when you pop in this latest disc by the US-based, Trinidad-born Foster, as he is best known on the circuit.

The CD marries pan and jazz, and nine of the ten tracks were produced by Foster. The songs have a familiar sound, but without being a carbon copy of anything out there.

Foster, who won the 2002 World Steelband Music Festival Soloist category and the festival’s Duet category in 2004, was introduced to the pan in 1993, when he was a student at the Pleasantville Senior Comprehensive School in south Trinidad. So of course the pan takes centre stage, with the congas, bass, saxophone and drums as the supporting acts.

Foster was inspired by some of the most awesome pannists of our time, including Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, Ken “Professor” Philmore and Ray Holman. He plays the pan with the same dexterity and confidence as those who inspired him.

Listeners will love the slow hand he deals on Sparrow’s scandalous “Obeah Wedding (Melda)”, “Thingz Happen”, and the smoky jazz “Torment”. Not to be overlooked are “Wonderland” and “Higher Heights”.

Essiba Small

 


 

Never Let Go

Positive

Don’t let his baby face and head of curls fool you: Joel Murray is a serious artiste.

The man from Tobago who’s known as Positive first soared to recognition with the release of “Never Let Go”, a gospel track that crossed over to mainstream radio.

On this 14-track disc, Murray wrote all the songs (on “Nah Fear No One” he shares writing credits with Sherwin Gardner), which is always a good thing for an artiste. Since this is a gospel album, Positive sings of his Christian experience and evangelises with occasional references to scriptures, all set to reggae music.

And that’s what troubles me a bit. Given that every gospel artist is riding the reggae rhythm, this CD sounds as if you’ve heard it all before, multiplied by 14.

Mind you, this is not to discredit the talent that is Positive. He still manages to turn out some likable songs, like “Eyes Wide Open” and “Hold Me Closely” (a romantic gospel track – if there is such a thing), in which he sings about the love of God and the anticipation of his bride.

Never Let Go was produced by Ramont Green and Ronnie Cash for Arkitechz Music.

Essiba Small