The debut album from Jamaican production duo Natural High Music is a sensational one. It’s a 16 track compilation that’s dread, dense and surprisingly cohesive.
Urban Roots features singers from the new and old generation. Most are actually more or less newcomers and the only veterans are Lutan Fyah and Mikey General. Some of the others have however already proven themselves prior to this lovely set, for example Dre Island, Stevie Lightning from Rootz Underground, Jahvinci, Chezidek, Keida and the stylistically superior Jesse Royal.
It all starts off with Dre Island’s contemporary roots scorcher Live Forever and ends with an inspired dub version of the same track. In between these gems there are both dark and heavy and sweet and beautiful cuts. All are however influenced by dub mixing techniques and some explore booming hip-hop from the early 90s. The tempo is often slowly pulsating driven by rebellious bass lines and deadly drums.
An excellent compilation showcasing just how strong the reggae scene in Jamaica is at the moment.
UK-born reggae veteran Mikey General has teamed up with Spain’s Reggaeland label for his latest and 12th studio set Hailelujah Song, an album recorded in Kingston and Barcelona, packed with 15 organic tracks played and executed by multi-instrumentalist Genis “Genious” Trani and producer Marcus Reggaeland.
First. I’m not a huge fan of Mikey General’s high-pitched nasal singing style. It’s kind of complaining and moaning and is better suited for singles rather than full-length albums.
Second. This is not necessarily the case with Hailelujah Song.
Third. This is Mikey General’s most solid album in years. And probably also the best full-length I’ve heard from Reggaeland.
Hailelujah Song has taken two years to finish and the result is a positive and mostly laid-back album filled with smooth UK lovers rock vibes, slightly rougher Jamaican roots reggae and contemporary and radio-friendly reggae. Highlights include the Sly & Robbie-tinged Rastafari Never Dies, the up-tempo Sr Wilson combination Quicker They Run and the uplifting title track.
It’s obvious that both Reggaeland and Mikey General have been inspired on their journey together and this album definitely showcases the best from both parties.
UK-born singer Mikey General has been in the music business for ages. He recorded his first tracks in the UK in the mid 80’s and later relocated to Jamaica where he started to work with the late producer Phillip “Fattis” Burell, for whom he has to date recorded his best material.
When in Jamaica he met vocalist Luciano and together they formed the jointly owned label Qabalah First Music, a label on which Mikey General has put out several albums. The latest is African Story, African Glory.
This 16 track set includes both old and new material recorded for a variety of different producers from Jamaica, Europe and the U.S.
The album offers mostly roots and culture material and includes a few gems, such as the Toussaint combination I Blaze, Innocent Blood on the haunting Sunrise Boulevard riddim and the pounding Pep in Your Step. There are however also a few disappointments, of which the synthesizer drenched Not Impossible and the Lfa Tunde combination All Over the World are the worst.
African Story, African Glory is decent album, but nothing outstanding despite some bright moments. Mikey General’s high tenor voice is also an acquired taste. His style works best in smaller doses, for example singles or combinations, such as the recently released Work with Uwe Banton or the bass heavy King Selassie I Alone for Reggaeland.
The European reggae scene has been thriving for years and the development is mainly led by France, Germany and the UK, countries with several talented performers and producers. Both France and the UK have a large population of Caribbean descent. Germany, however, has managed to be a vital part of the European reggae scene without people coming from Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago or some of the other islands where people live and breathe reggae and dancehall.
Bielefeld is a small German city known for its industries and its local university, but also for roots rasta artist Uwe Banton. Well, Bielefeld is maybe not synonymous with Uwe Banton yet, but things might change thanks to his third solo album Mental War, a 13 track set mostly produced by the singer himself and with a little help from musicians such as Moritz von Korff, who has played a important role in the development of the contemporary European reggae scene.
Mental War offers the usual rootsy European sound with influences from hip-hop, soul and ska and with lyrics dealing with faith, unity, romance and the importance of making an effort in life working and contributing to society. The latter topic is of great importance at the moment due to the debt crisis in the U.S. and parts of Europe.
Uwe Banton has also thrown in the more or less mandatory marijuana anthem. The Roots of It (Cannabis Song) is a bright and sing-a-long friendly piece where he argues why ganja should be legal.
The album collects four combinations – two with Jamaican veterans Mikey General and Luciano and two with fellow Germans Jahcoustix and Cornadoor. The duet with Jahcoustix is recorded over Dub Inc’s mighty No Doubt riddim released last year and is the strongest moment on an otherwise solid set.
In November of last year Mikey General – veteran singer and long time friend of Luciano – dropped his latest album Born to Rule, a 14 track set full of modern roots and released on his and Luciano’s jointly owned imprint Qabalah First Music.
Mikey General started his career in the UK in the early 80’s and relocated to Jamaica in the beginning of the 90’s. He has recorded with some of the best producers in Jamaica, including the mighty Phillip “Fatis” Burrell.
Even though he has put out several albums, recorded with many prominent producers and had the backing of Luciano, Mikey General hasn’t had a big breakthrough yet. And in my opinion this album won’t change his stardom.
My biggest issue with the General is his voice. It is high pitched, light, complaining and too thin for my taste. At times it is reminiscent of Horace Andy, but not as personal.
For me, Mikey General is at his best on singles, such as the great Jah Jah Have the Handle, released some months ago on the JahSolidRock label or the dubby Tell it Like it Is produced by Ryan Moore of Twilight Circus. His voice just doesn’t hold for 14 tunes in a row.
And maybe that is why the best tune is Ababa Janhoy with Luciano and Ethiopian singer Haile Roots. This combination is based on an Arabic tinged riddim and the lyrics are partly sung in Amharic.
Born to Rule is a statement of self spiritualization and righteousness, but I can’t say that I feel motivated afterwards.