CD reviews (January/February 2008)

A roundup of the latest Caribbean music CDs

Calypso Rose, the sobriquet for McCartha Lewis. Photograph by Andrea De SilvaCD CoverCD Cover courtesy Cleve’s One Stop Shop, Frederick Street, Port of SpainLaventille Rhythm Section. Photograph by Robert TaylorThe Real Deal—Straight from Bim. Photograph by Bassink Productions

TRINI GOLD

Soca, Calypso, Rapso & More – The Best of Trinidad Music of the Past 15 Years!
Rituals Music

The cover of Trini Gold declares it is: “The best of Trinidad music of the past 15 years!” with an exclamation point and all. It is understandable advertising puff, for you will not find a single David Rudder cut on any of the set’s three CDs. It does seem fair, however, to claim it is mostly the best of Trinidad music by artists signed to the Rituals Music, CMG & Trinidadtunes labels over the period. From 3Canal and SuperBlue through Sharlene “Joe le Taxi” Boodram to Kindred, Brother Resistance and Calypso Rose, most of them are most present; and certainly the major ones of their most memorable tracks are there, too.

The set, put together by Jean-Michel Gibert, one of the original triumvirate (along with Lorraine O’Connor and Rosemary Hezekiah) behind Rituals, arguably the most important commercial musical entity since Mr Sa Gomes opened his record-shop doors, offers mostly the best available from its catalogue. The General Grant track is Sticks & Stones and not Shot Call (a Keskidee Records track)—but Trini Gold largely compensates for that by including Clear De Way, the unquestionable magnum opus by Chantwell as well as both of 3Canal’s biggest hits, Talk Yuh Talk and Blue.

The artists on Trini Gold include almost the full Rituals stable. Apart from those already mentioned, the lineup features Ajala, Precious, Mungal Patasar & Pantar, Maximus Dan, Black Lyrics, Ozy, Denise Belfon and Machel Montano, the late Pretender, Vybe, Nikki Crosby, Chinese Laundry, Gail Ann and more. Whether a collection of music, horror films or 18th-century verse, any anthologist opens himself to criticism of his choices as soon as he draws a red line through a single item and Gibert surely expected flak for including only one Mungal cut on three CDs—and a remix at that, even if a Sly & Robbie one—but he at least attempts to compensate by including bonus videos by Sharlene Boodram, 3Canal, Kindred, Sugar Daddy and the Laventille Rhythm Section (although those seem inaccessible to anyone running a Mac—or perhaps to any Luddite such as your humble reviewer wrestling with a Mac, a BC entirely defeated by PCs).

If the music is largely unassailable other than by pedants, the packaging is less so. Perhaps dictated by a need for speed, there is a dearth of liner notes. The cover design of the outside sleeve is particularly unfortunate, with the initials “TG” nicely stylised but the “TRINI GOLD” in all caps below, fading half-finished on a matte black background, presenting what looks like “TNINI RNIN,” and raising the question as to whether the paint ran out at the same time as the budget.

BC Pires

Vintage Kaiso

Relator—The Real Master

While soca artistes are busy trying to catch up with the fast pace of soca, Relator has successfully carved a niche for himself in the world of vintage calypso, singing covers from the legends of calypso.

On this disc however, the classics come from his own songbook.

Intentional or not, the vintage feel is hard to miss, not only on the album’s jacket cover, but you can almost hear the snap, crackle and pop of the vinyl as well.

Lyrically sound, Relator’s nasal vocals are diction-perfect throughout.

Like a storyteller he keeps his audience rapt on familiar tracks like Indian Cricketers (aka Gavaskar), Deaf Panmen and Pan on Sesame Street. Fundamental Changes is the disc’s opener, and Tobago Carnival closes the set.

Produced by Errol Peru, this 10-track CD is more than just a good listen, it’s a piece of calypso history.

Essiba Small

The Real Deal—Straight from Bim

Bassink Productions

It is from here that you can expect most of the hits for Trinidad Carnival 2008 to come. Produced by Bajan Dwain “Dwaingerous” Antrobus, who has worked with the likes of Wyclef Jean and Doug E Fresh, the disc features 14 tracks from Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.Seth Billy kicks things off with The Deal, sung over Dwaingerous’s The Real Deal riddim. On this catchy ditty, Billy sounds a lot like Kevin Lyttle, right down to the electronic vocal manipulation.Also riding the Real Deal riddim is John King, whose polished R&B vocals caress the track Don’t Stop.

It’s the Barbershop riddim that carries the Machel Montano-sung Wining Season and Patrice Roberts’ Wukking Up. The Trinidad-born duo has been enjoying massive airplay since last September. Montano’s offers a sweet, intoxicating accompaniment to chipping down the street, while Roberts’ version is purely groovy.

Also making this mix the hot and spicy set that it is are Jason Paul’s Why Can’t, a distant cousin to Shurwayne Winchester’s Look the Band Coming, and Sandy’s Bad Like That, given a boost by Miss Alysha’s freestyling.

ES

My Mind

Da’Ville
VP Records

The extremely popular, radio-friendly Always on My Mind, which features Sean Paul, is the perfect welcome mat to this disc by reggae balladeer Da’Ville.

With a voice like Aaron Neville’s, Da’Ville sings with an honesty that will certainly make him believable to his female listeners. He covers All My Life, a Neville/Linda Ronstadt duet, on track three, sharing vocals with reggae diva Marcia Griffiths.

And when Da’Ville waxes romantic, he really pours it on thick, in tracks like I’m in Love with You, And So I Will Wait for You, and This Time I Promise You.

But the rude boy Da’Ville emerges on the track My Grade, an ode to the forbidden herb.

ES

CDs courtesy Cleve’s One Stop Shop, Frederick Street, Port of Spain