CD Reviews (September/October 2011)

The new music that is reflecting the region right now

CD coverCD cover

Loud

Rihanna

Rihanna is not the Beyoncé lookalike we met four albums ago. She’s not a soundalike, either. In fact it’s hard to put the Bajan singer in any musical box. She’s a jill of all trades who can go from pop rock, as heard on “Cheers (Drink to That)” – a track that recalls Avril Lavigne’s “I’m With U” – to bubblegum pop, as heard on “Only Girl (in the World)” to hip hop (“What’s My Name”, featuring Drake) and dancehall on “Man Down”.

Her music, much like her image – which went from the honey-blonde girl in strappy summer dresses to the red-headed firebrand in barely-there outfits – has also gone through a metamorphosis. Sex and violence are among her topics, and there is also a version of this album that is labelled “Explicit”.

“Raining Men” is a fun track that teams Rihanna with fellow West Indian Nicki Minaj (from Trinidad & Tobago), but it’s nothing like the ‘Weather Girls’ song of the same name some years back. Those who couldn’t get enough of Rihanna’s chorus on Eminem’s  “Love the Way You Lie” will be pleased to hear the full version of the song on this disc.

Critics suggest that Rihanna has a “don’t care” attitude on this CD, but while she is certainly abrasive and bold, her fans, by the looks of sales, don’t seem to have a problem with it.


Revelation Part 1: The Root of Life

Stephen Marley

Singer /songwriter Stephen Marley has proven himself a stand-alone talent who doesn’t need the Marley title to validate him.

His current release features 11 solid tracks and is part one of a two-part album release scheduled for this year.

With minimal instrumentation, Marley’s weathered voice reigns supreme on sobering tracks like “Made in Africa”, in which he hails the continent, against goosebump-raising vocals by the cast of the hit musical Fela. Listen for the wailing harmonica in “Can’t Keep I Down” and the haunting clang of shackles on “Old Slaves”.

At times Marley becomes a storyteller as he shares tales of slavery, backstabbers, oppression, and even love in a slow, deliberate way, his diction spot on, his delivery unpretentious.

And yes, it is almost eerie too, how much he channels Bob on a few tracks, like “False Friends” (which has the same nuances as his father’s “Roots Rock Reggae”), “No Cigarette Smoking (in My Room)” and “Tight Shift”.

Capleton, Spragga Benz, Buju Banton, and Marley’s brother Jr Gong make guest appearances on this album.

After giving Revelation a whirl you’ll be eager for Part 2, which is expected to take on a more electronic, futuristic sound than this roots reggae set.