Upbeat (September/October 1997)

What's new in Caribbean Music

The Best of Johnny King

(King Charles Productions)

It took a while, but finally calypsonian Johnny King found the time to release his greatest hits. They are worth the wait. King, who burst on the scene in 1984, mixes old and new hits on this set like a bartender mixes drinks. The result is just as intoxicating. Hits like Wet Me Down and Nature’s Plan are here, and King’s unpretentious down-home voice is as familiar as an old friend. Certainly one of the best for the year, a safety net even from the jam-and-wine calypsos. (ES)

Land of Love

Marcia Griffiths (Germain Records PHCD 2045)

Bob Marley was Bob Marley, of course, and you have the impression that if he had come out singing to the world with only his guitar he would still have been a hit. But part of the wonder of the music that Bob left is those tightly-wrought heavenly harmonies sung by the I-Trees in the background — Rita Marley, Judy Mowatt and Marcia Griffiths, all of whom emerged, to greater or lesser degree, as solo artists after Bob died. Griffiths on Land Of Love is testimony to the fine singing company that Bob kept when he was alive. While in Children Of Zion Griffiths makes a statement about racial solidarity, the rest of the album is deeply personal, although it speaks the universal language of love. In Woman, Griffith dismisses the notion, so prevalent among the male Caribbean young, that women are only about the material, and asks where would a man be without a good woman by his side. Trite, perhaps, but Griffiths is a tried and tested performer and she injects this song with a lilt that is all her own. Land Of Love is an easy listening album, and the music, led by the redoubtable Sly Dunbar, sparkles like the Caribbean Sea, each song a sonorous wave until Griffiths reaches her climax with a scintillating cover of the pop hit Shame, Shame, Shame that, sung in live performance, is bound to take the audience by storm. (KS)

Lovers Rock, Volume 4

Various artists (Penthouse Records PHCD 2048)

Superband Chalice, musicians Sly (Dunbar) and Robbie (Shakespeare) and producer Donovan Germain make this is a collectors’ compilation. Featuring Penthouse stars Buju Banton and Wayne Wonder, reggae icons Marcia Griffiths, Junior Tucker and the late Garnett Silk, plus contemporary singer Richie Stephens, Lovers Rock combines soothing irie “rockers” (Beres Hammond and his Queen and Lady) with the upbeat skank rhythm of Vanessa (Thriller U) and the lyrically strong Wanna Be Loved (Buju Banton). Twiggy’s remake of Mariah Carey’s Can’t Let Go is a fitting finale to the reggae romantic’s seduction CD. (NM)

Kaiso Potpourri

Explainer (Kismet Records)

Explainer’s 1997 Carnival CD featured songs by some of soca and calypso’s best performers. Party Time, by Austin “SuperBlue” Lyons, is a melodic tribute to Carnival dance music, anchored by screaming rock guitar and bouncy bass lines. How Yuh Feeling, by Winsford DeVines, who has written some of the most humorous calypsos of the last 20 years, is a 70s-style soca party song with a zouk flavour. Carnival Fever is an uptempo tribute to the mas’ by Winston Henry (Explainer). Out of Control, by Sedley Joseph, the Penguin, was one of the most powerful commentaries for Carnival 1997. Most of the songs on this 11-track album feature soft melodies and poignant lyrics. This is an easy listening CD which evokes the days when calypsos could be listened to and pondered. (DJ)

Got It Going On

IV Play (Love Hit Music)

This first outing by the ambitious young Barbadian group IV Play perks with talent. It moves away from standard Caribbean rhythms towards original easy listening R&B tunes, with romantic or conscious lyrics, nicely rendered arrangements and strong rhythms. Seven of the eight tracks were written by group members, most of whom are under 25. The popular hit Love Will Never Let You Down is an impressive cut composed and sung by 21-year-old Toni Norville, a catchy, flowing melody with some nice chant by Peter Ram that blends well without being overbearing. Philip Forrester’s Today’s Inspirational Song provides variety with nice choral work and conscious lyrics in a pop idiom. In Good Lovin, by Shane Forrester and Nicholas Baptiste, the sax sounds of Arturo Tappin ripple through and emphasise the sultry feel. Friends Forever (Toni and Shane) is a joyous, upbeat song that celebrates life in words, rhythm and chant. The band has undergone some changes — a new name (4 D People) and additional members — in preparation for a North America tour. This is a group to watch. (RK)

Baje Roots

Various artists (Lethal Studios LSCD 012)

Ringbang takes a back seat for the Bajans to jam a bit of Jamaica’s dancehall on this set. Twelve tracks deep, Baje Roots doesn’t boast Shabba Ranks or Buju Banton. But will you settle for Shakey Ranks and Taylor Banton? Ceasefire by Njeri and Shakey Ranks is the opener; the youth is urged to drop the gun and spread love. Enter Peter Ram with the same sentiment, not to mention the same bassline, on God In My Heart. And await and enjoy the title track, as delivered by Ram and Patra-soundalike Natalie Burke (of Weakness For Sweetness fame). The song dangles from the classic hookline Mama said there’d be days like this. Also listen for the Sanchez clone Webley as his butter-smooth voice drips all over Genie, not to mention calypsonian Ras Iley’s Beware of the Beast. (ES)