Tag Archives: Shane Brown

Superb new album from Meta & The Cornerstones

unnamedSenegal-born – nowadays U.S. resident – Meta Dia and his Cornerstones impressed on their superb second album Ancient Power, released in 2013 and reissued last year with two previously unreleased songs.

Their new album Hira is in the same vein as its predecessor – uplifting, empowering and sweetly skanking roots reggae highly influenced by Bob Marley & The Wailers. Listen to the monumental Addis State of Mind and you’ll get the picture. It has all the right ingredients – a rock-solid bass line, breezy horns and beautiful backing vocals.

Hira is a global effort mixing many genres – including bossa nova, flamenco, jazz and rock – with a backbone of roots reggae. Musicians from all over the world lend their talents to the album, which was recorded, mixed and mastered in the UK, the Netherlands, Jamaica, France and the U.S. Meta Dia produced the album and the great Shane Brown mixed the set together with Bonzai Caruso.

This could have been a non-cohesive effort because of its many influences, but Meta Dia manages to keep the perfect balance between reggae and other influences, just like Bob Marley and Peter Tosh did.

A number of the songs give goosebumps. The Fig And The Olive Tree is one such, Spirit of the Light, Zion Stereo, Bilal and Mind Your Business are four others. The list could actually go on and on.

Essential. And probably even stronger than Ancient Power.

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A fascinating and fun search for new life

Evolution Of Dub vol. 8 - artworkGreensleeves Records’ Evolution of Dub series has over a number of years put the spotlight on key moments in the development of dub. Now the time has come for the series eighth volume, and this one offers something new compared to previous editions.

Evolution of Dub Vol. 8 – The Search for New Life includes two previously unreleased albums – Two Friends Crew’s Voyage into Dub and Shane Brown’s Juke Boxx Dub. The former collects a number of late 80s and early 90s version sides from the Two Friends label, a label run by Mikey Bennett and Patrick Lindsay, two producers and engineers that at the time worked closely with ragga giant Augustus “Gussie” Clarke.

Shane Brown is a Jamaican producer and engineer, and probably best known for his recent work for Busy Signal and Etana.

The other two sets are Prince Jammy’s Computerised Dub, a novelty effort that gives a dubwise/instrumental treatment to some mid 80s early digital gems, and Alborosie’s Dub Clash, a scarce set originally released in 2010 and where Puppa Albo dubs some of his bestsellers.

Picks of the bunch are the two contemporary sets from Shane Brown and Alborosie. The original versions for the dubs on these sets are mostly flawless and both producers/engineers are imaginative when it comes to mixing, especially Alborosie, who has given all tracks a dash of vintage flavour.

As usual, the four disc box set comes with excellent liner notes telling the story of dub and the story behind each album.

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Etana urges for a better tomorrow

Etana’s third and latest album Better Tomorrow has received rave reviews and is her most cohesive and consistent to date. Reggaemani got a chat with her about the album, working with producer Shane C. Brown and how recording while being pregnant influenced her work.

In a reggae world dominated by men, Etana, real name Shauna McKenzie, has managed to gain worldwide success with hit songs such as Free, All I Need and her 2007-released debut single Wrong Address, also included on her debut album from the year after.

Etana, which means the strong one in Swahili, realized her potential and the power of music while living in Florida in the early 2000’s studying to be a nurse. She left collage and joined a female pop/R&B trio. Her strong, soulful voice and songwriting skills soon gained attention and she was asked to join Richie Spice as one of his backup singers and eventually it led to her own recordings.

Uplifting and inspirational
Her fusion of roots reggae, soul, jazz and pop has rendered her several awards and she has also been described as somewhat of an India. Arie or Alicia Keys of reggae. And that description is probably more accurate than ever when listening to her latest album Better Tomorrow.

I reach Etana on the phone from Florida. This is the second time I’ve had the opportunity to interview her, and just like the first time she’s low-key and eloquent as she answers each question.

Etana has just released her third album Better Tomorrow.

Etana has just released her third album Better Tomorrow.

Better Tomorrow is meant to be happy and inspirational. An album you could play at home for hours, or even at a club,” she explains.

Many of the tracks are uplifting, lyrically as well as musically, but Etana takes on several hard topics as well. The title track, for instance, celebrates life itself and the blessings it brings, something that’s maybe taken for granted too often.

“A time to sing a brand new song, no more hungry children, no more tears,” she sings on Better Tomorrow, a track she penned after watching a National Geographic TV documentary about a little boy’s daily search at the dump for plastic bottles, which he would trade in for food.

“Whatever he found that day would be his family’s meals,” explains Etana, and adds:

“He found an overripe banana that you would normally throw out, but he was excited, jumped with joy and was willing to share and gave a piece of it to his sister. Even in the hardest times he was happy.”

Channel positive energy
She describes herself as an optimist and urges for a better tomorrow.

“There’s always a better tomorrow. People always complain how bad things are in their country. But that doesn’t bring any change. There has to be a better tomorrow,” she says with emphasis, and continues:

“I’ve to be an optimist. That’s where I’m today. If you keep thinking about the negative, and not the positive, you’ll keep creating more negative energy than positive.”

Recording while pregnant
While recording the album Etana was pregnant with her second child, a daughter born in November 2012, just three months before the album was released.

“Maybe at times I was affected by the pregnancy. All I Need was recorded at eight months, and it was tough doing the notes, but the rest was like nothing,” explains Etana adding that she channeled emotions and energy from the pregnancy into the album.

One of the songs, Til You Get Old, is Etana’s heartfelt pledge of love to her child, and the track also includes an actual birth. Not her own though.

“It’s our right to give birth. Giving birth and be happy about it,” she says.

One producer, one sound
Better Tomorrow is mainly recorded together with one single producer, Shane C. Brown, today probably best known for producing Busy Signal’s first reggae album and being the successful dancehall artist’s manager. The album was recorded with live musicians and Etana describes the album and the process recording it as a book with only one writer.1950_ETANA-BETTER

“Shane is very detailed and specific, but gives room to be creative, and he knew exactly what I wanted, where I was mentally. Spiritually we had a connection and it was easy to work with him,” she explains and gives an example:

“He could say ‘do the way you feel, do it your way, and then do it this way for me’”.

Etana is obviously satisfied with how the album turned out, but she doesn’t have any great expectations about it.

“I never expect this or that. I just wanted to put it out there. I want the world to appreciate it and I’m grateful for everything that comes with it,” she concludes.

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Better Tomorrow includes Etana’s finest work yet

1950_ETANA-BETTERJamaican soulful singer Etana is about to put out her third album Better Tomorrow, a 14 track set mainly produced by Busy Signal’s manager Shane C. Brown. Working with mostly one sole producer gives the album a certain and very welcome cohesiveness, something her second album Free Expressions lacked.

Better Tomorrow is a warm effort where Etana has matured and evolved as a songwriter and she deals with motherhood, unconditional love and hopelessness offering optimism and comfort in times of struggle, distress and poverty.

Her sincere and soulful singing is sublime and especially heartfelt is Till You Get Old (Life’s Gift), dedicated to her newborn daughter and complete with audio clips from an actual birth set to the tones of piano, percussion and guitar. Being a parent myself, the track sends shivers down my spine.

But you don’t have to be a parent to appreciate this album. It has a little something for everyone, while staying almost true to the reggae format. On Whole New World she takes the listener on a 80’s funky trip and the title track leans toward a latin beat, while tracks such as The Strongest and the beautiful first single Reggae are more roots oriented with dub effects and smooth organ work.

Better Tomorrow sticks like glue and includes some of Etana’s finest work yet. Check it on CD and on digital platforms on 26 February.

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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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Busy Signal waves the reggae flag high and proud

For the second time in a less than a month a dancehall superstar has dropped a more or less straight reggae album. Mr. Vegas’ double set Sweet Jamaica dropped in late March and Busy Signal’s Reggae Music Again was put out on April 10th, originally set for April 19th.

The reason for both artists putting out one drop reggae albums in 2012 is to celebrate 50 years of reggae music, or more accurately, 50 years since Jamaica’s independence from the UK on August 6th, 1962.

Where the Mr. Vegas set included several covers and sweet, honey-drenched reggae, Reggae Music Again is more of an original and individual affair.

Busy Signal is one of the most versatile and unique artists in the reggae industry today and moves seemingly effortlessly between hard, percussion-driven bashment, such as Jafrican Ting, and sexy, bedroom-luring ballads, such as the Phil Collins cover One More Night.

Reggae Music Again is somewhere in between. It’s contemporary reggae of the finest sort, blended perfectly by some of Jamaica’s top producers and musicians, including Shane C. Brown, Donovan Germain and Dean Fraser. On top of the sometimes tough, sometimes hip-hop-tinged or R&B-flavored, riddims is Busy Signal’s authoritative singing or deejaying style, occasionally spiced with auto-tune.

Among the many fine moments is the modern rub and scrub Come Over (Missing You) along with the combinations 119 and Running from the Law featuring Anthony Red Rose and Joe Lick Shot on the former and Romain Virgo and Esco Levi on the latter. Two songs with completely different moods, while 119 is dark and grim, Running from the Law is more up-tempo and cheerful with its keyboard hook in the background.

Busy Signal states in the liner notes that he’s committed to keeping the reggae flag waving high and proud. His flag is on top of the pole, and will probably stay there for years to come.

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Romain Virgo knows lovers rock

A few weeks ago, I interviewed 20-year-old sensation Romain Virgo. In the interview he said he wants to please the ladies with his music. After listening to the self-titled debut, it is easy to say that this is indeed the case. Much of the material has an air of teenage love and many of the songs are lovers rock of the highest class, such as Love Doctor, Should I Call Her and Dark Skin Girl.

Romain Virgo is young, but he sings like he has been in the music business for a decade. He has an amazing control over of his voice and it is clear that he is classically trained. It’s soulful, heartfelt and often heartbreakingly beautiful. However, many of the songs are uplifting and a perfect soundtrack for lazy days on the beach.

Although Romain Virgo has a voice many singers can only dream about, he has had a great help in the producer’s chair. Legendary Donovan Germain has been producing since the 70’s and has worked with stars such as Freddie McGregor, Marcia Griffiths and Buju Banton. On this album he’s behind most of the songs, gems such as Mi Caan Sleep and Who Feel It Knows It, a duet with Etana.

But the best track is still Live Mi Life on the revitalized Boops Riddim signed Shane C. Brown, a young and upcoming producer with great talent.

Romain Virgo may be young, but he is already mentioned in the same sentence as established lovers rock stars such as Sanchez and Beres Hammond. A truly great effort and hopefully Romain Virgo continue in the same footsteps as those great singers.

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Capletons eld brinner ut

För ett år sedan skrev jag krönikan ”Unga arga män, gamla lugna gubbar”. Tesen var ungefär ju äldre desto mjäkigare.

Det stämmer in på fyrtioplussaren Capleton. Nya plattan I-Ternal Fire – den första på sex år – är lugnare än någonsin. För de som följt honom har utvecklingen kanske varit naturlig – han har blivit lugnare och lugnare för varje platta under 2000-talet. Men I-ternal Fire är dessvärre provocerande mjäkig. På Reign of Fire från 2004 fanns tendenser till en velourfarsa, men jag trodde inte att det skulle gå så här långt. Borta är högoktaniga dancehallpärlor som Real Hot och tunga rootsdängor som That Day Will Come.

Visst, det finns bra låtar på I-Ternal Fire, men det är långt mellan guldklimparna. Acres, på rytmen Indescretions producerad av Shane C. Brown, släpptes förra året och är plattans starkaste spår. Them Get Corel blandar spansk gitarr med nyabinghi och funkar faktiskt ganska bra. When I Come To Town har bra verser, men brister i refrängen eftersom Capleton envisas med att sjunga. Det här är ett problem på flera låtar. Han är en tung deejay med en stenbrottsröst av det elakare slaget när han tar i. Men sjunga kan han inte.

De största problemen finns i balladerna. Och de är alldeles för många. Mammahyllningen Mama You Strong, med sina plastiga syntar, är ingen av hans bättre låtar i karriären.

Faktum är att han inte ens lyckas göra en särskilt bra version av Kemar ”Flava” McGregors monsterrytm Rub A Dub från 2008.

Capleton har gått från att hälla bensin på en majbrasa till att lägga pinnar på en lägereld. Han måste få bättre fjutt på glöden. More fire!

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