Tag Archives: Zion I Kings

Lloyd Brown turns 50 and drops another consistent set

disc-3211-lloyd-brown-lb50Not many people can treat themselves with an album to celebrate their birthday. One who can is the celebrated and consistent UK singer and songwriter Lloyd Brown. He turned 50 in March and a few months later his 18 track album LB 50 was put out.

Lloyd Brown is one of the most productive singers in the industry and turns out at least one album each year. Last year he actually dropped two – New Veteran and Rootical. Both were critically acclaimed, with the Zion I Kings’ Rootical being slightly better with its spiritual messages and sparse arrangements.

LB 50 is Lloyd Brown’s 18th album and he has as usual invited several guest artists and has worked with a number of different producers, each with their own sound, which gives the album some versatility. It offers lots of reggae of course, but also a little bit of electro, dancehall and soul.

Lloyd Brown’s singing is always a joy and on LB 50 he is as comfortable and smooth as ever before. It sounds like he weighs every word and every syllable carefully before he sings them. His style is very well-crafted, easy-going and warm, and it’s impossible to him and songs like All About You, a rocksteady-tinged version of The Mighty Diamonds’ Country Living, the dense Million Dollar Baby, or the jazzy sound boy destroyer My Sound, with an introduction by David Rodigan.

Lloyd Brown has treated himself with an exceptional birthday gift, and this is yet another bright and harmonious set from one of most reliable artists in the reggae industry.

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Ziggi Recado is a musical therapist

ZIGGI CVR3BZiggi Recado – formerly known only as Ziggi – is a fascinating artist. His earliest work was heavily inspired by dancehall and hip-hop, and then he moved towards roots reggae, but suddenly turned towards funk and rock. An adventurous approach to say the least, and he didn’t stay long in that genre.

His two EP’s following his funky venture were more or less traditional and well-produced reggae. And he follows this path on his fourth full-length album Therapeutic, produced by acclaimed U.S. production trio Zion I Kings and out on Zion High Records.

Zion I Kings have been very successful over the last couple of years and are responsible for a number of triumphant albums from Midnite, Pressure, Cornell Campbell and Lloyd Brown. And Therapeutic is produced according to the same effective and popular recipe – smooth riddims, skanking guitar, infectious hooks and uplifting arrangements.

The highlights are many, especially the slowly pulsating Earl Sixteen and Taranchyla combination Jah Mercy and the Lutan Fyah combination Guide Ova, with its dub effects and tight drum and bass.

Instead of calling the doctor you could do much better with this album. It will rock both body and mind.

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The soothing sound of Pressure

The SoundMulti-facetted Virgin Islands born singer and singjay Pressure is back with a new album following Coming Back for You, produced by Dean Pond and released in 2009.

On The Sound he has teamed up with the mighty Zion I Kings, a trio of producers including Tippy I, who also hails from the Virgin Islands.

The Sound is Pressure’s fourth album and is his best to date. It includes the usual sweet arrangements and backing provided by Zion I Kings, but a few of the cuts are dark and edgy, for example Herbsman Town, Serious About It and Who You Are, a track that also offers a taste of wobbling dubstep.

The Sound is a family affair and a host of Pressure’s fellow countrymen flex their skills on a number of songs. Ras Batch and NiyoRah show up on Cry for Humanity and Volcano shares vocal duties with Pressure on Herbsman Town. And no other than Midnite’s lead singer Vaughn Benjamin can be heard on Nothing No Wrong.

A majority of the album was also recorded in St. Croix, for example the uplifting Virgin Islands Nice, a cut that is now an official tourist board anthem. Maybe no surprise when listening to the chorus – “so nice, so nice, sweet, sweet St. Thomas nice, so nice, so nice, St. Croix full of pure vibes, so nice, so nice, St. John a real paradise, so nice, so nice.”

The Sound exemplifies the strong roots and culture scene active in the Virgin Islands and even though Pressure delivered a strong set together with Don Corleon in 2007, The Sound outshines his previous material and will hopefully strengthen his fan base.

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Dread and beautiful from Midnite

BEAUTY FOR ASHES CoverVI reggae trailblazers Midnite is back with a new collaboration with I Grade Records. It’s their seventh album release together and the first since the acclaimed Rule the Time, released in 2007.

On Beauty for Ashes the very prolific Midnite also teams up with the mighty Zion I Kings production team. And as usual the result is sublime. For me, Midnite’s weak point has always been melodies, but the on this album Midnite and their producers have taken the song writing and production to a new level. This 13 track set even includes something that can almost be described as sing-a-long choruses. Just listen to album opener A Reminder. Maybe not sing-a-long like Coldplay, but probably as close as you get with a band like Midnite.

The album was recorded in both Jamaica and in the Virgin Islands. It collects several rolling and thunderous bass lines as well as Vaughn Benjamin’s dread and eerie chanting-styled singing, a style that might be an acquired taste. It’s raspy and can be a bit monotonous and non-melodic.

Beauty for Ashes is brighter and more uplifting compared to the bulk of their previous albums. The soundscape is dense, deep and hypnotic as usual. But the bright horns and strong melodies lighten up the set and these two key ingredients make Beauty for Ashes one of Midnite’s best and most accessible albums to date.

To get a feel of the album, check this promo mix by Major Lazer’s Walshy Fire.

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Ten years with Zion High Productions

Zion High Productions is one part of acclaimed U.S. production trio Zion I Kings, responsible for a number of major releases in recent years. Zion High Productions has now been alive and kicking for ten years and Reggaemani took the chance to catch up with Jah David, bass player and musical director. He spoke freely about being a reggae musician, about Zion I Kings and also revealed some exciting upcoming projects.

David “Jah David” Goldfine is one third of Zion High Productions and lives near Tampa, Florida. The two other members, Ras Elliott and Quashi, live in Oregon and West Palm Beach, Florida.

Zion High Productions is a production house and a label and the story started ten years ago in San Diego, California, where Ras Elliott owned and operated a record shop called Trade Roots Reggae, a mainstay of the southern California reggae scene for almost 20 years. Jah David worked there and he and his childhood friend Jah Oil – an early member of Zion High Productions – were in the bands Kush and Jah Bloodfyah Angels.

“Yami Bolo’s Rebelution was our first project,” remembers Jah David, and continues:

“It was a great project and a great learning experience for me as a producer, writer and bass player. We had Santa Davis from Soul Syndicate on drums and Scientist as an engineer. Ras Michael was also involved in the project. It was a wonderful experience and we made great music inspired by Haile Selassie the First.”

Shortly after the release on Rebelution Jah Oil left and Quashi came onboard.

From violin and guitar to the bass
Jah David has been playing music since he was around seven years old. He started with the violin, but moved on to acoustic guitar and later played in various rock bands. He started listening to reggae, especially Bob Marley, as a kid, and when in his early teens his interest in reggae gained momentum with artists like Burning Spear, Culture and a little Israel Vibration.

“From that time, when I was around 15, I forgot the guitar. I was feeling the bass. I listened to Familyman and I felt those bass lines and I thought ‘I know I can play that’. It seemed so simple, but it is so complex,” explains Jah David with a calm, almost soothing, voice, and continues:

“I picked up the bass and started seeking Jah at the same time. Jah Oil and I started our reggae journey together; me as a bass player and he as a guitarist.”

I reach Jah David on the phone from his home studio. He has just finished recording dubplates together with Glen Washington and he says that they are also recording a new album together. No title yet though since the project is in its formative stage. Jah David is not like other producers or label owners when it comes to talking about new and upcoming releases. Many usually keep quite on work in progress, while Jah David speaks freely about what is about to come from him and his collaborators.

Forming the Zion I Kings
But let’s come back to the releases and continue with the fruitful collaboration between Zion High Productions, I Grade Records and Lustre Kings, more commonly known as the Zion I Kings.

Moon, Jah David and Tippy I in the studio.

Moon, Jah David and Tippy I in the studio.

Andrew “Moon” Bain, guitarist and musical director in Lustre Kings, started working together with Jah David, prior to Jah David’s involvement in Zion High Productions. Jah David played bass and was co-producer on one of Lustre Kings’ releases in the early days.

“My first love is the bass and I’m a bassie. I was playing sessions for Lustre Kings and worked on the Culture Dem album. I also did some singles before that, like 12-13 years ago. I was working on singles in Jamaica and material from Sizzla, Capleton, Al Pancho and Lutan Fyah. Lutan was just busting and started to get a buzz and I worked on the first Lutan Fyah album,” remembers Jah David, and continues:

“Tippy [keyboard player and owner of I Grade Records] and I met through Ras Attitude. We were working on the Holding Firm album. He said he had a good brethren in St Croix and Tippy had produced a great song, which he wanted to include on the album. Ever since that we have been working together,” he explains, and adds:

“Moon and Tippy met around the same time in New York City and that closed the circle. Moon is a great guitarist, Tippy is a great keyboard player and I play the bass. We are all producers and engineers. Zion I Kings – bass, keys and guitar. And we do sessions with different drummers.”

Their classy productions have gained lots of interest around the world and the trio was recently involved in the much discussed and talked about Snoop Lion album. The breezy Breadfruit riddim, that provided the basis for Lloyd Brown’s Just So That You Know, was utilized for Snoop Lion’s So Long, a standout cut on his Grammy nominated album Reincarnated.reincarnatedalbumcover

“It was really through Moon. That’s Zion I King’s involvement. He worked a lot on the project together with Jahdan [Blakkamoore]. They were hired by Diplo to go to Jamaica and help write for the album. They were hired to write lyrics and melodies. Not music,” he explains.

For the love of the music
Zion High Productions is a small label, even though it has put out a number of major and much talked about albums, including the aforementioned Yami Bolo album and the Jah Golden Throne compilation. And just as for many other labels the reality is harsh and Zion High Productions struggles with balancing costs and revenues.

“The most challenging is figuring out a way to make our business profitable. To stay afloat,” explains Jah David.

It’s however crystal clear that Jah David and his partners are not in this business for the money. They do it for the love of the music and for the love of Rastafari.

“This is our vehicle to glorify and praise Rastafari. It is our mission and we are using the talents we have been blessed with.”

But running a label and being a producer takes time, energy and money, and great response and wide file sharing does not translate well into dollars on the bank account.

“Everything costs. Lights have to be turned on and we need to bring in other musicians. I’d love if it becomes more profitable,” he explains, and adds:

“When we invest in a CD we usually make money, but not the kind of money we would like to see. There is support for CD and physical products, but it doesn’t cover the total cost of putting it together. It takes more than we are seeing. Everyone feels good artistically, but not monetary,” he says and adds that he’s not really preoccupied with dealing with file sharing and that he rather focuses on writing a bass line or mixing a song.

Being one with the music is important to Jah David and the response he gets from fans and other musicians are some of the greatest rewards.

“That the world hears the message, accepts the message and feels good about it; that’s the biggest reward. We are not making music for ourselves; we make it for the world to hear. That’s my greatest accomplishment. People in Africa, in Asia and in Budapest have heard my works,” he concludes.

Working with Lloyd Brown
Jah David has worked on countless of albums, compilations and singles and it is hard for him to pick favorite projects. To him they are all special and unique. But after a while when he has thought the question over he comes up with a few suggestions, most of them being upcoming projects rather than already released ones.

lloydbrown-rootical“I’m really excited about the Lloyd Brown album. This is something else. This is my album. Boy, I’m very excited about this one. This album is very different from every other Lloyd Brown album. To me Lloyd is like a virtual soul singer, like John Coltrane on sax, or Miles on trumpet. That’s how he is on the microphone,” explains an excited Jah David, and continues:

“I have been a fan of Lloyd for a long time. I used to tour with Tippa Irie and he and Lloyd are close, so I got introduced to him by Tippa.”

Lloyd Brown and Tippa Irie also had a combination on the Jah Golden Throne compilation called Make It Work.

“They have done so many things together. Lloyd heard the Make it Work riddim and contacted me. We linked and he wanted to listen to some other riddims. I sent him the Breadfruit riddim and he loved it and said we should do an album. From there it just went on,” he says and reveals two other upcoming projects:

“We are also doing an instrumental album from Jah Bless. It will be eclectic with a lot of dub, horns, solos and jazz. I’m really excited about that. And we are also doing an album with Ziggi Recado.”

Hopes for the future
Capleton, Lutan Fyah, Prezident Brown and Yami Bolo. The list of artists that Jah David has worked with is long. There are a few artists he has yet to work with, but aim for in the future.

“Lloyd was a big one for me. And I’d really want to do more with Queen Omega. She has voiced a tune on the Jah Warrior riddim [drops on February 25] and also has a combination on the Lloyd Brown album. I’d love to do an album with her,” he explains, and continues:

“I have never done any work with Tarrus Riley. I really love him from a technical production standpoint. Don’t know about an album, maybe just a record.”

Re-worked a Cornel Campbell album
Another recent release from Zion High Productions and the Zion I Kings is Cornel Campbell’s New Scroll, a rootsy and melodic set jam-packed with the usual memorable hooks and bright horns arrangements. The story of the album goes back many years. Actually almost ten years. So let’s take it from the beginning.cornel-campbell-new-scroll

“Ras Elliott has been a fan of Cornel Campbell for years. Elliott is an elder to me and could almost be my father. He has been into Cornel Campbell for 30 to 35 years. He’s a huge fan. Owns all of his records on vinyl and the whole thing. He has also known Cornel for years. And when he toured the west coast around 2004/2005 Ras Elliott was the tour manager. He called me and said ‘Jah D, book some studio time in Florida. We are coming there to voice and record an album, ’” he says with great excitement, and continues:

“He came for a week, but we weren’t satisfied with the result. We didn’t have enough time and I was much greener than I am now. My approach then was like a more hands-off approach. It didn’t happen and we moved on to other projects. But then finally, about a year ago, he came to Tampa again and we redid the album. One or two new songs are new, but the bulk of it is the same with different riddim tracks. The songs have been reworked and rearranged from the originals in a way where it seemed to become better. The result is great.”

On a mission
Jah David is a humble and dedicated musician that knows his talent and skills. People in the business know him by the trail of relentless bass lines he has provided the world with. And when he works with artists they can expect two things.

“First, it’s the music. Whenever I play a riddim for any of these artists, Capleton, Sizzla etc, they get excited. They shout when I play the bass. Even in the beginning, in the Culture Dem days. I play real reggae music. That’s the main thing,” he says, and continues:

“Secondly, the fact we are heartical Rasta and that we’re serious about the misson. People know what we’re about.”

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Midnite previews new album with EP

1463003_10151684610166324_1475110588_nVI-reggae trailblazers Midnite is set to drop a new album in mid January. The album is titled Beauty for Ashes and is produced by the always reliable and interesting production trio Zion I Kings. It will be Midnite’s seventh album for I Grade Records.

But no need to wait more than a month for new Midnite music. Already on December 17 a seven track EP will be available on digital platforms. It features three vocal combinations with Pressure, Lutan Fyah and Ras Batch along with four dub versions mixed by Tippy I, Digital Ancient, Liondub and Nic the Graduate.

The Pressure combination Same I Ah One is now also available for free download on Soundcloud. Check the free download between December 1 and December 8. Go grab it people.

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Soothing sounds from Pressure’s upcoming album

Pressure Busspipe has a new album in the making and an initial single was put out yesterday.

Run Away is produced by the very reliable Zion I Kings, a trio that has already this year blessed us with mighty albums from Cornel Campbell, General Jah Mikey and Lloyd Brown.

No album title or street date yet, but Run Away is very promising. Listen for yourself via Soundcloud below.

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Lloyd Brown’s Rootical puts a big smile on your face

Lloydd cover2bFor prolific reggae singer Lloyd Brown’s second album this year he has joined forces no others than the dynamic and highly successful U.S. based production trio Zion I Kings.

Lloyd Brown is a UK resident and a veteran on the reggae scene with a career spanning 30 years and 17 albums, including the brand new Rootical, definitely one of his best releases so far. That says quite a lot since Lloyd Brown is one of the most consistent artists on the contemporary reggae scene.

Rootical is a 13 track set that might be his most roots-oriented set to date and has a classic, yet modern feel. It’s a mix of romantic sounds, brimstone and fire roots and dub wizardry and has rather sparse arrangements with nyabinghi drum patterns, chopping guitars, bright horns and pulsating bass lines. At times it sounds like Niney in his heydays back in the 70s.

Lloyd Brown is a certified soul singer and one hell of a vocalist. He can be plaintive and express sorrow, while also being uplifting and joyful. But usually it just sounds like he smiles when he sings, which make you want to smile too. It’s such a joy and pleasure to listen to his silky smooth crooning, especially when he clashes more aggressive deejays like the multi-talented Jahdan Blakkamoore, Queen Omega and Pressure.

It’s hard to get a better music experience than this and Lloyd Brown and the Zion I Kings have with this release managed to outperform themselves.

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Nothing can stop Cornel Campbell and Soothsayers

17708255-origpic-38141eIn classic Sizzla style the Original Gorgon Cornel Campbell drops his second album in just three weeks. The first one was the excellent roots album New Scroll for U.S. production trio Zion I Kings.

The latest set Nothing Can Stop Us, recorded together with UK’s music collective Soothsayers, is a different affair compared to New Scroll. It’s a varied and ethereal set firmly grounded in reggae, but with significant influences from funk, afrobeat, dub and soul.

Soothsayers have utilized the mixing skills courtesy of Yesking, Manasseh, Ticklah and Wrongtom and the sound is warm, hypnotic and swirling with lots of instruments, vocal parts and harmonies trading places in an eclectic, organic and breezy cocktail.

The horns are sublime throughout, especially in Good Times and There’s A Fire, the piano in the uplifting Never Give Up is driving and Cornel Campbell’s high pitched tenor is soothing and a little rougher and raspier compared to his heydays in the 70s.

With an album like this there’s definitely no stopping to what can happen next in the careers of Cornel Campbell and Soothsayers.

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A wonderful new chapter in the Cornel Campbell story

PrintJamaica has produced countless of gifted, versatile and soulful performers and one of my all time favorite singers is the Original Gorgon aka Cornel Campbell. He started his career in the 60s as a member of The Eternals, but rose to prominence in the 70s when recording a number of major tunes for Bunny Lee.

Now he’s in the hands of acclaimed U.S. production team the Zion I Kings and together they have recorded another golden nugget in the Cornel Campbell catalogue.

New Scroll boasts nine fresh vocal cuts and four dub versions. Most of the tracks carry Zion I Kings’ signature sound – warm with live instrumentation, rich with vibrating arrangements and smooth with a soulful and deep vibe.

Cornel Campbell’s voice still sounds remarkably fresh. His emotive and instantly recognizable high tenor is a bit raspier, but it’s still cool as a pair of shades and soothing like aloe on sunburned skin.

New Scroll contains catchy melodies, memorable hooks and well-thought conscious lyrics and this album is yet another outstanding release from the Zion I Kings and one of the most distinguished, but sometimes overlooked, Jamaican singers.

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