Tag Archives: Tarrus Riley

Stellar compilation presents Jimmy Riley at his best

366If you are in a hurry and need to know about Jimmy Riley’s Live It To Know It, five words – get it, it is essential. I you want the story you can continue.

Jimmy Riley – father of acclaimed contemporary reggae singer Tarrus Riley – started his career in the mid-60 as part of rocksteady vocal harmony group The Sensations, an outfit that also included sublime falsetto singer Cornel Campbell. After a while he left that group and formed The Uniques with another renowned falsetto singer – Slim Smith.

After several hit singles with The Uniques, including My Conversation, one of the best rocksteady cuts ever recorded, he went solo and started recording with the likes of Lee Perry, Bunny Lee and Sly & Robbie, with whom he recorded easy-skanking solo hits like Love and Devotion and Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing, a song that topped reggae charts in 1983.

On UK reissue label Pressure Sounds’ 87th release they have focused on Jimmy Riley, but not his most well-known cuts. No, Live It To Know It collects self-produced material recorded approximately between 1975 and 1984. And this is message music. It’s roots music with sparse arrangements and minor chords, and Jimmy Riley sings about immigration, poverty, struggles, equality and justice.

Live It To Know It contains 17 songs and is long overdue. Jimmy Riley is one of many often overlooked Jamaican singers. He has a stellar tenor voice with a bit of grittiness to it. It’s emotive, pleading and heartfelt. He’s a bona-fide soul singer.

This album has everything a great reissue should have – excellent music, discomixes, devastating dub versions, good audio quality, scarce material and vivid liner notes. It collects nothing but the best and it captures Jimmy Riley at his finest.

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Warm and easy on Duane Stephenson’s Dangerously Roots

unnamedPassionate Jamaican singer Duane Stephenson has spent the past three years touring as lead vocalist with the Original Wailers, but has now returned as a solo artist.

Dangerously Roots – Journey From August Town is his third album following his departure from 7-piece band To Isis, a band where he started his professional career. His debut set was the acclaimed From August Town, which included the magnificent title track. It was followed by the syrupy Black Gold, a set that lacked a bit of edge.

For his new album Duane Stephenson and his label have – just like on his previous albums – enlisted an all-star production team, including Jamaican heavyweights Clive Hunt, Dean Fraser, Christopher Birch, Phillip James and Donovan Germain with guest appearances from Tarrus Riley, I-Octane, Lutan Fyah and Mutabaruka.

The first single off the album was a warm and contemporary remake of Bunny Wailer’s Cool Runnings. And the whole album is just as strong as that particular single.

Dangerously Roots is roots reggae, but not dangerous at all. Rather the opposite. It’s slick, stylish and sophisticated with memorable pop hooks and infectious melodies.

Duane Stephenson singing is heartfelt and he has a sadness in his voice that gives the set a melancholic feel throughout. It certainly adds a sincere flavour to his fight for unity and social change.

So, welcome back Duane. I hope you’ll continue to record as a solo artist.

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Shabba Ranks joins forces with Shane C. Brown

Greatest CreationRenowned Jamaican producer and mixing engineer Shane C. Brown returns to the dancehall scene with a new one riddim album – Greatest Creation, set for release on June 10th.

This hard hitting riddim is voiced by no other than dancehall don Shabba Ranks along with Tarrus Riley, Lady Saw and Konshens. According to a press release it has been more than a decade since Shabba Ranks voiced a riddim in a Jamaican studio.

Welcome back Shane and Shabba!

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Cross-generational vibes from Tarrus Riley

Tarrus-Riley-Love-Situation-AlbumOn his fifth album Love Situation Tarrus Riley and his fellow producers Dean Fraser, Shane C. Brown, Mitchum Khan Chin and Jordan McClure take a stroll down memory lane to Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle studio.

Love Situation is a throwback to Jamaica in the 60s, a time when rocksteady and early reggae ruled the airwaves and U Roy, The Uniques and Ken Boothe dominated the charts.

The set mixes samples from the past with new instrumentation. Melodically and rhythmically it’s contemporary vintage, modern old-school or current classic. Just listen to Tarrus Riley’s version of The Gaylads’ excellent ABC Rocksteady titled 1, 2, 3 I Love You. This track also sets the theme for the full album. It’s mostly about relations and affairs of the heart.

It has the same timeless quality and feel as some of the best cuts coming from Duke Reid, Bunny Lee or Coxsone Dodd in their heydays.

Great riddims and strong vocals courtesy of Tarrus Riley’s warm tenor voice along with his invited fellow singers U Roy, Konshens, Big Youth, Mr Cheeks and Wippa Demus make Love Situation a tasty effort.

And with its 17 tracks Love Situation is certainly a long-player. But it still leaves me wanting more of the slick and polished intergenerational vibes that that this project has to offer.

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Wayne Marshall highlights his tru colors

WAYNE-MARSHALL-TRU-COLORS-cover-op-color-font-44More than ten years has passed since Wayne Marshall dropped his debut album Marshall Law. Now he’s back with a second set on a new label – the Marley owned Ghetto Youths International. But that’s not the only Marley connection. Damian Marley has also produced most of the tracks and he also makes a guest appearance on the club anthem Go Hard, a cut that also features Assassin aka Agent Sasco, Vybz Kartel, I Octane, Aidonia and Bounty Killer. Did someone say prominent guest artists?

Well, we’re not done yet. Not nearly. Tarrus Riley, Cham, Capleton and Stephen Marley is on board, so is Tessanne Chin, this season’s winner of NBC’s The Voice and Marshall’s sister-in-law. Hip-hop artists Ace Hood and Waka Flocka also join the party.

On album opener It’s On Now, Wayne Marshall sets the rules for the album and states that Tru Colors represents his growth over the years. It has come down to this. A mature and contemporary reggae album spiced with hip-hop, R&B, gospel and electronic dance music.

Wayne Marshall is a multi-faceted artist, equally at home with singing and singjaying. I prefer the latter, even though he makes a strong singing effort on a version of R.E.M’s mega smash Losing My Religion. Marshall’s take is called On the Corner and is about the choices people make in life, choices essential to the fate – “that’s me in the school yard, that’s you in the school fight trying to please your ego… That’s me in the studio, that’s you on the crack pipe searching for the answers and still hiding form the light”. Listen kids – these choices are crucial and might have an significant impact on what happens in life.

Other important issues discussed is child molesting and missing children on Be on the Alert, honesty on Tru Colors, struggle on Nah Give Up and aspiration on Stupid Money.

Tru Colors certainly covers a diverse range of moods, styles and topics and Wayne Marsall shows that he is a clever lyricist with a feel for memorable melodies.

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Passionate with a rock-twist on Mystikal Revolution’s debut album

disc-3125-mystikal-revolution-divide-and-ruleIf you’ve followed this blog for a while you probably know that I’m not a huge fan of combining rock guitar and rock arrangements with reggae. It’s often – not always – a poor combination that should be avoided.

Luckily enough there are times when it works pretty well. This is the case with Jamaican six piece band Mystikal Revolution’s debut album Divide and Rule. They’re part of the ongoing Jamaican resurgence of live bands that have going on for a while now.

Divide and Rule was exclusively released in Jamaica more than a month ago and it didn’t hit the world market until April 9. It collects 13 tracks with fierce social commentaries and sweet romancing as well as the upbeat sing-along friendly Reggae Skanking, where strained, gruff and passionate lead singer Sanjay Barrett shares vocal duties with slick veteran Bunny Rugs and the always reliable Tarrus Riley.

Other reggae royalty that turns up to pay respect to this talented band are Sizzla and Queen Ifrica.

The set is self-produced and their take on reggae is raw with a straightforward rock twist. The lead guitar is prominent and there are several rock-flavored solos throughout the album, particularly in the title track and the excellent Sizzla combination Gangster Story.

There are also more traditional sounds on Divide and Rule, for example classic Marley reggae in the dramatic Revolution with a melody that sounds custom-made for a Broadway musical.

Mystikal Revolution manages to get away with their homage to guitar heroes like Slash and Yngwie Malmsteen. Their grooves, their passion and their integrity to go their own way can’t be ignored.

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50 best reggae songs in 2012

So it’s that time of the year again. December means best-of-the-year-lists, and first out is the best songs put out in 2012.

This year I decided to make a huge list covering no less than 50 tracks, mainly for two reasons – it has been a great year for both reggae and dancehall and I also wanted to present a list showcasing several different styles – dancehall, dubstep, one drop and UK steppers are all included on the list.

Just as previous years the list features mostly artists from Jamaica, while the producers hail from Europe, the U.S. and Jamaica. What makes this year’s list a bit different though is the inclusion of lots of dancehall. This year has been fruitful for electronic, bouncy and playful dancehall.

When browsing the list you’ll probably notice that Tarrus Riley is still the artist running the show. On the production side Frenchie from Maximum Sound is perhaps the most reliable and consistent producer and all of his riddims from 2012 are included in the list.

Female singers are few and far between. It’s a pity, but it’s sadly how the reggae industry looks like. A one riddim album usually has about ten tracks, and of these one, or at most two, are by female artists. This has been the case for years, and nothing indicates a change in the near future.

The tracks are presented in no particular order and I’ve only selected tracks released as singles, from one riddim albums or from compilations, i.e. no one artist albums.

If you’re curious about the music you can check a playlist I’ve made on Spotify by clicking here. This list doesn’t however cover all tracks, and lethal gems such as General Levy’s Dub Murda on Irie Ites’ Stop That Sound riddim or Loyal FlamesKeep Focus. The latter is currently only available as 7” and the former is available on other digital platforms, for example iTunes.

Song title – artist (label – riddim)

Capital Offence – Captain Sinbad (Maximum Sound – Rudebwoy be Nice)

Selecta – Rayvon (Ranch Ent. – Kingston 13)

Final Move – Cornadoor & Kabaka Pyramid (Weedy G Soundforce)

Original Dancehall Days – Starkey Banton (Mafia & Fluxy – Bun n’ Cheese)

We Run It –Tarrus Riley (Charlie Pro)

Go Down – Machel Montano (Mixpak – Loudspeaker)

It’s a Party – Elephant Man & Tarrus Riley (Romeich – Stinking Link)

Shots – Voicemail (Akom – Full Swing)

No Barbershop – Conkarah (Lifeline – Rock Fort Rock)

Badmind a Kill Dem – Popcaan (UPT 007 – Juicy)

Trod in the Valley – Lorenzo (Irie Ites – Borderline RMX)

Chill Spot – Chris Martin (Chimney – Chill Spot)

Independent Ladies – Gaza Slim (TJ – Summer Wave)

Chant Rastafari – Tarrus Riley (Maximum Sound – Most Royal)

Blood Thirsty – Jah Mali (Necessary Mayhem – Possessed)

Fire Fire – Capleton (Dynasty – Kush Morning)

Perilous Times – Luciano (Maximum Sound – Dance Ruler)

Start A Fyah – Chronixx (Jungle Josh – Game Theory)

Cyaan Tek Di System – Burro Banton (Weedy G Soundforce – Roadster)

Make It Bun Dem – Skrillex & Damian Marley (Big Beat)

Kingston Town Remix – Busy Signal & Damian Marley (VP)

Addicted – Conkarah & Denyque (Lifeline)

Irie Collie – The Tamlins (Irie Ites – Jah Jah Man)

Nuh Rate Dem – Capleton (DJ Frass – Cross Fire)

Sorry Is A Sorry Word – Tarrus Riley (TJ – Live In Love)

OK – Sizzla & Neïman (Union World – Melodical Fyah)

Jump + Rock + Move – Wrongtom & Deemas J (Tru Thoughts)

Blaze & Rum – Etzia & Fambo (Jugglerz – Kickdown)

Let Jah Lead The Way – Iba Mahr (Notice Productions – Digital Love)

Badmind Dem A Pree – I Octane & Bounty Killer (Markus)

Wild Bubble – Voicemail (Cr203/ZJ Chrome – Wild Bubble)

We Nah Bow – Sizzla (Boom Shak – We Nah Bow)

Obeah Man – Turbulence & I Shenko (Riddim Wise – Downtown)

Kingston Be Wise – Protoje (Don Corleon)

Upgrade – Ce’Cile (21st Hapilos – Corner Shop)

Dub Murda – General Levy (Irie Ites – Stop That Sound)

Them See Me As A Threat – Lutan Fyah (Adde Instrumentals/RR345 Muzik – Sweet Sounds)

Again And Again – Stein (Cashflow – Sun Tan)

Mama – Christopher Martin (DZL – Perfect Key)

Party – Top Cat (Weedy G Soundforce – Jump Up!)

R.A.S.T.A.F.A.R.I. – Professa Natti (Scoops)

Sound System Culture – Digitaldubs & YT (Scotch Bonnet)

Words Of My Mouth – Earl Sixteen (The Bombist – Words Of My Mouth)

How Do You Like My Music – Terry Linen (TeTe)

Keep Focus – Loyal Flames (Vikings – Focus)

I’m A Survivor – Peetah Morgan (Special Delivery – Feel Good)

The Streets of London – Soothsayers (Red Earth)

Every Single Thought – Christopher Martin (Jugglerz – Street Soul)

Badda Dan Dem – Beenie Man (Radio Active)

Jamaica 50 – Captain Sinbad (Maximum Sound – Leggo Di Riddim)

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No fillers on new compilation from Maximum Sound

In late June I summarized the first six months of the year with a selection of my 15 favorite tunes yet. The list included two tracks – Captain Sinbad’s Capital Offence and Tarrus Riley’s Chant Rastafari – on the mighty Maximum Sound label, and if Luciano’s Perilous Times on the Dance Ruler riddim would have been issued at the time it would definitely also have made the list.

These three songs along with 16 more are collected on the compilation Maximum Sound 2012. As the title suggests it is made up from the label’s vinyl releases this year, which means the riddims Most Royal, Leggo di Riddim, the aforementioned Dance Ruler and Rude Bwoy Be Nice, a clever relick of Ini Kamoze’s England Be Nice, a track recently utilized by Don Corleon for Protoje’s Kingston Be Nice.

As usual with material from producer Frenchie and Maximum Sound the crème de la crème of Jamaican artists are featured and there’s a no filler rule applied, which makes the selection strong as concrete. Do yourself a favor and go check this digital only compilation immediately.

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Richie Spice passed his own test

The acoustic trend has taken reggae by storm and this year both Clinton Fearon and Tarrus Riley have each put out an acclaimed set. Now it’s Richie Spice’s turn. His Soothing Sounds: Acoustic collects re-recordings of old material coupled with new tracks. Reggaemani had a chat with Richie Spice about why he has stripped himself and why the album is already a classic.

Soothing Sounds presents Richie Spice unplugged for the first time.

Ask any music fan about his or her favorite acoustic reggae track and the answer will probably be Bob Marley’s heartfelt Redemption Song, included on his last album Uprising released in 1980. Bob Marley was not the first to record reggae with sparse arrangements, and one of my personal favorites is Joe Higgs’ – coincidentally Bob Marley’s mentor – unplugged version of There’s a Reward.

Over the last years the acoustic reggae catalogue has grown, partly thanks to guitarist Earl “Chinna” Smith and his nyabinghi-influenced project Inna de Yard All Stars.

In 2012 the catalogue has broadened even more since two world-known singers have dropped acoustic sets – Tarrus Riley’s Mecoustic and Clinton Fearon’s Heart and Soul.

Being a positive force
A third artist drops his acoustic project tomorrow. Richie Spice is his name, and you will know him by a trail of strong albums and equally strong singles, including Earth a Run Red, Youth Dem Cold, Marijuana and Di Plane Land. You might also recognize his rugged crooning and his railing against injustices and the plight of the oppressed.

“I want to educate the youths and make uplifting music,” explains Richie Spice over the phone from Kingston, Jamaica, and continues:

“Doing positive things and being a positive force is an important role to me.”

A family affair
Richie Spice was born Richell Bonner in the Kingston suburb of St. Andrew in 1971, and hails from a musical family that includes his older brother Pliers, from the deejay/singer duo Chaka Demus & Pliers, middle brother and singer Spanner Banner as well as his younger brother Snatcha Lion. The latter two team up with Richie Spice on the family affair More Love.

It was Spanner Banner who initially brought Richie Spice to the recording studio, although he didn’t get the opportunity to record that time it opened his eyes to the proficiency required to succeed in the reggae industry.

“It was a strong learning experience. At that time I tried to record but I was never really ready so I couldn’t manage it. But it showed me that there is a lot of work to be done. So just do the necessary things until you reach that space where you are supposed to be,” recalls Richie Spice.

Gave himself a test
His biggest hit to date is Youth Dem Cold, which peaked at 59 on Billboard’s Top 100 Singles Chart and was featured in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV.

Richie Spice is a man of few words and it seems he likes his music to do much of the talking, but it’s apparent that he has high hopes on his new album.

“It has been on my mind for a long time and now it’s manifested to reality. It’s a new path in my career and it’s very exciting,” he says.

The recording process has taken some time – approximately nine months – and the album is produced by himself with a little help from co-producer Mitchum “Khan” Chin.

“The process was different [compared to an ordinary album]. I played it at home, I played it in the studio, adding things, making improvements,” he explains, and continues:

“There are things in life you’d like to do if you’d get the opportunity, and I wanted to give myself a test. Can I do this,” he asks, and adds:

“The album has a good vibration and I was feeling it from a long time. It’s an inspired album with songs I really loved and other people loved them also. I wanted to break it down and add a new level to them,” he explains referring to the re-recorded tracks on the set.

“The songs are classic”
An unplugged environment is naked and personal, which puts Richie Spice’s passionate vocals very much in the front. He sings every word and every syllable like he means them, something that put a lot of weight on his socially-conscious anthems about righteousness, unity and love.

Soothing Sounds presents Richie Spice unplugged for the first time, even though the albums boasts a myriad of influences and musical influences – contemporary acoustic rock, Spanish guitar, jazz and African drum beats to 80’s soul in the bonus track Agony, with a bass line invented by Robbie Shakespeare right there in the studio.

“It carries a variety of songs. Like Free, to be free within yourself, and My Heart, about searching,” he says, and continues:

“I fulfilled it and to me it’s a masterpiece. The songs are classic and it’s special to me and my fans. It’s deep in the soul of the people.”

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Half-year report – 15 favorite tunes

I’m not a big fan of contemporary dancehall. It’s too often poorly produced, poorly mixed and poorly mastered without tasteful and turbulent bass lines. Instead you get an overuse of auto-tune and boring generic beats.

But things might have changed in the course of just a couple of months. I don’t know if my music taste has changed, but there have been a rather large amount of exceptional dancehall tunes and riddims for the first six months of 2012.

The one drop scene has of course also produced its fair share of excellent cuts and riddims. Several from Europe, and often voiced by Jamaican conscious singers and deejays. UK-based producers Frenchie, Mafia & Fluxy and Curtis Lynch have all released great material this year. Same goes for Swiss production team Weedy G Sound Force.

When browsing through the reggae and dancehall year so far you soon realize which two artists rule the scene at the moment – Tarrus Riley and Popcaan. This is also reflected in my list with 15 favorite tracks for the first six months of 2012, listed below.

All tunes have been released as singles or as part of a one riddim compilation. Tracks appearing on a full-length single artist album have been ruled out.

Song title – artist (label – riddim)

Capital Offence – Captain Sinbad (Maximum Sound – Rudebwoy be Nice)

Selecta – Rayvon (Ranch Ent. – Kingston 13)

Final Move – Cornadoor & Kabaka Pyramid (Weedy G Soundforce)

Original Dancehall Days – Starkey Banton (Mafia & Fluxy – Bun n’ Cheese)

We Run It –Tarrus Riley (Charlie Pro)

Chant Rastafari – Tarrus Riley (Maximum Sound – Most Royal)

Go Down – Machel Montano (Mixpak – Loudspeaker)

It’s a Party – Elephant Man & Tarrus Riley (Romeich – Stinking Link)

Shots – Voicemail (Akom – Full Swing)

No Barbershop – Conkarah (Lifeline – Rock Fort Rock)

Badmind a Kill Dem – Popcaan (UPT 007 – Juicy)

Chill Spot – Chris Martin (Chimney – Chill Spot)

Independent Ladies – Gaza Slim (TJ – Summer Wave)

Blood Thirsty – Jah Mali (Necessary Mayhem – Possessed)

Fire Fire – Capleton (Dynasty – Kush Morning)

Curious on the tunes? Check out this Spotify playlist with twelve of them.

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