CD Reviews – November/December 2010

The new music that is reflecting the region right now

  • Jahdan Blakkamoore. Photograph courtesy I Grade Records

Joyful Noise

Various Artists • I-Grade Records

During the last decade, the St Croix-based I-Grade Records has established itself as the premier label showcasing the burgeoning roots reggae scene of the US Virgin Islands. The label has made a strong impact in the region and throughout North America with impressive releases by the band Midnite, St Croix’s most revered reggae act, and other upcoming Rasta artists such as Dezarie, Abja, and Army.

This latest offering, the label’s 20th release, is a pan-Caribbean compilation, showcasing some of the most notable roots reggae performers of recent times, including Jamaicans Duane Stephenson, Lutan Fyah, Norris Man, Messenjah Selah, Guyana’s sing-jay sensation, Jahdan Blakkamoore, and Trini roots specialists Queen Omega and I-Sasha. Then there are VI-based acts such as Niyorah, Pressure Busspipe, and Midnite’s leader, Vaugan Benjamin, as well as an Ethiopian vocal duo based in Sweden called the Nazarines.

Produced jointly by the most prominent VI reggae crews, aided by the US-based Jamaican outfit Lustre Kings, the tracks feature live instrumentation and bright horn fanfares that complement the urgency of the lyrics.

Outstanding tracks include Dwayne Stephenson’s evocative “Hard Time”, Jahdan Blakkamoore’s foreboding “Flying High”, Lutan Fyah’s fearsome “Discipline”, Niyorah’s politically censorious “Gone Crazy”, Vaughan Benjamin’s eerie “Deep Tangle Roots”, and the forlorn “Youths” by a singer/producer called Batch.

Although the 20 songs make use of only five rhythm tracks, the quality production values and the distinctiveness of the vocalists are enough to keep things sounding fresh throughout.

David Katz


Putumayo Presents: Tribute to a Reggae Legend

It’s been almost 30 years since Jamaica’s reggae legend Bob Marley died, yet his music still lives on. The original sounds of Marley can still bring partygoers to their feet in clubs all over the world, and his songs continue to be covered by artistes worldwide.

Thing is, unless your last name is Marley (as in the case of the late singer’s children), the magic of the man’s music is lost.

It’s commendable that Putumayo found it fit to pay tribute to Marley in the year he would have turned 65, but don’t hold your breath for that carefree yet soulful Marley spirit.

Instead, once you’ve popped in this CD, you’ll uncover watered-down versions, by various artistes from across the globe, of some of Marley’s classics. They include Hawaii’s Three Plus, making “Is This Love” sound like cruise-ship entertainment, and US-based Rebelution’s “Natural Mystic”.

Probably the most disappointing was Caracol, out of Canada, whose female lead singer’s version of “Could You Be Loved” was filled with nasal vocals and unnecessary purring. Ceu’s “Concrete Jungle” adaptation, meantime, was just plain unrecognisable.

This CD might find a place in your collection if you’re desperate for anything Marley.

Essiba Small