Tag Archives: VP

Massive reggae anthems on new compilation

untitledReggae powerhouse VP’s popular compilation series The Biggest Reggae One Drop Anthems is back after a four year hiatus. And it comes with a new approach.

The previous editions included previously released material from several different producers whereas this new set is solely produced by Jamaica’s legendary top producer Clive Hunt, responsible for reggae classics from The Abyssinians, Peter Tosh, Max Romeo and a bunch of others. And the material included is also exclusive to the compilation.

The Biggest One Drop Anthems 2015 showcases a strong selection of established singers along with newer artists like Ikaya, Jah Vinci and Randy Valentine.

The new concept is brilliant and the compilation includes not a weak moment. Therefore it’s difficult to pick one track over another, but certified killers include Ikaya’s pounding version of Steel Pulse’s Worth His Weight in Gold, Luciano’s soulful and inspired adaptation of Rod Taylor’s His Imperial Majesty, which turns into a lingering dub version, and energetic dancehall singer Jah Vinci’s sincere King’s Highway on which he shows his full range as a vocalist.

Definitely the most consistent One Drop Anthems released yet and I hope VP will continue this successful new model.


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A real treat on the new Fred Locks box set

The story about Jamaican singer Fred Locks is an exceptional one. He started his career in the late 60’s as a member of The Lyrics, who recorded tracks such as Hear What the Old Man Say and Girls Like Dirt for producer Coxsone Dodd at Studio One. Disappointed by the lack of financial reward, Fred Locks left the music business, relocated to a beach and immersed himself in Rasta teachings and wrote a song that would gain him wide recognition.

He was suddenly back in the music business and remained there firmly until the early 80’s when he moved to the U.S., where he recorded more sporadically for a number of local labels, according to a recent interview.

But let’s get back to the 70’s and Fred Locks’ anthemic repatriation single Black Star Liners. It was released in 1975 and is included on his landmark debut album Black Star Liner, a set included in VP’s latest reggae legends box set.

Fred Locks: Reggae Legends includes four discs – the aforementioned Black Star Liner, its previously unreleased dub counterpart, Love and Only Love recorded with his group Creation Steppers and The Missing Link, said to be the official follow-up set to Black Star Liner, but didn’t see release at the time due to financial constraints.

These four discs have one obvious thing in common, apart from Fred Locks nasal and straightforward singing, and that is the man’s devoutness to Rastafari and cultural and conscious lyrical themes. The vast majority of the 47 tracks carry messages of faith in Jah, oppression of the righteous and how Babylon must be fought.

Black Star Liner has been reissued many times and is one of several iconic roots albums released in the 70’s, and it deserves its reputation as an all-time classic, with strong cuts such as Wolf Wolf and Song of the Almighty.

Black Star Liner in Dub is the real treat in this collection, and includes, apart from ten sparse and raw dub cuts, a melodica piece and a deejay cut of the title track by Pablove Black and Drummie and two versions, one of the title track, and one of Wolf Wolf. According to VP they haven’t been able to confirm who mixed the dub versions, but confirms that they were done in 1976, so all tracks are properly vintage with great audio quality.

Love and Only Love was recorded in 1982 with sound system legend Lloydie Coxsone as producer. This album is more of a vocal harmony group effort with Fred Locks’ sharing lead vocal duties with Eric Griffiths and Willy Stepper. This album is not an easy one to find on vinyl these days and includes favorites such as the title track Give Jah Your Heart and Soul.

Rumors say that some of the tapes to The Missing Link were lost for 20 years, while others were damaged. The missing tapes somehow showed up and the damaged ones were restored and released twelve years ago as The Missing Link, an album far below Black Star Liner in quality, and when listening to it I’m surprised it was recorded in the 70’s, since some of the tracks have a clear 80’s vibe, but it might be overdubs done before it was released.

There are however some strong moments on The Missing Link, especially album opener Rastafari Rule, with its infectious sing-a-long chorus, and the dread The Only One.

Fred Locks: Reggae Legends gives a broad view of this devout rastaman’s early years, but to get the full picture you might also need to check out his album Never Give Up recorded for the late Phillip “Fatis” Burrell and released in 1998.

Fred Locks: Reggae Legends is available on CD and on digital platforms. Black Star Liner in Dub is also released as a standalone vinyl album.

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I-Octane is the fuse between reggae and dancehall

Jamaican singjay I-Octane has put out a veritable hit cavalcade for the last two years. Now he has signed with reggae giant VP Records and his debut album Crying to the Nation is scheduled for release in February. Reggaemani got a chat with him about his upcoming album.

The reggae industry is still largely based on singles rather than albums, and I-Octane is a proof that you don’t need an album to score huge success around the globe. Singles such as Nuh Ramp Wid We, False Pretenders, Puff It, Lose a Friend and Mama You Alone have made I-Octane a household name in both reggae and dancehall circuits.

Considered becoming an architect
Byiome Muir, better known as I-Octane, grew up in Sandy Bay in the parish of Clarendon in Jamaica. Just like many other Jamaican artists his passion for music started at an early age and he often sang at home or in school, where he could be found beating out a rhythm on the school desk. No schoolyard clash or concert was complete without an appearance from the aspiring singjay.

“It was an energetic thing,” says I-Octane on the phone from Jamaica.

Even though a career in music was an appealing choice for I-Octane, he didn’t neglect his studies and waited to venture into singing full-time.

“Mama said education comes first,” he explains on the poor and crackling phone line.

Initially he considered becoming an architect, partly because he had an affinity for sciences, but had no money to finish a degree.

“Instead of sitting at home and be a non-progressive element, I got into music,” he says, and adds that he might get into architecture later on to have something to do outside the music business.

Working with Donovan Germain
I-Octane started performing under the name of Richie Rich, and just like Buju Banton he started singing hardcore dancehall lyrics, but later switched to a more cultural approach.

“I grew with the music and I grew as an artist and found out the best side of me,” he explains, and adds:

“It’s my own flavor.”

I-Octane was picked up early by veteran producer Donovan Germain, and while working with the Penthouse label he decided to change his name to something more representative.

He chose his name because of the high energy level in high octane gas, and personalized it by substituting the “high” for “I”. And a star was born.

After three years he left Penthouse and signed with Arrows Recording, a label for which he had his first hit single – Stab Vampire. The single served as a catalyst for his career, and he was suddenly approached by several notable and established producers, something that broadened his repertoire.

“It’s very important to work with established producers. They pave the way,” he explains, and lines up a veritable who’s who in the contemporary Jamaican music scene for whom he has worked with:

Don Corleon, Jukeboxx, Cashflow, Russian and Stephen “Di Genius” McGregor.”

Signing with VP
Today I-Octane is independent. He has started his own label, moderately named Conquer the Globe Productions.

But he has also signed a joint venture deal with VP and Scikron. The latter is a label owned and operated by Robert Livingston, a name that might not ring a bell for the broader public, but he is the man behind multi-platinum artist Shaggy and hits such as Oh Carolina, It Wasn’t Me and Boombastic. He has also worked with artists such as Super Cat and Tiger.

Blends reggae and dancehall
On Crying to the Nation I-Octane smoothly blends roots reggae with dancehall energy. And this is where he wants to be.

“I’m a fuse between reggae and dancehall. I’m a new version of reggae and dancehall in one,” he says, and describes the album’s theme:

“It’s about what’s happening in the streets and what’s going on in the world. It’s about keeping the Almighty close, keeping Jah close.”

“The music speaks for itself”
I-Octane has become known for his haunting crackling voice, frank lyrics with cultural topics and simple sing-a-long hooks. On Crying to the Nation he is set to continue in the same vein, which is communicated in the title.

“It’s a global topic, and a global title. It’s not only Jamaican. People across the globe can relate to it and feel the struggle. Crying to the Nation is the whole entire globe – America, Japan, Canada,” he says, and praises the musicians he has worked with:

“It’s a great album, and you can hear each and every person in there. You can hear the time and effort they put in. It’s one of the best albums I know of in this age, and the music speaks for itself. Any individual that comes in contact with it will like one song. It’s a great work, and I have great expectations on it.”

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Greensleeves and VP inna dubstep style

Late last year Greensleeves and VP Records announced that their back catalogue was to get a remix treatment by dubstep artists for a new vinyl series. The first release was a remix of Yellowman’s classic Zunguzunguguzungguzeng.

Now it’s time for another three releases. First out is Pampidoo’s Synthesizer Voice that gets a mad re-construction by Japan’s Goth-Trad, one of the major artists on the Japanese dubstep scene.

CokiDigital Mystikz takes on Badman Place, a Busy Signal and Mavado duet. This one is furious in its sonic treatment.

Dubstep giant The Bug mashes Ding Dong’s dancehall anthem Badman Forward Badman Pull Up from 2006. The Bug has invited MC Flow Dan from Roll Deep to go head to head with Ding Dong. The result is vicious.

All three tunes come with a version, and if you like dubstep you probably need to check these three releases out.

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A great introduction to Dennis Brown

The late Dennis Brown is one of the most loved and consistent Jamaican singers and was in the 70’s probably more popular than Bob Marley. Several contemporary Jamaican artists are heavily influenced by him – Luciano, Frankie Paul and Bushman for example. But outside Jamaica he hasn’t been properly recognized.

He was signed to major label A&M in the early 80’s and dropped three albums with crossover potential, but didn’t make into the international charts.

He was in his prime in the mid and late 70’s and recorded some wicked tunes and albums with a number of Jamaica’s top producers at the time.

Joe Gibbs produced Dennis Brown with great success and this work is now collected by VP Records in the box set Dennis Brown at Joe Gibbs. Here you’ll find the albums Visions of Dennis Brown and Words of Wisdom as well as two CD’s that collects singles and album material from the 70’s and 80’s. All in all 60 songs with Dennis Brown’s powerful tenor voice.

Dennis Brown was a master of combining conscious tunes with more lovers oriented material. Just listen to the deep So Jah Say and the uplifting cover of Johnnie Taylor’s Ain’t That Loving You. It’s Pure gold.

There’s no denying of the greatness of the two full lengths that are included. The third disc – Love’s Gotta Hold On Me – is also sublime with material that ranges from the haunting Created by The Father to the soulful Historical Places, included on The Prophet Rides Again, his last album for A&M.

The last disc – Reflections – hasn’t the same caliber as the other three, mainly due to poor sound quality. It’s nice though to hear the original version of Money in My Pocket, probably the closest Dennis Brown has come to a hit song.

Dennis Brown at Joe Gibbs is sold at a bargain price and is a perfect introduction to one of the many greats of reggae music.

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Hot upcoming releases from VP

VP Records and its subsidiary Greensleeves are the biggest reggae labels in the business and host a bunch of in demand artists. Reggaemani has got a glance of the release schedule for the next months and notes some familiar names.

During the first six months last year, VP dropped albums from three giants – Sizzla, Junior Kelly and Capleton. The latter two hadn’t released albums for many years and were much anticipated.

The first six months of 2011 don’t include such superstars, but there seem to be some nice albums coming out nonetheless.

VP has got a nice start with album releases from sweet songstress Etana and energy God Elephant Man. There have also been three great compilations with material from Culture, Dennis Brown and production duo Steely & Clevie.

March seems to be an interesting month with a new album from Richie Spice, his fourth for VP. Book of Job – as the album is titled – is produced in collaboration with Penthouse and its first single Black Woman sounds promising. March also offers compilations from gruff voiced deejays Tiger and Assassin aka Agent Sasco.

In April lovers rock veteran Sanchez drops his new album Love You More, his follow-up to the great Now & Forever released last year. April also sees the release of the popular Biggest Reggae One Drop Anthems compilation. This compilation wasn’t released last year, but somehow managed to make it back into the release schedule.

In May up and coming dancehall singjay Chino releases his debut album. He recently dropped the EP From Mawning with tracks such as Pon Your Head and Protected. He has previously worked a lot with his producing brother Stephen “Di Genious” McGregor and the duo will hopefully continue their road to success.

During the coming six months you can also look forward to new studio albums from I Wayne, Queen Ifrica and Dutch sensation Ziggi Recado, who just put out the single Get Out.

All dates may be subject to change.

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Bobo Revolution 2 even better than its predecessor

The liner notes of the second series of the Bobo Revolution compilation state, that label Maximum Sound “has excelled at making dancehall, vocals, deejay and roots records”. I couldn’t have put it better myself. I rank Maximum Sound and producer Frenchie among the best modern reggae producers.

The first Bobo Revolution was released three years ago and collected 21 massive tunes, ranging from Africa We’re From with Natty King to Show More Love by Turbulence.

The new Bobo Revolution also includes 21 cuts from well known singers and deejays such as Capleton, Sizzla, Chezidek and Luciano. And this compilation actually exceeds its predecessor. There are no fillers here, only killers. Not something I’m used to when it comes to compilations.

Bobo Revolution 2 offers nine well crafted rhythms, both originals and relicks, and all artists give powerful performances. The two that impress me the most are Turbulence and Jah Mason. Their songs are acoustic and actually work very well. Their fierce delivery contrasts nicely to the stripped instrumentation.

Some of the many highlights include Peetah Morgan’s Jesse James and Real Life by Jah Mali. It’s great to hear soul voiced Peetah Morgan over the rootsy Vineyard riddim, probably best known for Capleton’s All Is Well on his recent album, also included here. Jah Mali is an excellent singer that sadly has not done much recording in recent years. Here he proves that he has to step into the studio on a more frequent basis.

The only thing that might have done this excellent compilation ever better would’ve been dub versions to every rhythm. But nonetheless, I’m quite satisfied.

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Datum bestämt för nya Sizzla-plattan

Den 19 januari släpper Sizzla nya skivan Crucial Times på skivbolaget Greensleeves. Plattan har producerats av Homer Harris, mannen som sägs ha döpt såväl Sizzla som Luciano. Jag har inte hört mycket om honom, men singeln Precious Gift visar i alla fall att han vet vad han sysslar med.

Plattan innehåller 13 spår och ska enligt uppgifter från skivbolaget visa en Sizzla som går tillbaka till sina rötter.

Sizzla är förmodligen en av världens mest produktionsintensiva artister och har under sina 15 år i musikbranschen släppt över 40 plattor och flera hundra singlar. Hans förra skiva på Greensleeves – Ghetto Youth-Ology – innehöll bland annat hitlåten Black Man in the White House och fick bra kritik.


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