Last year Addis Pablo – son of the late and great producer and melodica maestro Augustus Pablo – dropped his stunning solo debut album In My Father’s House. But Addis Pablo has also been involved in Jamaican duo Suns of Dub, together with producer and mixing engineer Ras Jammy.
Suns of Dub have released material sporadically, but now it’s time for their debut album Far East Dub. And despite its title this set is not a fully-fledged dub album, even though six of the twelve tracks are dub workouts. Four are melodica lead by Addis Pablo and two have Trinidadian singer Jah Bami on microphone.
Far East Dub is slightly different compared to their previous releases, which has been a bit more digital. This album is soft, deep and organic with meditative and dreamy vibes and Addis Pablo connects the dots between his father’s legacy and a more contemporary sonic landscape.
This is a bold and unique album and almost the opposite of the current EDM craze and top 40 music. It’s mostly instrumental, relaxed and it takes a few listens to fully appreciate all of its glorious details, but after a while you have fallen in love with tracks like Far East Median with its desolate trombone sounding from a far or the muscular bass on album opener Eastern Acoustic.
UK-based producer Frenchie of Maximum Sound has once again joined forces with renowned producer and mixing engineer Russ Disciples for another set of devastating slices of UK roots and dub.
Together the duo operates the Calabash imprint, a label devoted to hardcore UK roots, steppers and dub. And that is precisely what Calabash Selection Vol. 2 and its counterpart Calabash Dub Vol. 2 offer.
All tracks on the albums are played and mixed by Russ Disciples at his Backyard Studios. Some of the material have been previously released on vinyl, but the majority of the mixes differ from the originals. A couple of the riddims are also different compared to the previously released ones.
Fans of Maximum Sound and Russ Disciples will be pleased with this compilation. Russ Disciples has reworked several lethal Maximum Sound originals, including Tarrus Riley’s excellent Chant Rastafari, Luciano’s Perilous Times, on which he showcases some nice deejay skills, and Yami Bolo’s passionate Jah is the Fire.
The two albums doesn’t fully correspond with each other since the dub version has eleven and not nine cuts, but that won’t stop you from creating your own wicked showcase album using Spotify or iTunes.
Kingston-bred singer Torch has been in the music industry for about ten years and already in 2005 he toured with the nowadays incarcerated Buju Banton.
And now – some ten years later – it’s time for his debut effort Self Reclaimed, an eight track set featuring the brilliant Bugle combination Fire Man a Bun, on Weedy G Soundforce’s powerful Gate 7 riddim.
Self Reclaimed is classic contemporary reggae with material recorded for a variety of producers, including Techniques Records and Frankie Music. It balances tough dubby sounds, such as Lion, with smoother efforts like Bangarang and the slick percussion-driven Africa Calling.
Another promising Jamaican talent to keep an eye out for.
U.S. reggae singer songwriter Cas Haley’s new album More Music More Family is insanely catchy and uplifting. The album was crowdfunded and I’m very glad fans across the globe helped him to record this beautiful album.
More Music More Family is a personal effort and addresses what life has taught Cas Haley, who has returned to music after an injury which caused an unfortunate hiatus. The album has an organic live-played vibe and draws influences from reggae, soul, blues, hip-hop and gospel.
The set was recorded in Hawaii and it’s marked by the tranquillity and easy-going life on the island. Songs like album opening title track and the following Whole, featuring co-producer Tubby Love on vocals, and Man Inside are the essence of island life and you can almost hear the beach, the sun and the waves floating through the airwaves.
On tracks like the sweet Hold Me, the repetitive We Learn and slowly pulsating Hold Up My Heart, which has a bass line reminiscent of the mighty Pass the Kouchie, things get a bit rootiser, while Cas Haley offers a taste of soul on the funky Before It’s Too Late, which suddenly turns into a bona-fide gospel party.
Sure, some people might dismiss this magnificent set as too lightweight, but for me it’s all about pressing the repeat button again, again and again.
The late reggae icon Dennis Brown is one of Jamaica’s finest talents and was described as the Crown Prince of Reggae, but unfortunately he never reached the heights of international stardom like Bob Marley and Peter Tosh did.
Now Dennis Brown’s youngest daughter Marla Brown – a trained dancer – carries his legacy forward. Her debut recording as solo singer, the uplifting Better Days, on Royal Order Music’s Smart riddim, was dropped earlier this year.
Her debut EP was recently put out. On the cover sleeve Marla Brown floats on a sea of vinyl, including albums from her father, Bunny Wailer and Tiger. Her EP is however far from vintage. Deliverance is contemporary hard-hitting reality reggae with guest appearances from her peers Runkus and Kabaka Pyramid.
A variety of producers have been involved, but it sounds surprisingly cohesive with Marla Brown’s light and honey-coated singing about morality, her father, the climate and a brighter future.
Marla Brown has taken the moniker The Crown Princess of Reggae. That comes with great expectations for the future and Deliverance is certainly promising.
Reggae powerhouse VP’s popular compilation series The Biggest Reggae One Drop Anthems is back after a four year hiatus. And it comes with a new approach.
The previous editions included previously released material from several different producers whereas this new set is solely produced by Jamaica’s legendary top producer Clive Hunt, responsible for reggae classics from The Abyssinians, Peter Tosh, Max Romeo and a bunch of others. And the material included is also exclusive to the compilation.
The Biggest One Drop Anthems 2015 showcases a strong selection of established singers along with newer artists like Ikaya, Jah Vinci and Randy Valentine.
The new concept is brilliant and the compilation includes not a weak moment. Therefore it’s difficult to pick one track over another, but certified killers include Ikaya’s pounding version of Steel Pulse’s Worth His Weight in Gold, Luciano’s soulful and inspired adaptation of Rod Taylor’s His Imperial Majesty, which turns into a lingering dub version, and energetic dancehall singer Jah Vinci’s sincere King’s Highway on which he shows his full range as a vocalist.
Definitely the most consistent One Drop Anthems released yet and I hope VP will continue this successful new model.
Noel Ellis, son of the late and great Jamaican singer Alton Ellis, dropped his self-titled debut album in 1983. It was recorded in Canada and overlooked at the time of release. Fortunately it was picked up Light in the Attic Records and reissued almost ten years ago. Now – more than 30 years after the release of his debut – Noel Ellis has finally put out his second album Zion.
It’s a twelve track showcase set – six vocal cuts and six dub versions – released by French label Iroko. It’s facilitated by acclaimed producers Hervé Brizec and Roberto Sánchez and has a distinct vintage feel to it.
Zion is a coherent and classic set with pleasant and heavy dub versions where Roberto Sánchez has put the smattering percussion in front of the mix, as shown on the deep Jah Dub, the version to the excellent and devout Jah Love.
Noel Ellis has a versatile voice with a melancholic tone and album opener Zion presents a mode where his graceful singing sounds a bit nervous, while he on the cavernous and slow Reggae Music shows a more powerful style. On I Know he actually sounds a little like the great Ken Boothe, grittiness excluded.
Roberto Sánchez has previously recorded a number of vintage reggae singers to wide critical acclaim. And Noel Ellis’ second album can definitely be filed next to soon-to-be-classics like Milton Henry’s Branches and Leaves and Earl Sixteen’s Natty Farming.
Versatile dancehall star Mr. Vegas has broadened his portfolio in recent years – from hardcore dancehall via foundation reggae to slick lovers rock. It started in 2010 with the massive reggae anthem Sweet Jamaica, which was later followed by a double album by the same name.
That double disc was Mr. Vegas’ first shot at recording classic reggae and he did it very well. It was well-received and boasted several covers of non-reggae tracks. And Mr. Vegas obviously got a taste for recording covers. Because now he has a new album with only cover songs of which a majority are non-reggae originals. They are rather pop and R&B evergreens.
Most of the songs picked for Lovers Rock and Soul have been covered countless times before, including Savage Garden’s Truly Madly Deeply, Wet Wet Wet’s Love is All Around, Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time and former Boyzone member Ronan Keating’s When You Say Nothing At All.
The album offers just what its title suggests – songs about romance, relationships and love. Unfortunately the album is just a bit too smooth and too slick. The cuts are ordinary hotel lounge covers with a reggae beat and nothing to get particularly excited about.
Mr. Vegas is a gifted singer and a talented artist and he can do way better than this. That was shown on the Sweet Jamaica album.
25-year old Jamaican singing sensation Romain Virgo won popular Jamaican TV show Rising Stars in 2007 and he has since been taken under super producer Donovan Germain’s wings. He has put out two albums – one self-titled in 2010 and The System in 2012 – as well as winning numerous awards within the Caribbean community, including Entertainer of the Year by The Jamaica Recording Industry Association and the Prime Minister’s Youth Award for Excellence in his native country.
Now Romain Virgo returns with the eight track EP Lifted, an effort setting high expectations on his upcoming third album Love Sick, slated for release in 2016.
The set opens with Lifted, a song with sparse arrangements custom-made for auditioning for any talent show since it shows his strengths as a vocalist. But things get rougher and tougher on the three following cuts – the poignant God Inna Mi Corner, the massive Assassin combination Fade Away and the dubstep-influenced Badda Man with slightly too gritty guitars.
But there is no Romain Virgo set without romance and Lifted collects three smooth bedroom teasers and heart pleasers – Stars Across the Sky, Stay With Me and Soul Provider.
Lifted blends consciousness and social commentaries with love songs and intoxicating rhythms and it bodes well for his new album.
Youthful French singjay Naâman is back with his second album Rays of Resistance and it’s a natural follow-up to his debut album Deep Rockers – Back A Yard released two years ago.
This new album is however slightly different compared to its predecessor, a set that offered a tasty mix of bouncy hip-hop and groove-oriented reggae. This new album is more mature and more diverse. It’s more soulful and some tunes lean slightly towards ambient electronic music.
Rays of Resistance is potent and explosive, as shown on tracks like Big and Bad and Pop Dem Bubble, but also slow and ethereal, as showcased on cuts like Those Rays and the melancholic Soom T combination My Days.
There are plenty of pulsating rhythms and infectious melodies, just listen to International Love with its sing-a-long chorus and catchy horns, Turns Me Loose, which opens as a slow acoustic jam but soon metamorphoses into bouncy reggae-flavoured hip-hop, or the dark Garden of Destiny with its lingering strings and Halloween harmonies.
Sure, Naâman sings in English and his pronunciation isn’t perfect, but this is nevertheless a strong second album showcasing a major talent.