Tag Archives: Dean Fraser

Blow Mr. Hornsman blow – Dean Fraser pays tribute to Dennis Brown

91FsSGcWKEL._SL1500_Sax veteran Dean Fraser has released his first solo album in twelve years. On Melodies of D.E.B. he pays tribute to the late and great Dennis Brown, aka the Crown Prince of Reggae.

Together with producer Tad Dawkins Jr this 60-year-old saxophonist – who also serves as musical director for Tarrus Riley’s band Black Soil Band – have recorded instrumental versions of some of Dennis Brown’s greatest musical treasures, including Cassandra, Ghetto Girl, Sitting and Watching and the stunning West Bound Train.

Dean Fraser played with Dennis Brown back in the days and supported him both in studio and on tour with Lloyd Parks and We the People Band. And his interpretations of these Dennis Brown classics are well-rounded and balanced, i.e. not too slick, which can sometimes be the case with instrumental albums.

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Yet another sophisticated set from Adele Harley

adeleharleytimeless250When looking at the cover sleeve of British-born singer and songwriter Adele Harley’s second album Timeless it doesn’t tell you anything about its content. The sleeve is suitable for almost any genre.

Timeless is however reggae, the lovers rock kind. And just as with her debut album album Come into My Life she has again collaborated with acclaimed riddim duo Mafia & Fluxy.

And together they have crafted a sweet and sophisticated album with a mix of popular covers and timeless originals. It also featured legendary sax man Dean Fraser and a combination with the late John Holt.

It’s a mature album and Adele Harley certainly has a sweet and beautiful voice tailor-made for slick lovers rock, but Timeless also glances at ska, Rose Garden, and sweet vintage po, as on Venus.

Timeless is reggae for grown-ups and it definitely has an appropriate title.

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Cross-generational vibes from Tarrus Riley

Tarrus-Riley-Love-Situation-AlbumOn his fifth album Love Situation Tarrus Riley and his fellow producers Dean Fraser, Shane C. Brown, Mitchum Khan Chin and Jordan McClure take a stroll down memory lane to Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle studio.

Love Situation is a throwback to Jamaica in the 60s, a time when rocksteady and early reggae ruled the airwaves and U Roy, The Uniques and Ken Boothe dominated the charts.

The set mixes samples from the past with new instrumentation. Melodically and rhythmically it’s contemporary vintage, modern old-school or current classic. Just listen to Tarrus Riley’s version of The Gaylads’ excellent ABC Rocksteady titled 1, 2, 3 I Love You. This track also sets the theme for the full album. It’s mostly about relations and affairs of the heart.

It has the same timeless quality and feel as some of the best cuts coming from Duke Reid, Bunny Lee or Coxsone Dodd in their heydays.

Great riddims and strong vocals courtesy of Tarrus Riley’s warm tenor voice along with his invited fellow singers U Roy, Konshens, Big Youth, Mr Cheeks and Wippa Demus make Love Situation a tasty effort.

And with its 17 tracks Love Situation is certainly a long-player. But it still leaves me wanting more of the slick and polished intergenerational vibes that that this project has to offer.


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Busy Signal pays homage to Jamaica’s musical heritage

Busy Signal is the versatile dancehall deejay that this year changed course and dropped the acclaimed album Reggae Music Again, recorded with real musicians and under the guidance of veteran performers such as Beres Hammond, Marcia Griffiths and Dean Fraser. Reggaemani got a chat with him during a recording session break in Jamaica.

Busy Signal

Dancehall artist Busy Signal recently dropped his first reggae album.

Two years ago dancehall superstar Busy Signal – with the massive hardcore hits Tic Toc and Wine Pon De Edge – released his third album D.O.B, a more varied set compared to his previous albums Step Out and Loaded. It included the Latin flavored Picante and Busy Latino, the acoustic unity plea Let Peace Reign and two reggae songs – a romantic rendition of the Commodores’ Night Shift and a seductive version of Phil Collins’ One More Night.

Shifts musical direction
The response he received from those two songs prompted a dramatic shift in his musical course, and in a press release he says he had to go in this musical direction, partly because he felt it was his duty to highlight and contribute to reggae music.

“This is the first time I do a reggae album with real instruments and proper guidance from Beres Hammond, Marcia Griffiths and Dean Fraser. I want to show respect to real reggae music,” declares a humble Busy Signal when I reach him on the phone outside of a studio in Jamaica, and continues:

“It’s the greatest genre and I want to be true to my own culture and show versatility.”

Busy also makes it clear that Reggae Music Again is not recorded and released to celebrate Jamaica’s 50 years of independence. This album is to celebrate Jamaica’s musical heritage and it was finished last year.

Introduced to reggae
The man who taught him all he needs to know about reggae is his manager and producer Shane C. Brown, son of legendary mixing engineer Errol Brown. They met in March 2007 and nowadays work as a team.

“He mostly does one drop reggae, and I introduced him to dancehall. We’re a good team,” he explains.

The roots reggae album Reggae Music Again is a brand new set, not a collection of previously released songs, and currently holds the ninth spot in the Billboard Reggae Chart.

It’s a stark departure from the relentless computerized beats that have dominated Busy Signal’s three earlier albums. The tough, multi layered one-drop rhythms on Reggae Music Again were crafted by some of Jamaica’s most acclaimed musicians and recorded live at Kingston studios Tuff Gong and Penthouse.

Celebrates reggae through music and lyrics
The album clearly shows an artist that has managed to grow and believes in versatility. Reggae Music Again is also Busy Signal’s way of highlighting the origin of dancehall music.

“I’m still doing dancehall and it still means a lot to me,” he explains.

Through both music and lyrics he celebrates the uplifting spirit and tightly woven grooves that epitomize Jamaica. Commentaries such as Modern Day Slavery, Jah Love and Run Weh show his concerns for culture, religion and societal ills, themes that have distinguished roots reggae from other musical forms since the early 1970’s.

But Busy Signal can also be heard as a devoted singing lover on Missing You and the smooth acoustic Comfort Zone.

Imitating Joe Lickshot
His deejay skills are shown in the sparse and dark hip-hop inspired 119 with guest artists Anthony Red Rose and Joe Lickshot, a legendary ‘hype man’ as well as an introduction and sound effect specialist.

It turns out that Busy Signal is a huge fan of Joe Lickshot’s work, and he tried many, many times to do the vocal effects by himself, but didn’t like what he heard.

“I listened to him on Youtube and I listened to him for hours when driving around in my car, but didn’t manage to get it right,” explains Busy Signal, and continues:

“He has his own style, that raspy, vintage sound. I couldn’t get it right myself, and I really knew what I wanted.”

The solution was to find the man himself, which turned out to be easier said than done. Busy googled him, but didn’t find any contacts, so Shane C. Brown had to help out, and eventually came in contact with him.

Spreading reggae to a wider audience
With Reggae Music Again Busy Signal is also able to spread reggae music to a wider audience, since his following is mostly into dancehall. Making the transition from dancehall to reggae also demands talent, skills and versatility, a quality he often comes back to in the interview.

“I’m just doing music, no matter what genre. Music to roll to and music to dance to. I’m fusing a lot of styles,” he says, and concludes:

“I would think of do more reggae. The feedback I get is just great and right now I just feel overwhelmed.”

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All-star line-up pays tribute to Gregory Isaacs

Gregory Isaacs – who passed away last year – is one of the greatest voices in reggae music ever. Always relaxed, laid-back and almost nonchalant in his tone. It is for a reason why he went by the name The Cool Ruler, which was also the title of one of his self-produced albums in the 70’s.

Saxophonist and producer Dean Fraser was a friend of Gregory Isaacs and he is also the producer behind the Gregory Isaacs tribute album We Remember Gregory Isaacs.

This double album has 16 contemporary reggae artists paying tribute to Gregory Isaacs’ on one disc and Dean Fraser going wild with his saxophone on the other.

Most of the artists on this compilation weren’t born when these beautiful songs were originally recorded in the 70’s and the 80’s. But that doesn’t really matter. Because this set doesn’t want to imitate the original versions. This is contemporary and polished one drop reggae.

That’s the main problem – too smooth versions of mostly Gregory Isaacs’ lovers rock efforts. We Remember Gregory Isaacs could have been a little rougher around the edges.

Busy Signal’s version of Hard Drugs is the strongest cut. It’s not up-tempo, but it has a certain energy that the whole album could have needed.

The best Gregory Isaacs tribute so far is the Irie Ites-production Oh What a Story on a relick of the Soon Forward riddim. The Tamlins, Naggo Morris, Trinity and Dillinger sings and deejays in fine style.

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Win a copy of Duane Stephenson’s Black Gold

A few months ago Duane Stephenson dropped his sophomore album Black Gold, mainly produced by his friend and mentor Dean Fraser. The album has a very soft feeling to it and will probably appeal to those who like Tarrus Riley.

The kind people at VP Records have provided me with a copy of Black Gold to give away.

To win a copy you just have to answer two questions:
1. When did labels VP and Greensleeves merge?
2. What was the name of the group in which Duane Stephenson started his career?

Send your answers to erik at reggaemani dot com. Among the people who answer both questions correctly I will draw a winner. The competition ends on Sunday November 14 and the winner will be presented next week.

And no, this judge cannot be bribed. And yes, it’s a physical CD, not mp3-files.

Good luck!

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Too much sugar in Duane Stephenson’s soup

Three years ago Duane Stephenson scored a hit with the beautiful August Town, taken from his solo debut From August Town.

His debut was a 15 track blend of romance and culture on one drop and acoustic riddims. In my view a weak album that didn’t match the quality of his hit song.

Now Duane Stephenson is at it again and his sophomore album Black Gold hit the streets some weeks ago.

Black Gold is made after the same recipe as From August Town – primarily smooth one drop riddims and acoustic ballads. The production is mainly done by Dean Fraser and Duane Stephenson himself. However, two tunes are credited to Christopher Birchill and one to Kemar “Flava” McGregor.

Stay At Home is a combination with Queen Ifrica on the Movie Star riddim. Her energy blends very well with Duane Stephenson’s sincere and intimate singing. Soon as We Rise is also a combination, this time with Garnett Silk’s successor Ras Shiloh. This one is on Kemar “Flava” McGregor’s Classic riddim, a silky riddim with nice horn arrangements.

But Black Gold consists of too many soft ballads. Sure there are some great pop hooks, but also too many pompous arrangements and save the world lyrics.

Duane Stephenson wrote music for Luciano’s edgy United States of Africa, released earlier this year. It shows that Duane Stephenson certainly is able to write music that appeal to listeners that don’t sit around the campfire or hold ligthers in the air at concerts. He should have saved some of Luciano’s tunes for himself. Because this album lacks both edge and energy.


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