On Jamaican chanter Lutan Fyah’s first album in three years he’s right back where he started some 13 years ago. He has again teamed up with Lustre Kings, or at least parts of Lustre Kings, since producer, songwriter and musician Andrew “Moon” Bain is not only part of Lustre Kings, but is also one third of Zion I Kings, the production trio responsible for Music Never Dies.
This album is however his first for Tippy I’s – also one third of Zion I Kings – I Grade Records. And Music Never Dies is excellent from start to finish. Lutan Fyah is at his fiercest and sweetest spitting lyrics and singing sweet on cuts like Beat Dem, So Di World Ah Run and the uplifting title track.
The album is said to have taken four years to complete. And when listening to the album it makes sense. Because Music Never Dies comes with clever and detailed arrangements, infectious melodies and passionate and earnest performances from Lutan Fyah.
Music Never Dies is unfortunately currently only available via iTunes.
If Zion I Kings’ debut dub album Dub in Style was a melodious and graceful affair the second one Dub in Zion is something different. It’s more of everything. And heavier, darker and more experimental than its predecessor.
Zion I Kings’ bass player and producer Jah David is responsible for most of the mixing, even though fellow musicians Tippy I and Moon Bain lend their talents to the project as well. Together they have utilized plenty of effects and cutting-edge dub wizardry.
Dub in Zion collects ten tracks, of which the majority are unreleased rhythm tracks. And one would really like to have vocals put on several of them in the future. Many are eerie and grim – almost nightmarish – with a heavy dose of anxiety and wicked energy.
Standout cuts include the dreamy Humble Thyself Dub with its characteristic bass line, Incient Knowledge Dub with its lingering melody and Iritikal Repatriation Dub with its smattering percussion.
Dub in Zion is far from as immediate as Dub in Style. It’s a certified grower and needs a couple of spins until it can be fully appreciated. But don’t worry – it’s totally worth the effort.
Guyana-born singer Arkaingelle dropped his debut album O’Pen back in 2008 and since then he has only released a couple of tracks here and there, including excellent efforts on the compilations Nyacoustic Chants and Jah Golden Throne. Both those sets were put out via Zion High Productions and they are also responsible for releasing his second album Tru Da Fyah.
The album is crafted and produced by Zion I Kings, one of the strongest forces in contemporary reggae music with their signature smooth and melodic audio landscape. And by just glancing at the striking sleeve you get a strong hint on what this album is about – spiritual Rastafari lyricism and devout chants and praises of the Most High.
Just as many other sets produced by Zion I Kings, this album is coherent both musically and lyrically. Arkaingelle sings – or chants in a more melodious Akae Beka style – over expertly produced riddims. Just listen to a cut like No Race with its lingering synth melody, Children of the Most High with its dubby audio landscape, the nyabinghi-tinged Ancient of Days and skanking Herbalist. This is music with a message.
Acclaimed U.S. production trio Zion I Kings is behind several of the finest reggae releases in recent years, including beautiful sets by Jahdan Blakkamoore, Lloyd Brown and Pressure.
Now comes the first album under their own name. Dub in Style is a tribute to the late drummer extraordinaire Lincoln “Style” Scott, who started playing drums in the early 70s and went on to record for many of Jamaica’s top producers as part of the Roots Radics band. He and Roots Radics are closely associated with rub-a-dub, a sound that defined the early dancehall era and together they recorded some of the deadliest riddims and records of all time.
Bassist Jah David, keyboard player Tippy I and guitarist Moon Bain are collectively known as Zion I Kings and for each production they work with a number of different musicians. In 2014 they had the opportunity to work with Style Scott and all riddims on Dub in Style were tracked in one day at the Tuff Gong studio in Kingston, Jamaica. The tracks recorded that day appear on releases from Midnite, Akae Beka, Pressure, Ziggi Recado, Jahdan Blakkamoore and Glen Washington.
And a number of those cuts – plus a few others – have now been given an excellent dub treatment by Digital Ancient and Jah David. They use some of the key dub ingredients, but they also focus on the strength of the rhythms and the real heroes on Dub in Style are the instruments, which are given plenty of space to shine.
Highlights include the playful Spare Change Dub with its beautiful horns and rolling bass line, the sombre Snow Hill Dub with vocals courtesy of pop/folk singer Sara Azriel and the militant Cold War Dub with its lingering Spanish guitar and fanfare like horns.
Dub in Style is melodious and graceful dub of the highest calibre.
About a year ago VI reggae trailblazers Midnite suddenly cancelled a U.S. tour and stated the reason being “a life changing medical emergency, convictions and revelations”.
Somewhat cryptic, but then again Midnite and their front man and vocalist Vaughn Benjamin have never been interested in the spotlight unless being on stage. He rarely gives interviews and rather study or writes and records music.
Later a new outfit surfaced, a band led by Vaughn Benjamin. Akae Beka is their name and it’s taken from the Book of Enoch. Akae Beka first stage performance took place in October last year and their debut album Homage to the Land was soon put out.
Now their second set has dropped. This one on I Grade Records, a Virgin Islands’ based label that has been an important partner to Midnite in their career. The label is spearheaded by Tippy I and the new Akae Beka album is produced by Zion I Kings, a production trio where Tippy I plays a key part.
In the press release accompanying Portals it’s stated that Akae Beka isn’t Midnite reborn, but a continuation of Vaughn Benjamin’s journey. Fans can however stay calm since this album both musically and lyrically lie very close to what Midnite did.
This is spiritual and Rastafarian roots reggae with conscious and introspective lyrics emphasizing commitment to Jah, justice, equality and universal love.
Vaughn Benjamin’s vocal approach is an acquired taste. It’s raw, monotonous and non-melodic. His vocal style is in need of an otherwise melodic sonic landscape. Otherwise it’s too raw. Luckily Zion I Kings have provided Akae Beka with heavily-textured arrangements and melodies from the players of instruments, but without failing to include dense grooves and hypnotic bass lines. The horns on Orderly are for example sublime and the guitar work is superb throughout the set.
Portals is powerful and spellbinding. It might not be commercially viable, but it’s memorable and mesmerizing.
With producers from about eight countries Niyorah’s fourth album Rising Sun would be destined to being a much varied and erratic set. But it’s actually not. And somehow it all balances very well.
The album collects 13 tracks with production credits from acclaimed producers like France’s Bost & Bim, Austria’s Irievibrations, Zion I Kings from the U.S and DJ Frass and George “Dusty” Miller from Jamaica. And it presents some of Niyorah’s best material to date.
Apart from Midnite and Pressure he’s probably one of the most prominent artists from the Virgin Islands. He has for many years dropped conscious and spiritual music telling stories from the streets and from the heart.
Rising Sun is no exception. Rain Forrest is a beautiful environmental prayer, Media Portray is an unforgiving attack on popular culture, War is Not the Answer is a plea for equality on Zion I Kings’ gorgeous Song Bird riddim and Medicinal Ganja is an angelic marijuana anthem.
But the best cut is the infectious and pulsating Let Love Flow, a track that might be a highlight of Niyorah’s career. He is a talented performer and has a slick way of mixing sweet singing with fierce deejaying. And it might just be his captivating flow that keeps the set together.
Guyanese born and Brooklyn bred Jahdan Blakkamoore has finally released his follow-up to the rightly acclaimed Babylon Nightmare, released in 2010. And Order of Distinction is yet another masterpiece from this ruthlessly versatile and talented singer, deejay, rapper, producer and Grammy-nominated songwriter.
Jahdan Blakkamoore isn’t a particularly prolific recording artist and Order of Distinction is only his third full-length, but he has also released singles and been key in a number of other artists careers, for example Snoop Dogg, aka Snoop Lion aka Snoopzilla, and his underrated reggae effort Reincarnated.
Order of Distinction is well-crafted from beginning to end and Jahdaan Blakkamoore is a innovative wordsmith delivering positive and insightful lyrics, ranging from sexy locers rock on Smood Blakk Skin and Everything I Love to the encouraging and electrofied Faith, the spiritual Come Back Around and the more boisterous and energetic Ting Tun Up! with Lady Leshurr and Melodic Yoza.
This set is mainly produced Zion I Kings – one of the best and hottest production crews today – along with Paper Stars, a production and writing duo forged between Jahdan Blakkamoore and Andrew “Moon” Bain, who is also part of Zion I Kings. But on board is also dancehall maestro Dre Skull and electro whiz Nate Mars.
Zion I Kings and affiliated labels Lustre Kings, Zion High Productions and I Grade are synonymous with reggae productions of the highest calibre. They are no strangers releasing both fresh talents and seasoned veterans, and they always deliver on putting out music with clever arrangements, innovative production and a conscious approach.
Guyanese born, Brooklyn-raised and Grammy-nominated singay, rapper and songwriter Jahdan Blakkamoore finally follows up on his massive 2010-released album Babylon Nightmare.
Order of Distinction – set for release on March 24 – is his third album and features mainly production by Zion I Kings and Paper Stars. Zion I Kings is widely known for several powerful releases, including Midnite’s Beauty for Ashes, which was awarded iTunes album of the year 2014, while Papers Stars is the production and writing duo forged between Jahdan Blakkamoore and Andrew “Moon” Bain, who is also part of Zion I Kings. Other producers include electro dancehall maestro Dre Skull and electro producer Nate Mars.
On Order of Distinction the team has invited a strong roster of contemporaries, including Lutan Fyah, Pressure Busspipe and Kabaka Pyramid. And the set offers a mix of high-energy ragga hip-hop, sexy lovers rock and modern roots.
According to a press release the set pushes the envelope of the genre, introducing fresh faces amongst familiar ones while remaining rooted in a foundation of innovative musicianship and forward thinking production that resounds with positive and evocative messages. Check the first single off the album below.
Last year I interviewed Jah David, bass player and musical director in Zion High Productions as well as member of acclaimed production trio Zion I Kings. In the interview he mentioned he was working on an album from saxophone player Jah Bless. Now that set has arrived.
To state that the reggae market today is overflowed by instrumental sets would be a grand exaggeration. Vocal sets are the order of the day and dub albums are far more common than instrumental albums. It was however different in the 60s and 70s when instrumental reggae efforts were part of a label’s regular output.
I’m a huge fan of instrumental albums and was really looking forward to this new album from Jah Bless. He’s carrying the tradition forward and this is a set in the same tradition as the great instrumental sets from the likes of Tommy McCook and Roland Alphonso.
Redemption is Jah Bless’ second album and it collects 14 sax-driven tasty and organic instrumentals, sometimes with a hint of funky jazz and sometimes accompanied with a dub workout on the mixing board. The riddims are steller and Jah Bless blows his horn with an elegant smoothness.
Expectations are always high on Zion I Kings and they always manage to deliver accordingly. Essential for fans of bright and stylish reggae instrumentals.
VI reggae trailblazers Midnite is back with yet another album with acclaimed U.S. production trio Zion I Kings – Zion High Productions, I Grade Records and Lustre Kings.
Midnite is known for being prolific and I believe the upcoming Ride Tru album will be their third in 2014 and the second with Zion I Kings. They worked together on Beauty for the Ashes, which was released about ten months ago.
Ride Tru drops in December and you can check its initial single Credited below.