Tag Archives: VP Records

Christopher Martin shows great confidence on new EP

unnamedHoney-voiced Jamaican singer Christopher Martin inked a deal with reggae powerhouse VP Records almost two years ago and finally a result of this collaboration has been put out.

Steppin Razor is a five-track, digital only, release that balances sweetness with sex and showcases this reggae loverman at the top of his game.

Christopher Martin is versatile singer that won Jamaica’s televised talent show Digicel Rising Star in 2005. He has since build a strong fan base around the world and on this set he shows great confidence, especially when it comes to ladies.

Just listen to the title track – which isn’t a cover of the Peter Tosh cut, even though it borrows from it – and lines like “Now ladies love to be next to me, if they are down and am around, I am the remedy” and “they get addicted to my vibe, a make dem feel so good inside, intoxicated by my smile, these girls fall in no time”. Or the swaggering I’m a Big Deal with its introduction “#I’m a big deal”.

Christopher Martin is a certified reggae crooner with a passionate and urgent voice. Lyrically he might be a bit self-centred, but ladies might fall for his confidence and high self-esteem.

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Alborosie’s Sound the System gets the showcase treatment

alborosie-soundthesystem-showcaseAlborosie’s label VP Records certainly tries to make the most out of his acclaimed latest album Sound the System, released in June last year.

After the original album release a dub version was put out in December 2013. And now a new version is available in two separate editions.

Sound the System Showcase comes with ten tracks in full showcase style, i.e. followed by their dub counterparts. It’s available on CD, digital download and a limited edition 5×10” vinyl box set. The latter looks like a bona fide eye-catcher with its master tape style box with lift-off lid.

Sound the System Showcase effortlessly pairs Sound the System with Dub the System. It’s great set honouring the lovely showcase style. If you already own the vocal and the dub set, then this album maybe seems like a collectors item and only for die-hard Alborosie fans.

But that’s not necessarily the case. Here you get the best out of two worlds. Definitely well-worth seeking out.

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Only right tracks on new Gussie Clarke compilation

Gussie_Clark_-Gussie_Presenting_the_Right_TracksA few years ago I cried on Twitter about the need for a thorough Augustus “Gussie” Clarke anthology, and maybe someone heard my plea, because reggae powerhouse VP’s vintage imprint 17 North Parade can proudly present Gussie Presenting The Right Tracks.

This double disc features the original eleven track album of the same name complemented by no less than 29 more songs, including unreleased material from the same period, i.e. mid 70s. The set collects instrumentals, dub versions and vocal cuts from a plethora of talented singers and deejays, for example Leroy Sibbles, Gregory Isaacs, Horace Andy, Jacob Miller, Delroy Wilson, Dennis Brown, I Roy and Mikey Dread.

Augustus Clarke was born in 1954 and was only in his late teens when he started in the music industry. He was only 19 years old when he cut the original and exceptional debut albums Screaming Target (Big Youth) and Presenting I Roy (I Roy). He was one of the first so called rebel producers and has always managed to break new ground – check the use of violin on I Roy’s classical Black Man Time or Simplicity People’s K.G.’s Halfway Tree – and stay one step ahead of the current scene.

The sounds collected on these two discs are at times uplifting and joyous, but also haunting, ethereal and eerie. Augustus Clarke certainly had a great ear for arrangements and moods.

He has had an extremely successful career and today he’s one of the biggest music publishers in Jamaica, working largely behind the scenes. And Gussie Presenting The Right Tracks only tells one side of his career. In the 80s he scored a massive hit with Mighty DiamondsPass the Kouchie and re-invented reggae with Gregory Isaacs’ monster smash Rumours. But that’s two other stories, and hopefully two more anthologies.

Gussie Presenting The Right Tracks is available as double disc CD (with excellent liner notes by Harry Wise), single LP and digital download.

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New reggae compilation celebrates Africa

untitledA new compilation from reggae powerhouse VP Records celebrates the kinship and inspiration that Africa has given reggae music.

Some of the industry’s greatest voices and biggest artists pay tribute on Reggae Loves Africa, a twelve track collection including classic cuts with themes of liberation and repatriation sung by the likes of Buju Banton, Warrior King, Queen Ifrica, Luciano, Freddie McGregor, Beres Hammond, Dennis Brown and Tarrus Riley.

Reggae Loves Africa presents Africa’s history and its modern day struggles. It’s conscious reggae with messages of upliftment and hope. It drops in the UK on July 14 and the rest of Europe on July 20, not including France though, where fans have to wait until August 25.

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A Gussie Clarke extravaganza from VP

Gussie_Clark_-Gussie_Presenting_the_Right_TracksVP Records’ vintage imprint 17 North Parade opens its vaults to present another crucial reissue, this time from one of the most influential Jamaican producers – Augustus ”Gussie Clarke”. He has consistently churned out hits since the 70s until today, and Gussie Presenting The Right Tracks, which was originally released in 1976, captures his early work during the so called golden era of reggae.

The reissue – which drops on July 22 – collects the original LP in its entirety with previously unreleased Gussie Clarke productions for the first time on CD. The double disc set will contain all re-mastered tracks along with extensive liner notes and the original LP artwork.

The cuts were originally recorded and mixed at Kingston’s legendary Channel One studio and King Tubby’s Tubby studio, and the collection includes Gussie Clarke’s work with a parade of Jamaican greats, including Horace Andy, Leroy Sibbles, Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, Delroy Wilson, Augustus Pablo, Leroy Smart and Jacob Miller.

“There’s no ‘how it comes about’ with these names. I’m that kind of person who’s always thinking outside the box. There wasn’t any logic to it! It’s just a love for the difference and the uniqueness of things. Everybody had a sound and a style and I’d switch the musicians round to get a different vibe and a different feel,” explains Gussie Clarke in the set’s liner notes, and adds:

“I had the songs and in those days compilations were a good idea. I said ‘why not?’ and ‘The Right Tracks’ is appropriate now because they are the right tracks.”

In addition to this 40 track album, there will be a vinyl companion piece (carrying the same name) of eleven tracks from the CD version available the same day.

And on August 5 the label drops a limited edition 7” vinyl box set of rare Gussie Clarke productions designed to augment the two CD collection. The set, entitled Gussie Presenting The Right Sevens, features original recordings of foundation classics from Leroy Smart and The Mighty Diamonds, rare Augustus Pablo and Mikey Dread sides and previously unreleased cuts from Leroy Sibbles and Tommy McCook.

The Right Tracks series is the first installment of several Gussie Glarke collections that will drop via VP Records this year. They will also unleash a newly-compiled LP of Gussie Clarke productions with reggae icon Augustus Pablo titled Born To Dub You plus a three disc Reggae Anthology for Gussie Clarke’s Music Works label slated for late 2014.

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I-Octane aims for a global journey

I-Octane has over the past years voiced several hard-hitting dancehall productions. But on his new album My Journey he showcases his sometimes velvety, sometimes aggressive, singing style over both pulsating and mellow reggae beats. Reggaemani caught up with this confident singer, a workaholic that aims for the sky.

I-Octane_Press1I-Octane was born Byiome Muir in Clarendon, Jamaica, and started his musical career about five years ago. He is a singer that has managed to stay out of controversy despite being highly successful in dancehall circuits.

I reach him via Skype and initially we small talk about Tarrus Riley and I-Octane’s performance with him in Stockholm a few years back.

“It was a great opportunity touring with Tarrus Riley. He was like a big brother to us,” says I-Octane.

At the time I hadn’t heard much about I-Octane. One thing I remember from the concert though was his energetic voice and big smile.

He sits in a huge brown armchair in Tad’s Record’s office in Jamaica. And smiles. He also talks a lot and answers my questions thoroughly. That was not the case when I interviewed him two years ago as he was about to drop his debut album Crying to the Nation.

Independent artist
I-Octane is doing interviews for his second album My Journey. This effort is released via Tad’s Record and not reggae powerhouse VP.

“I never signed with VP. It was an independent album. My perspective and their perspective were different. I don’t believe in being signed to a label. I’m a free flowing artist and no one can stop me from creating songs, stop me from being a creative person. I like to record. I like to sing. I like to contribute to music,” explains I-Octane in a serious tone, and continues:

“If someone tries to stop me, I have a problem. I need to keep voicing. Be active. VP was doing the album because Robert Livingstone was the executive producer, and I was an independent artist for Robert. It was just the end product.”

More reggae, less dancehall
My Journey is more in the reggae vein compared to its predecessor. And that was the general idea.

“My career has mostly been about dancehall, so I decided that in 2014 I want to do straight reggae. Straight drum and bass songs. And I feel like I’m doing something substantial. I’m contributing to reggae and I have grown between the two albums,” he says, and continues:

“The album is more of me, more I-Octane. From my perspective it has a more worldwide appeal. When I was voicing it I was thinking about the world, not just Jamaica. I pronounce clearer now and it’s more English, more like an album that can cross a lot of borders. It’s a worldwide thing.”

But it’s not just I-Octane singing. It’s also the music and the riddims created by his long-time friend and hit-maker Andre “DJ Frass” Gordon. Together they have created a set jam-packed with memorable hooks and catchy choruses.

“It’s about how the songs are constructed, the riddims and the mood. The mood is different this time. It’s more current. I’m also a more mature vocalist,” he says.

Going global with confidence
The album title explains where I-Octane is coming from and all the obstacles and challenges that he has managed to overcome.

“Experiences have been harsh, but it’s great. I just put it in writing. I have learned a lot and I appreciate life more. I appreciate people more.”

I-Octane says that one of his goals is to go global and to reach a much wider audience. To be heard motivates him and makes him a better artist, he believes.

I-Octane_Press2

And there’s nothing wrong with his confidence. He gives thanks to the Lord for his musical gift and refers to himself as a super talent.

“Music is not hard for me. I just go to the studio and I never write. I hear a beat, I take up a paper and a pen and I record. I voice a lot of songs. I voice 20 and make 5. It’s not about the volume, it’s about substance”, he explains, and continues:

“It’s hard to market the brand properly. And that’s my aim now. Get in to major festivals and major concerts. The world needs to see what I’m capable of doing”.

The next generation
My Journey is a melodic and consistent set. It has an overall pop feeling to it and the upbeat dancehall cuts are few. The man responsible for this is DJ Frass.

“Frass is my brethren and he has produced a lot of hit songs. He’s comfortable to work with and he’s also a workaholic. We help each other,” he says, and continues:

“Frass produced the album, but we got all these great musicians in Jamaica to work on the album. All the great players played them.”

I-Octane’s youthful and energetic style is popular, especially in Jamaica. Over the years he has been nominated and won several music prizes in both Jamaica and abroad. The most recent ones are two top prizes and Jamaica’s Youth View Awards, where he was awarded Favourite Local Music Video and Favourite Music Collaboration.

“I was nominated in ten categories, but it’s not about being the winner. I was a winner in ten different categories,” he says and concludes:

“It’s great in terms of marketing. Kids are the next generation. It makes me a better person. I want to work harder and contribute more. You can be five, six or seven years old. Music is always music.”

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Blood and Fire rises with VP Records

41TPJnDoX4L._SS500_20 years after the first release – The Dreads at King Tubby’s – If Deejay Was your Trade – the mighty reissue label Blood and Fire Records rises from its ashes thanks to Steve Barrow, one of the founders, and reggae powerhouse VP.

On Monday February 17 Steve Barrow wrote on social networking site LinkedIn – quoted on several forums – that the label will be relaunched the first quarter of 2014 and that the initial release will be a limited edition 12″ of Gregory Isaacs Mr Know It All. It’s scheduled for Record Store Day in April and will be followed by reissues in various formats from the acclaimed Blood and Fire catalogue.

An official press release will be sent out shortly according to VP Records.

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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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Four superstars showcased on new King Jammy box set

Vocal Superstars At King Jammys - ArtworkSuccessful producer, engineer and label owner Prince Jammy, later King Jammy, has recently earned himself two collector’s box sets on reggae powerhouse VP Records. One of them – Rootsman Vibrations at King Jammy’s – was reviewed by Reggaemani only a week ago.

The second set is titled Vocal Superstars at King Jammy’s. And the title doesn’t lie. The four album box set collects one album each from Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, Horace Andy and Sugar Minott. These are some of Jamaica’s most gifted and celebrated singers, and unfortunately Horace Andy is the only one still alive.

This set isn’t as cohesive as Rootsman Vibrations. Or it has one main oddity – Sugar Minott’s Bitter Sweet. A great album in every aspect, but it’s an organic roots album with live instrumentation put out in 1979. The other three albums – Dennis Brown’s History aka The Exit, Gregory Isaacs’ Come Along and Horace Andy’s Haul and Jack-Up – were originally released in the mid to late 80s and have a completely different sound – sparse, computerized and digital with drum machines and synths.

All albums bear King Jammy’s signature sweet reggae sound and even though none of them are regarded as a classic these days, they still sound strong and the box set showcases the shift from analogue reggae to digital dancehall.

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VP and Vans rock around the world

1907Dub_Rockers2_zpsaaf973acReggae powerhouse VP Records has joined forces with legendary skate brand Vans for a new compilation series titled Dub Rockers. The compilation series aim to showcase a global genre without barriers and borders having a number of top Jamaican artists recording combinations with U.S. and European based artists and bands.

The end results are varied with a number of standout tracks and a few low points, Eek-A-Mouse and Expendables’ surf reggae version of the mighty Ganja Smuggling being one of the latter.

Oddly there are no VI reggae artists represented and unfortunately some of the greatest artists from the U.S. and Europe aren’t featured, for example Jah Sun, Lion D, Gappy Ranks and Randy Valentine, just to name a few. That doesn’t however mean that this is a poor compilation.

Natty’s Change, which features Alborosie and Busy Signal, is a fierce hip-hop meets reggae scorcher, and RBC and Prince Polo’s swirling version of Augustus Pablo’s Java manages to add something new to a song that has been versioned to death.

For the second instalment in the series I hope that VP seeks talents in other parts of the world as well – in Australia, in Asia, in South America and in Africa. That would be a truly global and ground breaking compilation.

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