Tag Archives: Donovan Germain

Solid debut album from Exco Levi

disc-3295-exco-levi-country-manOn Jamaican singjay Exco Levi’s debut album Country Man he fulfils his dream of working with one the giants in the reggae industry – Donovan Germain and his Penthouse imprint.

Donovan Germain has previously worked with successful artists like Buju Banton and the late Garnett Silk, but he’s also responsible for discovering Romain Virgo, who also teams up with Exco Levi on the excellent Get It In Your Head.

Country Man collects previously released songs along with new material and is largely an autobiographical album where Exco Levi over a hefty 19 tracks tells stories about growing up in the Jamaican countryside, going to church and walking around with no shoes. It’s his life experiences and his journey so far.

On City Life Exco Levi paints a harsh picture of Kingston living – “It’s not a nice life, make sure you know the streets… and people get missing, without nobody know, city life, where people don’t trust the cops, cus the only time they see them is when another youth drops, city life, where people break the stop light, bullet echoes in the distance anytime it touch night”. And on a beautiful version of Twinkle Brother’s mighty Since I Throw the Comb Away he sings about the realities you face being a Rasta.

As usual when Donovan Germain is involved this album is jam-packed with sweet melodies, infectious hooks and grand arrangements. Country Man is solid and well-crafted contemporary Jamaican roots music.

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RC’s promising debut

righteouschild20150518C2009 Magnum Kings and Queens of Dancehall runner-up R.C. aka Righteous Child has just unleashed his debut EP Rough Survivor via Donovan Germain’s Penthouse imprint. He’s maybe best known for his Busy Signal combination Dreams of Brighter Days, released last year.

This eight track set – of which two cuts are previously unreleased – features four productions by Donovan Germain himself along with material overseen by Austria’s Bassrunner Music, Germany’s Silly Walks Discotheque and Jamaica’s Vikings Productions.

Rough Survivor is a promising and smooth debut album by a passionate and uplifting vocalist, who sings about struggling and overcoming difficulties in life. It’s hard not get excited and moved when listening to tracks like Holding Firm, on the excellent Focus riddim, or the uplifting and infectious Good Morning World.

Donovan Germain has taken R.C. under his wings and is currently managing this emerging roots singer. And Donovan Germain is known for spotting great talents, so don’t be surprised when you see R.C. climbing the charts in a year or two.

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Lots of sun on Jahmali’s We I Open

artworks-000080724959-uar2os-cropOne of my favourite albums from the 90s is Jahmali’s impressive debut El Shaddai, produced by Donovan Germain and released in 1998. This is until now Jahmali’s only studio album, not counting the Bobby Digital produced compilation Treasure Box.

We I Open is Jahmali’s first full-lenght in almost 20 years. This passionate and gifted singer has certainly kept a low profile for long time. But happily enough he has started to record again.

Responsible for the new effort is Catalan label Reggaeland and duo Marcus Reggaeland and Genis “Genious” Trani, a duo also responsible for Mikey General’s latest album.

We I Open is infectious to the max and it’s hard – almost impossible – not to start singing along to songs like Courageously, on Reggaeland’s Reggae Reasoning riddim, or Silver Nutmeg, a cut that could easily have been recorded in the late 80s by Aswad or Inner Circle. Check the na-na-na-na-na and you’ll known what I mean.

We I Open equals sun-burnt skin, sand between your toes and salty hair. A cheerful contemporary rub-a-dub set with lots of light to wash your troubles away.

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D-Major gets an A for effort

10342812_10152710628951111_3645886429697710953_nJamaican singer D-Major certainly lives up to his name. His debut album It’s Major is a mix of uplifting reggae and smooth lovers rock with a dash of R&B and dancehall.

It’s Major is out on Penthouse Records, a label run by Donovan Germain, a producer that started with tough roots in the 70s, but has since changed direction and his label nowadays drops some of the most sophisticated reggae there is. And D-Major’s debut is no exception.

The sound is clean and the production is polished with glossy arrangements and slick vocals. Among the 18 tracks are beautiful songs like Real Know Real, Girl of My Dreams, That What Love’s About and Gasoline on riddims such as Street of Gold, Focus, Heart and Soul and Rock & Come Een.

But with a whopping 18 tracks it’s hard to avoid a few fillers, and the set would have been even better with a little more edge and without cuts like the pop/R&B effort Weekend or dancehall lightweighter Naked.

Still, if you aim for a melodious and harmonious album you ought to check out It’s Major.

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The smooth sounds of Penthouse

VPPH1968_Penthouse-Studio-25th-Anniversary_Album-CoverTo commemorate 25 years since the founding of Penthouse recording studio, VP Records and producer Donovan Germain – founder and owner of Penthouse Records and Penthouse studio – have collaborated on a new release titled Penthouse Records 25 Years  – The Journey Continues.

 It holds almost three hours of music and comes with three discs, of which one is a one hour and 45 minute DVD featuring many of the key players in Jamaican music, including original Penthouse crew members Tony Rebel, Richie Stephens, Wayne Wonder, Marcia Griffiths, Beres Hammond and, of course, Donovan Germain himself.

Donovan Germain has been in the music industry for well over three decades. Some of his earliest productions are rootsy albums from Cultural Roots and The Mighty Diamonds. These sets were however put out before he founded Penthouse Records and thus not included on this compilation. A bit unfortunate, since the material is strong and has a different vibe compared to the music issued on Penthouse Records.

Penthouse Records and Penthouse studio have over the years produced several smash hits, especially during the late 80s and 1990s, and both the label and the studio have continued to churn out chart-topping anthems in recent years.

The album highlights essential hits and fresh tracks from Penthouse Records’ current roster of artists as well as two unreleased cuts from the late Garnett Silk – My Favorite Song and a remix of Everything I Got

The sounds on this hefty compilation are usually smooth, melodic and easy-going and ranges from dancehall and lovers rock to one drop with a rootsy flavor. It can be upbeat and energetic, but never aggressive and hostile. Donovan Germain certainly has a way with melodies.

There are plenty of favorites, and a few a little less attractive cuts, particurlarly those with a tad too much honey.

I immediately fell in love with Chaka Demus’ Chaka On the Move, where dancehall meets gospel. Love Mi Haffi Get from Beres Hammond, El Shaddai by the criminally under-recorded Jahmali and Brickwall from Richie Stephens and Dennis Brown are also solid to say the least.

But do not forget the more contemporary crop of artists included on the set. Queen Ifria’s Lioness on the Rise, Busy Signal’s Comfort Zone and D Major’s Real Know Real are all standout cuts. So is Dean Fraser’s charming sax version of Buju Banton’s sweet Untold Stories. He’s certainly not new in the game though.

Donovan Germain has played an instrumental part in developing the careers of several world-renowned reggae stars, including Buju Banton, Wayne Wonder, Cutty Ranks and Beres Hammond and in more recent times Romain Virgo and Queen Ifrica.

His feel for quality and talent is admirable and being able to stay on top of the game for more than three decades is certainly a huge achievement.

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Beres Hammond shows who is the boss

Beres Hammond is one of Jamaica’s most beloved artists with his patented soulful singing about longing, leaving and loving as well as the occasional cultural-themed track.

He has been putting out sweet music for almost four decades, mostly as a solo vocalist, but also as lead singer in Zap Pow, and today this band is probably best known through Alborosie’s and Collie Buddz’ samples of their hard-hitting 70’s scorcher Last War.

Under his own name he has put out anguished love songs and smash hits like What One Dance Can Do, Tempted to Touch and the U Roy combination Putting Up Resistance and he has also worked with a host of Jamaica’s most prominent producers, including Donovan Germain and the late Phillip “Fattis” Burrell.

Over the years he has not been as productive as many other Jamaican artists, but has nonetheless proved to be equally at ease with every reggae genre, though usually leaning towards the soulful and melodious.

His latest and mostly self-produced full-length set One Love, One Life follows his 2008-released album A Moment in Time and collects 20 tracks on two separate discs, of which one focuses on classic lovers rock, while the second disc contains more socially-conscious cuts.

Beres Hammond has one of those instantly recognizable voices – it’s torn, rugged and smoky-sweet. And it gives the elegantly arranged and well-produced material an optimistically melancholic feel.

The album is loaded with infectious melodies and blends smooth 80’s rub a dub with contemporary roots and R&B ballads, but also adding two tracks with a ska beat, and according to a recent interview it’s the first time he sings on a ska riddim.

In 2001 Beres Hammond was nominated for a Grammy for his Music is Life album, and if there’s any justice in this world he’ll receive a nomination and maybe also an award for this compelling and cohesive set of romance and culture.

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Ups and downs on Torch’s debut album

Jamaican producer and owner of Penthouse Records Donovan Germain has been instrumental in launching several artists from his native island. One of the latest to come forward with an album is Torch, who has been recording since the late 90’s, and has been associated with Donovan Germain’s label for about a decade.

Torch’s Ever Burning Flame was supposedly intended to be released a long time ago, but was postponed, and is since late September available as digital download. It collects 16 tracks – some previously released as singles or on compilations – with Donovan Germain’s signature sound, meaning grand arrangements, sweet back-up vocals and put-your-lighter-in-the-air choruses.

Torch delivers his heartfelt lyrics aimed directly at women with assurance, but unfortunately he suffers from pitch problems from time to time, and he is at his very best when singing more aggressive and up-tempo, for example tracks such as Real Love Nuh Deh Again on the Go Fi Her riddim and High Seat on the No Money riddim. No Escape would have been a real gem, but it’s a bit ruined thanks to an annoying rock guitar during the chorus.

Ever Burning Flame is not a perfect debut, but if Torch corrects his pitch he will probably be a force to be reckoned with in the future.

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Buju Banton’s early cultural material reissued

In 2009 Jamaican deejay and Grammy winner Buju Banton dropped the album Rasta Got Soul, an album marketed as being the follow-up to his widely acclaimed and hugely influential set ‘Til Shiloh, released in 1995.

The same year he was caught with cocaine in the U.S. and two years later he was convicted and sentenced to ten years in jail.

Buju Banton’s latest album Before the Dawn, more or less made up from material from the same sessions as Rasta Got Soul, was put out in 2010, and since then it has been rather silent from one of Jamaica’s most loved and notable reggae artists.

But if you have been thirsting for his intense and abyss deep chanting VP Records has something to quench your thirst – a compilation collecting 15 cultural tunes recorded mostly for Donovan Germain and his Penthouse label.

The Early Years Vol. 2 (The Reality of Life) collects an impressive line up of conscious gems. Several of these are non-album exclusives and include guest team-ups with Morgan Heritage, Beres Hammond, Wayne Wonder and a couple more.

Several of the riddims are relicks, mostly from original Studio One riddims, and have that dark 90’s sparse and computerized feeling to them.

The Early Years Vol. 2 (The Reality of Life) hits the streets as CD and digital download and is now available in the UK, while it can be found in Germany on August 17 and in France on August 20.

And also – The Early Years Vol. 1 was put out in 2001 on Penthouse and collected mostly hardcore dancehall gems.

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More of the same from Romain Virgo

Jamaican sweetheart Romain Virgo is back with his second album, the follow-up to his much acclaimed self-titled debut album from two years back, released when he was only 20 years old.

The System has been preceded by several strong tunes, among them Wha Dis Pon Me on the Go Fi Her riddim and the infectious first single I Am Rich In Love.

It collects 15 songs tuned both in a lovers mood as well as a more conscious one, with titles such as Food Fi the Plate and Broken Heart.

Recorded mostly at the famous Donovan Germain-owned Penthouse studio in Jamaica and with production helmed by Shane Brown, Niko Browne, Vikings and Donovan Germain himself, The System is destined to be a first-class set.

And it is, even though Romain Virgo repeats himself. The System is cooked according to the same tasty recipe as his debut, which means powerful energetic vocals on top of contemporary well-produced one drop riddims.

Standout cuts include the smooth rub a dub feeling of Fired Up Inside on a relick of the Beat Down Babylon riddim made famous by Junior Byles, Another Day, Another Dollar with a gentle saxophone courtesy of Dean Fraser and the pop masterpiece Ray of Sunshine, with a synthesizer that would have made P-funk veteran George Clinton of Funkadelic and Parliament proud.

The System will probably not win any awards for being the most unique or innovative album in 2012, but it contains enough strong melodies and captivating vocals to keep me interested.

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Sugary and uneven from Sanchez

Jamaica’s number one crooner Sanchez put out the Donovan Germain-produced album Now & Forever early last year with the smashing Longing to Come Home.

Now he has another set released. Also produced by Donovan Germain. But the two albums differ in quality.

Now & Forever was mostly self-penned whereas the new album Love You More consists of 12 covers, primarily from RnB artists.

You have mostly silky smooth hit songs in the lovers vein such as Caravan of Love, originally recorded by Isley-Jasper-Isley, Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love for You, first recorded by George Benson but became a smash hit for Glenn Medeiros, and Love TKO by Teddy Pendergrass.

For me it gets a bit just too smooth. And on top of that Sanchez singing is at times below par, especially in the wailing parts where he sometimes is off-key. It’s a riddle why veteran producer Donovan Germain has let this through. And I know that Sanchez usually sings better than he does on some of the tracks on this album.

It’s a shame that such a talented producer and artist didn’t made more of this album.

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