Italian/Nigerian singer and singjay Lion D’s third and latest album Bring Back the Vibes is a perfect example of how great contemporary European reggae can sound. It has the usual blend of one drop riddims, hip-hop, soul and dancehall, but this album also incorporates gospel and blues, mostly in the form of a sweet harmonica provided by Lee Jaffe, who played with Bob Marley and The Wailers.
The album aims to bring roots reggae and dancehall from the 80’s and 90’s into the spotlight. And the result is very successful, even though Bring Back the Vibes has a very contemporary feel with its high energy and hip-hop flavored beats.
It’s positive and conscious and Lion D deals with spirituality, romance, unity, equality, struggle for work – something German roots reggae singer Uwe Banton also did on his latest album Mental War – and self-respect, as in one of the album’s several highlights – No Bleaching Cream.
The tasty and tight riddims are mostly supplied by the Livity Band and composed by Magista. Onboard is also talented Jamaican singer Nikki Burt, who provides excellent harmonies on several songs, and a number of guest artists – Ras Tewelde, Gappy Ranks, Skarra Mucci and Blacky Grace.
The album collects 18 songs, of which two are short interludes from the cult motion picture Rockers and one a cappella intro and one acoustic outro. There are actually several acoustic efforts, and the ukulele-led So Beautiful sounds like someone has put Bruno Mars in a studio in Kingston.
The set mixes unreleased and already released material as well as relicks and fresh originals. A lethal hip-hop fueled version of Inner Circle’s monster hit Sweat (A La La La Long) turns up surprisingly, whereas versions of Carl Meeks’ Weh Dem Fah, Eek-A-Mouse’s Wa-Do-Dem, The Techniques You Don’t Care and Jackie Mitto’s Mission Impossible are more expected choices.
Lion D’s deep voice and phrasing sounds a bit like dancehall superstar Busy Signal, and where he uses the catchphrase “hotter” Lion D favors “wah dis” in a similar manner. Lion D is also – just as Busy Signal – a versatile performer that can go from singing to gruff deejaying in just a few.
The press release describes Lion D as one of the most promising talents on the international reggae scene. Not sure that’s true, but he’s definitely – along with artists like Skarra Mucci and Gappy Ranks – one of Europe’s most interesting individual artists and one to keep an eye on.