On Gentleman’s second combination album Conversations – his first was with powerful crooner Richie Stephens – he teams up with Bob Marley’s son Ky-Mani Marley. He appeared on Gentleman’s excellent MTV Unplugged set and that was the start of their future collaboration, which led to a joint tour and ultimately this album.
No Solidarity – which they sang together on the unplugged album – is also featured on Conversations, but with a more polished production. And that’s the case with the album as a whole – it’s polished and sophisticated with ingredients such as vulnerable strings, subtle piano, grand backing vocals and melancholic lyrics about ways to make things better in a world of war and despair.
Conversations is a call for change. Gentleman and Ky-Mani Marley are tired of social media and faceless communication and believe that face to face communication can create better interactions and deepen connections between people.
It might be some truth to that, but social media is also a powerful tool to reach people and connect with others around the world. People that you would never have talked to otherwise. For artists it’s also an immensely important marketing and promotional tool, a tool that can be tailored for sharing messages of universal love and equality.
So, sure, there are challenges with the digital age. Unplug and disconnect and talk at the dinner table, but don’t forget that there’s another world out there with people waiting to hear from you.
German reggae superstar Gentleman has recently put out an unplugged set, like so many other reggae artists have done recently. Tarrus Riley, Clinton Fearon and Richie Spice are three examples. Gentleman’s album is however a bit different since it was recorded with a live audience and with a full orchestra – including both horns and strings – backing him.
But just like several other unplugged sets it’s not really unplugged or acoustic, as it’s supposed to be. That doesn’t matter, since this is truly a great album.
I’ve never been a huge fan of live albums though. Don’t know why. Maybe it has something to do with it being very hard to create that live feeling on record. But on Gentleman’s MTV Unplugged it works really, really well. It sounds like it was a huge concert.
The deluxe edition of this album collects no less than 28 tracks taken from all but one of Gentleman’s albums. No cuts from his Trodin On set, but several from his most recent efforts – Diversity and New Day Dawn. Included are also non-album cuts like Tranquillity, To the Top and Runaway along with a cover of the Bob Marley’s classic Redemption Song.
There are also two new songs –the heartfelt No Solidarity, sung together with Ky-Mani Marley, and Warn Dem, a scorching call and response combination with Shaggy aimed directly at all best of the year lists. Those tracks are together with a furious version of Leave Us Alone, originally on his Journey to Jah album, some of the brightest highlights.
The MTV Unplugged format was immensely popular in the 90s and I thought it was dead, but this album shows that it’s still very much alive and kicking.
Here’s yet another rave review. This time’s it’s the multi-talented Italian turned Jamaican reggae artist Alborosie’s latest 16 track set Sound the System, on which he plays almost every instrument himself. He’s a do it yourself kind of guy that also writes most of his own material and produces himself.
Vocal duties are however shared with a number of other artists, including Ky-Mani Marley on a remake of Bob Marley’s Zion Train, Italian reggae star Nina Zilli on the jazzy ska flavored Goodbye, sweet singing Kemar on the beautiful There is a Place, Nature on the catchy Warrior and veteran vocal harmony trio The Abyssinians on Give Thanks, a track on which they provide harmonies sang in Amharic, the sacred language of Ethiopia.
Sound the System is Puppa Rosie’s fifth album and has a classic, yet contemporary, sound heavily influenced by early 80’s dancehall in a Sly & Robbie style and fashion. He uses live instruments and analogue recording techniques to achieve his vintage sound which carry plenty of references to eras when Bob Marley, Yellowman, Burning Spear and Barrington Levy ruled the charts.
Alborosie is a virtual virtuoso at writing bubbling and boisterous riddims, catchy melodies and hooks and righteous and rebellious lyrics, but without being preachy or moralizing. His more humorous side can be heard in soundsystem anthems and burial tunes like Who Run the Dance, Shut U Mouth and Rock the Dancehall.
Sound the System is a diverse and passionate reggae cocktail by an artist that knows how to create hit songs with a message.
Last year Jamaican singer/singjay Protoje came to prominence with his debut single Arguments, produced by his cousin Don Corleon.
Now Protoje is about to release his debut album 7 Year Itch, also produced by Don Corleon. The release has been preceded by a well orchestrated marketing campaign – free download of single J.A, a documentary called The 7 Year Wish, an album sampler, and last but not least, a bunch of strong singles, all included on the album.
The songs on 7 Year Itch have been written over seven years and Protoje sings about this process in the percussion driven title track and album opener. The album is characterized by strong pop melodies and a vintage reggae feeling on most of the tracks. The only exception is the electric contemporary dancehall in Overtime.
Bob Marley’s spirit rests heavily on several of the songs and sometimes it sounds like The I-Threes are signing the background vocals.
Protoje has also invited three guest artists – well known singers Ky-Mani Marley and Gentleman as well as upcoming female singer Jah9, whose jazz-tinged and Erykah Badu-esque voice beautifully suits Protoje’s patois heavy delivery.
I’ve been looking forward to the 7 Year Itch album for a long time and I’m very happy to say that it fulfilled my expectations. Protoje has obviously had a great mentor when making this album and it’s an itch that I’m glad to have experienced.
The album is due on January 25 and will be available digitally as well as physically.