You know those ”Parental advisory – explicit lyrics” guidelines stamped on loads of hip-hop records? Well, you probably do. A version of that should be on every Chezidek album. It should read ”Extremely fragile – handle with care”. This is because of Chezidek’s voice. It’s high and instantly recognizable, but fragile as a vase.
His second album this year – following the mighty The Order of Melchezedik – is Freedom Fighters, a 15 track set sneaked out below the radar about a month ago. It’s produced by Andrew ”Bassie” Campbell and One Drop Records, a label responsible for last year’s Hold the Vibes by Ras Attitude and Truly from Lutan Fyah.
Chezidek has a voice that may take a while to fully appreciate and he may not always be pitch perfect, bu he usually gets his hands on strong material and he also has a feel in his voice that many singers should envy.
He sings from his heart and soul about political corruption (Mr. Corruption), increasing violence (Eye Watas & Prayers) and the environment (Chemical Free). The latter is one of his favorite topics and has over the years rendered several strong environment anthems, including Leave the Trees and Plant a Tree.
Freedom Fighters contains enough strong number to be interesting for any fan of rootsy, cultural and conscious reggae.
I must admit I haven’t listened to VI-reggae trailblazers Midnite much at all. They came to my attention only a couple of years ago, even though they have been around since 1989 and dropped their debut album Unpolished 14 years ago.
Maybe their vast production has been some kind of barrier. If you didn’t know – Midnite drops an average of around five albums each year. I have found 45 albums with their name on it. And that doesn’t include singer Vaughn Benjamin’s solo efforts.
Kings Bell is the title of Midnite’s fifth album in 2011. It’s their first full-length with a Jamaican producer, and it’s mostly recorded at Tuff Gong Studios in Jamaica with several acclaimed veteran musicians – Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace and Earl “Chinna” Smith to name a few.
Producer Andrew “Bassie” Campbell has made Midnite more accessible than I have ever heard before. It’s still the same raw, hypnotic and weighty sound that Midnite is known for. And they’re still not flirting with the listener. The sing-a-long choruses and grand harmonies are still nowhere to be found. Midnite do their thing whether you like it or not.
But the sound is fuller and the melodic hooks are very much present.
The punchy bass lines are as usual also included just as Vaughn Benjamin’s intensive and rugged chanting style of singing. He sings with honesty and sincerity about religion and social injustice.
Kings Bell is perhaps also Midnite’s most varied set yet – the ska-tinged Torpedo and the percussion driven The Quickening are the two most telling examples, although not the crucial moments of the album.
Instead the highlights include Earth is the Lord with its relentless bass line that made my kitchen utensils shake and Black Mamba and Jewel inna Africa Horn with their memorable guitar licks.
I’m not sure whether this album will rocket the charts, but it certainly made me discover a new side of this individual band.
Kings Bell hits the streets on November 1st on CD and digital download.