Tag Archives: Lustre Kings

Midnite ride tru in December

VI reggae trailblazers Midnite is back with yet another album with acclaimed U.S. production trio Zion I KingsZion High Productions, I Grade Records and Lustre Kings.

Midnite is known for being prolific and I believe the upcoming Ride Tru album will be their third in 2014 and the second with Zion I Kings. They worked together on Beauty for the Ashes, which was released about ten months ago.

Ride Tru drops in December and you can check its initial single Credited below.

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Ten years with Zion High Productions

Zion High Productions is one part of acclaimed U.S. production trio Zion I Kings, responsible for a number of major releases in recent years. Zion High Productions has now been alive and kicking for ten years and Reggaemani took the chance to catch up with Jah David, bass player and musical director. He spoke freely about being a reggae musician, about Zion I Kings and also revealed some exciting upcoming projects.

David “Jah David” Goldfine is one third of Zion High Productions and lives near Tampa, Florida. The two other members, Ras Elliott and Quashi, live in Oregon and West Palm Beach, Florida.

Zion High Productions is a production house and a label and the story started ten years ago in San Diego, California, where Ras Elliott owned and operated a record shop called Trade Roots Reggae, a mainstay of the southern California reggae scene for almost 20 years. Jah David worked there and he and his childhood friend Jah Oil – an early member of Zion High Productions – were in the bands Kush and Jah Bloodfyah Angels.

“Yami Bolo’s Rebelution was our first project,” remembers Jah David, and continues:

“It was a great project and a great learning experience for me as a producer, writer and bass player. We had Santa Davis from Soul Syndicate on drums and Scientist as an engineer. Ras Michael was also involved in the project. It was a wonderful experience and we made great music inspired by Haile Selassie the First.”

Shortly after the release on Rebelution Jah Oil left and Quashi came onboard.

From violin and guitar to the bass
Jah David has been playing music since he was around seven years old. He started with the violin, but moved on to acoustic guitar and later played in various rock bands. He started listening to reggae, especially Bob Marley, as a kid, and when in his early teens his interest in reggae gained momentum with artists like Burning Spear, Culture and a little Israel Vibration.

“From that time, when I was around 15, I forgot the guitar. I was feeling the bass. I listened to Familyman and I felt those bass lines and I thought ‘I know I can play that’. It seemed so simple, but it is so complex,” explains Jah David with a calm, almost soothing, voice, and continues:

“I picked up the bass and started seeking Jah at the same time. Jah Oil and I started our reggae journey together; me as a bass player and he as a guitarist.”

I reach Jah David on the phone from his home studio. He has just finished recording dubplates together with Glen Washington and he says that they are also recording a new album together. No title yet though since the project is in its formative stage. Jah David is not like other producers or label owners when it comes to talking about new and upcoming releases. Many usually keep quite on work in progress, while Jah David speaks freely about what is about to come from him and his collaborators.

Forming the Zion I Kings
But let’s come back to the releases and continue with the fruitful collaboration between Zion High Productions, I Grade Records and Lustre Kings, more commonly known as the Zion I Kings.

Moon, Jah David and Tippy I in the studio.

Moon, Jah David and Tippy I in the studio.

Andrew “Moon” Bain, guitarist and musical director in Lustre Kings, started working together with Jah David, prior to Jah David’s involvement in Zion High Productions. Jah David played bass and was co-producer on one of Lustre Kings’ releases in the early days.

“My first love is the bass and I’m a bassie. I was playing sessions for Lustre Kings and worked on the Culture Dem album. I also did some singles before that, like 12-13 years ago. I was working on singles in Jamaica and material from Sizzla, Capleton, Al Pancho and Lutan Fyah. Lutan was just busting and started to get a buzz and I worked on the first Lutan Fyah album,” remembers Jah David, and continues:

“Tippy [keyboard player and owner of I Grade Records] and I met through Ras Attitude. We were working on the Holding Firm album. He said he had a good brethren in St Croix and Tippy had produced a great song, which he wanted to include on the album. Ever since that we have been working together,” he explains, and adds:

“Moon and Tippy met around the same time in New York City and that closed the circle. Moon is a great guitarist, Tippy is a great keyboard player and I play the bass. We are all producers and engineers. Zion I Kings – bass, keys and guitar. And we do sessions with different drummers.”

Their classy productions have gained lots of interest around the world and the trio was recently involved in the much discussed and talked about Snoop Lion album. The breezy Breadfruit riddim, that provided the basis for Lloyd Brown’s Just So That You Know, was utilized for Snoop Lion’s So Long, a standout cut on his Grammy nominated album Reincarnated.reincarnatedalbumcover

“It was really through Moon. That’s Zion I King’s involvement. He worked a lot on the project together with Jahdan [Blakkamoore]. They were hired by Diplo to go to Jamaica and help write for the album. They were hired to write lyrics and melodies. Not music,” he explains.

For the love of the music
Zion High Productions is a small label, even though it has put out a number of major and much talked about albums, including the aforementioned Yami Bolo album and the Jah Golden Throne compilation. And just as for many other labels the reality is harsh and Zion High Productions struggles with balancing costs and revenues.

“The most challenging is figuring out a way to make our business profitable. To stay afloat,” explains Jah David.

It’s however crystal clear that Jah David and his partners are not in this business for the money. They do it for the love of the music and for the love of Rastafari.

“This is our vehicle to glorify and praise Rastafari. It is our mission and we are using the talents we have been blessed with.”

But running a label and being a producer takes time, energy and money, and great response and wide file sharing does not translate well into dollars on the bank account.

“Everything costs. Lights have to be turned on and we need to bring in other musicians. I’d love if it becomes more profitable,” he explains, and adds:

“When we invest in a CD we usually make money, but not the kind of money we would like to see. There is support for CD and physical products, but it doesn’t cover the total cost of putting it together. It takes more than we are seeing. Everyone feels good artistically, but not monetary,” he says and adds that he’s not really preoccupied with dealing with file sharing and that he rather focuses on writing a bass line or mixing a song.

Being one with the music is important to Jah David and the response he gets from fans and other musicians are some of the greatest rewards.

“That the world hears the message, accepts the message and feels good about it; that’s the biggest reward. We are not making music for ourselves; we make it for the world to hear. That’s my greatest accomplishment. People in Africa, in Asia and in Budapest have heard my works,” he concludes.

Working with Lloyd Brown
Jah David has worked on countless of albums, compilations and singles and it is hard for him to pick favorite projects. To him they are all special and unique. But after a while when he has thought the question over he comes up with a few suggestions, most of them being upcoming projects rather than already released ones.

lloydbrown-rootical“I’m really excited about the Lloyd Brown album. This is something else. This is my album. Boy, I’m very excited about this one. This album is very different from every other Lloyd Brown album. To me Lloyd is like a virtual soul singer, like John Coltrane on sax, or Miles on trumpet. That’s how he is on the microphone,” explains an excited Jah David, and continues:

“I have been a fan of Lloyd for a long time. I used to tour with Tippa Irie and he and Lloyd are close, so I got introduced to him by Tippa.”

Lloyd Brown and Tippa Irie also had a combination on the Jah Golden Throne compilation called Make It Work.

“They have done so many things together. Lloyd heard the Make it Work riddim and contacted me. We linked and he wanted to listen to some other riddims. I sent him the Breadfruit riddim and he loved it and said we should do an album. From there it just went on,” he says and reveals two other upcoming projects:

“We are also doing an instrumental album from Jah Bless. It will be eclectic with a lot of dub, horns, solos and jazz. I’m really excited about that. And we are also doing an album with Ziggi Recado.”

Hopes for the future
Capleton, Lutan Fyah, Prezident Brown and Yami Bolo. The list of artists that Jah David has worked with is long. There are a few artists he has yet to work with, but aim for in the future.

“Lloyd was a big one for me. And I’d really want to do more with Queen Omega. She has voiced a tune on the Jah Warrior riddim [drops on February 25] and also has a combination on the Lloyd Brown album. I’d love to do an album with her,” he explains, and continues:

“I have never done any work with Tarrus Riley. I really love him from a technical production standpoint. Don’t know about an album, maybe just a record.”

Re-worked a Cornel Campbell album
Another recent release from Zion High Productions and the Zion I Kings is Cornel Campbell’s New Scroll, a rootsy and melodic set jam-packed with the usual memorable hooks and bright horns arrangements. The story of the album goes back many years. Actually almost ten years. So let’s take it from the beginning.cornel-campbell-new-scroll

“Ras Elliott has been a fan of Cornel Campbell for years. Elliott is an elder to me and could almost be my father. He has been into Cornel Campbell for 30 to 35 years. He’s a huge fan. Owns all of his records on vinyl and the whole thing. He has also known Cornel for years. And when he toured the west coast around 2004/2005 Ras Elliott was the tour manager. He called me and said ‘Jah D, book some studio time in Florida. We are coming there to voice and record an album, ’” he says with great excitement, and continues:

“He came for a week, but we weren’t satisfied with the result. We didn’t have enough time and I was much greener than I am now. My approach then was like a more hands-off approach. It didn’t happen and we moved on to other projects. But then finally, about a year ago, he came to Tampa again and we redid the album. One or two new songs are new, but the bulk of it is the same with different riddim tracks. The songs have been reworked and rearranged from the originals in a way where it seemed to become better. The result is great.”

On a mission
Jah David is a humble and dedicated musician that knows his talent and skills. People in the business know him by the trail of relentless bass lines he has provided the world with. And when he works with artists they can expect two things.

“First, it’s the music. Whenever I play a riddim for any of these artists, Capleton, Sizzla etc, they get excited. They shout when I play the bass. Even in the beginning, in the Culture Dem days. I play real reggae music. That’s the main thing,” he says, and continues:

“Secondly, the fact we are heartical Rasta and that we’re serious about the misson. People know what we’re about.”

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A wonderful new chapter in the Cornel Campbell story

PrintJamaica has produced countless of gifted, versatile and soulful performers and one of my all time favorite singers is the Original Gorgon aka Cornel Campbell. He started his career in the 60s as a member of The Eternals, but rose to prominence in the 70s when recording a number of major tunes for Bunny Lee.

Now he’s in the hands of acclaimed U.S. production team the Zion I Kings and together they have recorded another golden nugget in the Cornel Campbell catalogue.

New Scroll boasts nine fresh vocal cuts and four dub versions. Most of the tracks carry Zion I Kings’ signature sound – warm with live instrumentation, rich with vibrating arrangements and smooth with a soulful and deep vibe.

Cornel Campbell’s voice still sounds remarkably fresh. His emotive and instantly recognizable high tenor is a bit raspier, but it’s still cool as a pair of shades and soothing like aloe on sunburned skin.

New Scroll contains catchy melodies, memorable hooks and well-thought conscious lyrics and this album is yet another outstanding release from the Zion I Kings and one of the most distinguished, but sometimes overlooked, Jamaican singers.

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Cornell Campbell’s New Scroll

PrintNew 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.”

The album bears Zion High Productions’ sweet sound crafted by the Zion I Kings production team – Jah D on bass representing Zion High Productions, I Grade Records’ Tippy I on keys and guitarist Moon, who co-founded the Lustre Kings label and is credited with writing on Snoop Lion’s debut album.

New Scroll hits the streets on CD and digital platforms on June 18.

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Ras Batch is a powerful exponent of roots reggae

On Ras Batch’s seventh album Know Thyself he has teamed up with producer Laurent “Tippy I” Alfred from I Grade Records and the Zion I Kings, adding Andrew “Moon” Bain from Lustre Kings and David “Jah D” Goldfine from Zion High Productions to the team of arrangers and producers.

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.

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It isn’t perfect

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 Zion I Kings 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.

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Jah Golden Throne is a cohesive and soulful journey

U.S. production trio Zion I Kings – David Goldfine from Zion High Productions, Alfred Laurent from I Grade and Andrew Bain from Lustre Kings – have over the past two years delivered several accomplished sets from Jahdan Blakkamoore, Perfect and former soul singer Toussaint.

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’s Just 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’s Empress 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’s Set 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.

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A perfect time travel

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 Zion I Kings, 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.

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Danny I’s smooth To Your Majesty

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.

The production duties on To Your Majesty are handled by The Zion I Kings. This is the same trio – Zion High Productions, I Grade and Lustre Kings – that crafted Toussaint’s magnificent solo debut Black Gold put out last year.

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.

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Several treats from Jahdan Blakkamoore

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’s Sabali – 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.

Thanks to The 45 Shootout for the heads up.

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