Jamaican singer Mark Wonder dropped his debut album Jeremiah almost 20 years ago and he has since put out another five studio sets, including his latest effort Dragon Slayer produced by the mighty Irie Ites from France.
Dragon Slayer – which is Mark Wonder’s moniker – follows Scrolls of the Levite, which was produced by U.S.-based Nowtime Sound. That set was heavily influenced by hip-hop whereas Dragon Slayer leans more towards uncompromising roots, even though hip-hop elements turn up in a track like People Need Security, voiced over a version of the Billie Jean riddim.
Mark Wonder is a voiced to be reckoned within the contemporary roots community and he has over the years recorded together with a broad variety of producers and artists, including AL.TA.FA.AN Records, Oneness, Bobby Digital, Sizzla, Capleton and Luciano.
His voice has improved over the years, but he still sounds a lot like the late and great Garnett Silk. His singing is emotional and powerful and he delivers these cultural and militant numbers with melody and soul.
When I reviewed Scrolls of the Levite in 2015 I stated that that was his best album to date. Well, that was then. Dragon Slayer – powered by riddims laid by Roots Radics and Mafia & Fluxy – is now his best. Let’s see what happens when another album drops.
Garnett Silk-influenced Jamaican singer Mark Wonder, aka Dragon Slayer, has a fresh new album out. Scrolls of the Levite collects 13 tracks, including one dub version, produced by U.S. Nowtime Sound. And the result is an uncompromising and cohesive effort with clear hip-hop influences throughout.
The soundscape is often dubby and dread. The often emotional Mark Wonder signs praises of the Almighty, hails Jah and warns the youth against going astray. Onboard the journey is skilled hornsmen Dean Fraser and Nambo Robinson on saxophone and trombone respectively.
Best of the buch is the slightly offbeat Rude Boys in Town, the militant Buzzrock Soldiers with its infectious electronic instrumentation, Long Road, on a hip-hop-tinged version of Ras Michael’s mighty None a Jah Jah Children, and the haunting Rebels.
Scrolls of the Levite offers a tasty mix of beats and riddims with forward-thinking arrangements and song structures and its definitely Mark Wonder’s best work to date.
About a year ago Jamaican singer Mark Wonder revealed that a new album from him and some European producers was in the making. This album was released about a month ago and bears the title Working Wonders.
The European producers he referred to are Moritz “Da Baron” von Korff, courtesy of German Oneness Records, and Daddy Zigo, of French band Dub Inc. and Greenyard Records.
Mark Wonder released his debut album Sign of the Times in 1996, and Working Wonders follows on his True Stories of Mark Wonder and Friends put out in 2009 and reissued the year after with better distribution.
Working Wonders is jam-packed with uplifting, bright and beautiful melodies along with skanking bass lines and breezy, at times, jazzy horns. Mark Wonder’s gospel-inspired voice is however not as strong as the superb backing, and he is at times saved by powerful back-up vocals courtesy of experienced singers such as Sara Lugo and Nicky Burt.
The lead vocals are sometimes shaky, mostly in the higher notes, and he should take on a more no-nonsense vocal approach and stay away from vocal acrobatics. He shines on tracks like the crisp On This Day and the heartfelt Woman of the Nile, while the combinations with Sizzla and Mikey Melody are more vocally weak.
Mark Wonder’s continuous collaborations with European producers have over the years had its ups and downs and this album is no exception.
Working Wonders is currently available on CD and digital download.