New Scroll is the new album by foundation Jamaican singer Cornell “Original Gorgon” Campbell. In a press release it’s describes as “evoking that timeless sufferah’s sound and spirit of the golden era of Jamaican reggae within a treasure trove of original roots music”.
It boasts nine new songs penned by Cornell Campbell, as well as four dub mixes. New Scroll is furthermore described as injected with “the musicality and poetic flow that brought Campbell early and unparalleled success in the 1960s and 70s with solo recordings like the iconic Queen of the Minstrel or as a member of Jamaica’s most beloved harmony groups, the Eternals and the Uniques.”
Ras Batch is a prolific figure in the rich and vibrant Virgin Islands reggae movement, and has via his label Sound V.I.Zion Records released albums from himself and others. Apart from running a label he is also a producer and a musician playing drums, keys and bass.
Know Thyself is an organic and crisply produced set with a handful of already classic Tippy I riddims, and includes Jamaican musicians Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace on drums, Dean Fraser on saxophone, Andrew “Bassie” Campbell on bass and Earl “Chinna” Smith on guitar.
Song titles such as Give Jah Thanks for Life, Trees and Dem Against Jah Rules tell of a strictly conscious affair dealing with topics such as religion, slavery, love and unity as well as environmental issues.
Ras Batch is a powerful exponent of contemporary roots reggae and has an honest and soaring tone in his voice. He occasionally lacks pitch control, something he makes up for in sincerity and emotional intensity.
Highlights include album opener Jah Children, something of an ode to nyabinghi drumming, Live Pray with its instant and memorable guitar hook courtesy of Chinna Smith and the first single Together, with a positive and infectious sing-a-long chorus.
Ras Batch might not be as well-known as fellow VI artists Pressure and Midnite, but with the rich and emotive Know Thyself he might be able to tell the world his story and put his name on the map.
Know Thyself is now available on CD and digital download.
For the second time in a row the fiercely intense singer/deejay Perfect Giddimani has collaborated with U.S. based producers for an album. Last year ZionIKings helmed the production on his beautiful and soulful Back for the First Time, while MG and Dan of Seattle’s Dynasty Records are responsible for producing his brand new studio album Journey of 1 000 Miles.
It was recorded in Jamaica and Seattle and its 16 tunes offer a variety of styles – contemporary roots reggae and dancehall, pop, hip-hop, R&B and bland electronica fight for your attention.
Unfortunately only the reggae tracks are well-above par, while the detours into boring electronica, hip-hop and R&B don’t measure up to the same level.
The title track and vegetarian anthem Dinner Time – with its melody borrowed from Michael Rose’s classic Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner – are some of the highlights. The closing tracks – Happy and Coming Home – are sort of music you’ll hear on mainstream radio. Coming Home might grab your attention since it has the same chords as Bruno Mars’ smash hit Just the Way You Are.
Perfect has with his albums Born Dead With Life, French Connection and Back For the First Time already proved that he is a talented and versatile artist, equally at ease with the urban, rootsy and soulful sounds.
Journey of 1 000 Miles is not a bad album and it might have been a good try to venture into new genres, but Perfect should stick to what he does best – reggae and dancehall.
And now comes a compilation with 16 tunes signed and delivered by these extremely talented and passionate producers.
Jah Golden Throne features original and contemporary roots riddims voiced by old and new artists from across the reggae spectrum and from around the world. It’s a set with a rich, full-bodied and rootsy sound set to stimulate heart, mind and soul.
All tunes are recorded with live instrumentation with particularly tasteful horn arrangements and a laid-back soulful vibe, especially Toussaint’s Crown I Got with its powerful harmonies or UK veteran Lloyd Brown’sJust So That You Know, a tune perfectly suited for a hammock on the beach.
On multi-faceted singer Jahdan Blakkamoore’s World Needs Love it gets more progressive and up-tempo, while still with a gentle tone.
Other notable tracks include Puerto Rican singer Chet Samuel’sEmpress Omega, the Tippa Irie and Lloyd Brown combination Make it Work with its rolling bass line, Jah Bless’ beautiful saxophone instrumental Highway To Zion or raspy voiced singer General Jah Mikey’sSet A Way.
The weakest track is surprisingly the U Roy and Cornell Campbell combination Babylon Yuh Wrong, their first ever studio recording, and the only tune that has been previously released.
Compilations are usually not as cohesive and solid as Jah Golden Throne, which makes this is a highly impressive album from a trio that obviously knows how to work as a team.
Jah Golden Throne drops on CD and digital download on April 3rd.
Perfect, aka Perfect Giddimani, has managed to deliver yet another accomplished set of songs.
His latest album – Back for the First Time – is produced by ZionIKings, and that usually means reggae of the highest quality. And this album is far from an exception. These masterminds were namely responsible for Toussaint’s and Jahdan Blakkamoore’s very worthwhile sets released last year.
Perfect’ previous album, French Connection, was an excursion into innovative dancehall with hip-hop ingredients. Back for the First Time has a completely different sound. It’s more polished and soulful with live instrumentation and fine tuned arrangements. This album is like a 70’s soul album done in a modern reggae style.
It also reminds me of Sizzla’s latest album effort The Scriptures. Both albums have their respective singer going back to the roots, and both do more straight singing than usual.
Perfect’s delivery is edgy and moody. He can just like Sizzla easily travel from passionate heartfelt singing to fiercely spitting out his lyrics. One fine example of the former is the love tune HIM Smile with its simple, yet so sincere, yet so devout, lyrics of Rastafarian praises:
“I got a picture on my wall with Selassie I smiling, Jah Rastafari smiling, for us. There’s a picture on my wall with the Most High smiling, the King of Creation smiling, for all. Cherish this picture, now and forever, King Rastafari, I love you so, much more than money, this is a treasure, cause I never seen nobody else in the world smiling like this before.”
It’s one of the finest love songs I’ve heard, and Perfect’s singing is so earnest I almost feel bashful listening to it.
There are also some mighty fine horns on this album. And I have a confession to make. I’m a sax addict. And this album quenches my sax thirst.
Check the upbeat Lion Haffi Roar or Slave Driver with a nanana reminiscent of Bob Marley’s Them Belly Full (But We’re Hungry). The sax solo comes rather late in the tune, but it’s well worth the wait.
This is the first time Perfect comes back, and I hope to see him back several times more.
Virgin Islands’ roots singer Danny I is back with his third album to date. To Your Majesty follows his sophomore album Unchangeable released in 2007. Both albums have been released on the VI-based I Grade label.
To Your Majesty contains 14 tunes and is similar to Black Gold. Not lyrically, but musically. It contains heavy bass lines, smooth and mellow tempos and live instrumentation, including some nice horns.
Lyrically this is an album heavily inspired by reality and Rastafarian culture and teachings. On the Streets Again utilizes the Proverbs riddim and Danny I comments on the increasing violence in the small cities and towns of St. Croix.
Some of the best tunes are duets. The foremost highlight is Sometimish a Rastaman with Sabbattical Ahdah on the same riddim that was used for Toussaint’s wicked Roots in a Modern Time. And the nicely skanking Never Lay Down features veteran singer Army.
If the cool and easy VI reggae sound is your thing, then To Your Majesty will probably appeal to you.
Jahdan Blakkmoore – one of Brooklyn’s finest reggae singers – dropped his sophomore album Babylon Nightmare in December last year, to wide critical acclaim. The album included the sweet single All Comes Back to One.
Now production crews Lustre Kings and LionDub International are releasing a remix EP of All Comes Back to One, which includes versions with influences from dubstep, drum & bass, one drop and nu-soul. The remix duties are handled by Nate Mars, Potential Badboy, LionDub, Nick Fantastic and Ticklah. The funky and soulful version BoBos Remix is available as free download. Check it here.
If that wasn’t enough, DJ Theory has just put out the refreshing Quick Money for free download, a tune full of reggae, hip-hop and soul. It uses a sample from Amadou & Mariam’sSabali – also used by Nas & Damian Marley for the mellow Patience – and comes with a lethal soca version courtesy of So Shifty. Check both tunes here.
For those that have followed Jahdan Blakkamoore since his days in Noble Society and were disappointed with his electronica infused debut album Buzzrock Warrior can relax. His second album – Babylon Nightmare – is a completely different story compared to the debut set.
The dubstep and electronica influences from European music have been switched towards Africa, Jamaica and old school hip-hop for this diverse set rooted in reggae, hip-hop and soul.
Babylon Nightware is produced by gifted producers Andrew “Moon” Bain of Lustre Kings, Laurent “Tippy” Alfred and Nick Fantastic. This U.S-based trio was the masterminds behind Toussaint’s solo debut Black Gold earlier this year. And that set is reminiscent of Babylon Nightmare.
However, Black Gold had more soul influences whereas Babylon Nightmare leans more towards hip-hop with live instrumentation. Listen for example to Against All Odds featuring his bands mates in Noble Society. This tune is basically hip-hop. And it’s very well executed.
Jahdan is immensely talented and has no problem riding riddims like Junior Kelly or Konshens. And he can sing like Pressure. This, together with the very varied riddims, makes Babylon Nightmare a very joyful listening from beginning to end. It’s never a dull moment.
The majority of the tunes are new. But some old time favorites show up. For example Flying High and Proverbs, titled after their riddims respectively. It’s also a real treat to listen to the wicked reworking of Golden City on the Rainbow riddim.
I was one of those that thought Buzzrock Warrior was a decent set. But with his second album, Jahdan has managed to outperform himself. If I haven’t already awarded album of the year, this one would have made it into the top ten.
Jahdan Blakkamoore made a name for himself in the trio Noble Society, an outfit that received the award Reggae Album of the Year on iTunes in 2008. Last year he dropped his solo debut Buzzrock Warrior, an album that received the same award. Next week he is about to drop his second effort. Reggaemani got a chance to speak to him about the new album and his desire to inspire.
Jahdan Blakkamoore. Photo: Amir Ebrahimi
Jahdan Blakkamoore was born in Guyana and moved to the U.S. at an early age. Now he’s based in Brooklyn, NYC, and spends all his time in the studio recording and learning.
He seems to have no musical boundaries. On Noble Society’s debut album Take Charge, he and his band mates Delie and Diego “Fuego” Campo tried their hands on many different styles ranging from one drop reggae and dancehall to hip-hop.
On Jahdan Blakkamoore’s solo debut in 2009 he explored raw digital bass lines in the field of electronica and dubstep.
− Buzzrock Warrior was very electronic and I was inspired by European house and jungle. It was supposed to be a mixtape, but ended up as an album, says Jahdan Blakkamoore on the phone from a recording studio in New York.
Jahdan in a new light
The first single from his sophomore album Babylon Nightmare is a different excursion compared to what he has previously put out. All Comes Back to One is partly acoustic, laid back and easy going.
− It’s a beautiful tune, states Jahdan and explains:
− It has a folky acoustic feeling and is about the concept of oneness. It’s a unique part of the album.
He describes Babylon Nightmare as a mixture of hip-hop and soul with a Caribbean feeling. And he emphasizes that it’s a musical album with live instrumentation such as live bass and horns.
Jahdan Blakkamoore – All Comes Back to One (single version)
Treats and surprises
Some of the tunes on the album have been featured on different compilations. But Jahdan has something up his sleeve.
− People might have heard some of the songs before, but the versions on Babylon Nightmare are different. It’s a little treat, a surprise, he says and gives an example:
− The album version of All Comes Back to One has horns and a different mix.
Babylon Nightmare is the antidote
Jahdan says that Babylon Nightmare is a conceptual album about the world we’re living in.
− We’re all facing negative elements created by ourselves. We created the babylon nightmare, he says in a serious tone, and continues:
− Babylon nightmare is mass confusion. But it can be utopia. We can change the nightmare. My personal antidote is to look inwards. You need to understand yourself. Learn about your culture and the true power of love.
Babylon nightmare is a state of mind that you can change. And Jahdan is willing to help.
− All songs on the album are bits of antidote to the nightmare. For example All Over the World [starts singing], it’s about reggae and that it’s everywhere. Love is everywhere.
− It’ll kick up doors for me and show me in the correct light. People will hold on to this album. It’s my best body of work to date and you can play it to your grandmother or your son.
− I want people to take my music seriously and I always want to have a message. I want to inspire and enlighten.
“Hot now and not later”
And he wants to be recognized now. Not in 20 years.
− Busy Signal gives me the chills when I hear his music. He’s on top of the game, Jahdan says, and continues:
− I want to be unique and have originality. If you’re a genius, you’re able to inspire your contemporaries, not 20 years later. People in your era need to say “wow” and recognize you for your music. Hot now and not later.
Soul music has had a tremendous influence on reggae, especially on the melodic rocksteady. Several reggae singers have been inspired by American soul singers. Alton Ellis, Slim Smith and Bob Marley were mainly influenced by names such as Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Curtis Mayfield.
Less common are soul artists influenced by reggae. Texas-born Johnny Nash is one such artist who recorded both soul and reggae. A newer star on the soul and reggae sky is U.S. born Toussaint Yeshua, with a background as lead singer of the Stax Records and Blue Note recording group Soulive.
Nowadays he stands on his own feet and has together with the star-studded ZionIKings production team created an album with a powerful blend of yearning soul and heavy roots reggae.
All 15 tracks on Black Gold are recorded with live instruments along with an all-star cast of musicians including Dean Pond, Tuff Lion and Carlton “Santa” Davis. This makes the sound rich and strong, but also smooth and soft, particularly on the title track Black Gold, which features live strings.
Toussaint’s voice is reminiscent of soul singers Stevie Wonder and John Legend, as well as reggae vocalists Dennis Brown and the new Dutch sensation Maikal X. The overall sound on Black Gold reminds me sometimes of British group Matumbi and their early material.
Black Gold offers pure soul (the sweet Hello My Beautiful), straight reggae (the mighty Roots In A Modern Time), and songs that are something of a mix of both genres (the single Be You). And the mixture works extremely well. In addition, Toussaint appears to be an excellent storyteller. The lyrics are personal and deals with topics such as struggles in life and overcoming addictions.
Laurent “Tippy I” Alfred is the mastermind behind this release and it certainly shows his great versatility as a producer. He has previously introduced and recorded great artists such as Dezarie and NiyoRah. However, I dare to say that this is his and his label I Grade’s best release so far.
Black Gold is released digitally on August 10 and physically on August 24.