Tag Archives: Penthouse Records

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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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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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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Romain Virgo vill behaga damerna

Jamaicanska underbarnet Romain Virgo är aktuell med sin självbetitlade debut som släpps den åttonde juni. Reggaemani har pratat med honom om tillståndet på Jamaica, hur det var att arbeta med legendariske producenten Donovan Germain och vad han influeras av.

Romain Virgo var bara 17 år gammal när han 2007 – som den yngste någonsin – vann tävlingen Digicel Rising Stars på Jamaica. Förra året släpptes en promoplatta på Penthouse Records med fyra låtar som lovande gott inför framtiden.

Nu är han kontrakterad till stora skivbolaget VP och släpper snart debutplattan som bär hans eget namn.

Jag får en pratstund med honom på telefon från Jamaica där han gör intervjuer med internationella medier. Läget i landet är kritiskt och över 60 personer har dödats under det undantagstillstånd som råder på ön.

− Det är tufft på Jamaica just nu och jag försöker att inte gå ut i onödan, säger han på kraftig patois, och tillägger att det inte är ett normaltillstånd på ön.

Något betydligt roligare att tala om är Romain Virgos platta som är klar efter omkring ett års arbete tillsammans med bland andra legendariske producenten Donovan Germain.

− Det är en riktigt bra känsla att skivan är klar och att arbeta med Donovan Germain har varit fantastiskt. Han har blivit något av en fadersfigur för mig, berättar Romain Virgo.

Romain Virgo skriver om egna upplevelser och saker som händer omkring honom, men menar att det ska vara upplyftande att lyssna på och gå att dansa till musiken. Han nämner också en särskilt viktig målgrupp.

− Att damerna uppskattar musiken är jätteviktigt, skrattar han och fortsätter:

− Men nya plattan innehåller förhoppningsvis något för alla.

Han växte upp med klassiska reggaeartister och säger sig ha influerats mycket av stjärnor som Bob Marley, Dennis Brown, Beres Hammond och Alton Ellis, som han också gjort en hyllning till.

− Det var Donovan Germain som föreslog en hyllning till Alton Ellis efter att han gick bort. Jag träffade aldrig Alton Ellis, men han är en riktig favorit. Jag kunde redan Breaking Up och Willow Tree så det var lätt att spela in Alton’s Medley.

Utöver kommande plattan försöker Romain Virgo fokusera på sina heltidsstudier vid Edna Manley College i Kingston. Och det har varit en hektisk tid.

− Jag är glad att jag har så förstående lärare. Jag har lagt mycket tid på att marknadsföra skivan och var i USA för en månad sedan. Förmodligen kommer jag att vara klar i skolan om två år och då kan jag fokusera helt på musiken.

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