Upbeat (Summer 1995)

New Caribbean music releases from leading reggae, calypso and soca artists

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Kings Of The Dance Hall

Charlie Chaplain & Josey Wales (VP Records)

A change is taking place in dancehall. A wider consciousness is prevailing — and not a moment too soon, for the pendulum has stuck on the extreme of slackness, homophobia and gun-talk or gangsterism, not to mention boredom. Kings of the Dancehall, a production of Philip “Fattie” Burrel, combines two veterans, Chaplain and Wales, who have generally been more “conscious” in their music. There is a healthy dose of praise songs, and a call for more cultural and Bible-inspired songs as Rastafarianism reasserts its spirit on Jamaican pop once again. One of the tracks features the current singing sensation Luciano, who along with the late Garnet Silk has been responsible for the current redemption of dancehall. The album also uses backup singers and good session men to sweeten the pill.

One Way Ticket

Luciano (VP Records)

Luciano, especially with his hit single It’s Me Again Jah, is the logical successor to Garnet Silk, whose fervour and inspiration was largely responsible for leading Jamaican music back from dead-end street. Luciano, who sounds like a young Denis Brown, is an impressive singer and a dramatic performer. This album finds him at his best, singing songs of substance: Black Survivor, Chant Down Babylon, Turn Your Life Around and the title track One Way Ticket. He is also smooth and versatile on a lover’s rock like Bounty Lover with Lady G and the soulful That’s the Way Life Goes. But he is at his most compelling in the praise songs. Luciano is arguably the best of the new voices, and one can only hope that he will realise his full potential.

Conversation & More

Third World (Teichiku Records)

A new album from Third World is overdue. Since Committed in 1992 they have left the Mercury label, and are currently operating as independent artists. Of these three songs, presumably a teaser from the forthcoming album, only one is an original — Conversation, a pleasing ballad that is brought to life by Bunny Bugs, still one of the best voices in reggae, but a voice that is in need of really excellent songs. The others are cover versions of Magnet & Steel and Papa Was A Rolling S tone, featuring Beenie Man. One is at a loss to understand why these were recorded over good originals. As independent artists of the highest standards, Third World need to use the freedom to record their best work.

Andru Donalds

Andru Donalds (Metro Blue/Capitol)

Andru Donalds is a welcome departure from the predictability of a great deal of Jamaican pop. He is a new Jamaican artist who has taken on the pop establishment on its own terms, and succeeded impressively. His single Mishale (pronounced Michelle) has reached number one in Tokyo and Canada, and has been climbing Billboard magazine’s Top 100 chart like a bullet. Here, it’s pop with a reggae flavour on three songs. It exploits areas that seemed reserved only for groups like Ace of Base. Andru Donalds is also something of a breakthrough because, as a new artist, he was given complete creative control; the album is fresh and well crafted. It is produced by Eric Foster White, and is a joy to listen to on a good system. As a singer, Donalds is honest and convincing, and he has been favourably compared to Terence Trent Darby and Seal. With solid record company support, Donalds is going to be a star, and the album can yield at least three more hit singles.

Man And Time

Winston Peters (MRS 4295)

A spicy taste of Carnival music from one of the most versatile men in the business, better known as Gypsy, noted for his powerful voice and his genius for rhyme. This album explores both the serious and light-hearted sides of calypso. There’s traditional commentary in Mockery of Democracy; Soca Poom Poom offers some welcome satire on the 1994 hit Ragga Poom Poom; and Gypsy also urges listeners to support Trinidad soca music against the Jamaican ragga music which threatens to overwhelm it. Pelham Goddard plays some haunting synthesiser and horns. Man and Time is built around a bubbly bass and considers man’s ruin of his perfect world. Eagle Eye is trenchant on the problem of incest. Colourful lyrics, clever rhymes, exciting rhythms: this is an album for anyone who likes the old style of calypso music.

Rhythm For The People

Prince Unique (JW WSS 002)

Prince Unique continues his experimental crossover music, blending salsa, soca and zouk. These ten tracks from calypso’s most authoritative arranger, Pelham Goddard, are full of his trademark rhythms. The title track conjures up Africa with driving drums and a haunting flute. Other tracks include Goddard’s soca interpretation of Wanna Know What Love Is, which changes that pop hit into something so upbeat that it sounds completely new; the humorous Ouch, about a Trinidad vampire; Dou Dou Darling, which introduces some zesty zouk; and Ah Wonder, a plea for world peace written with the prolific Dennis “Merchant” Williams. A soca/rocker dub remake of the Elvis classic Love Me Tender is an interesting tribute to Goddard’s skills. The album ends with hot tempo in Trini Mas.

The Winner In Me

Baron (JW 066CA)

Six upbeat soca selections from one of the most powerful and beautiful voices in modern calypso. Soca Lover exhorts its listeners to “prance to the music” Last Lap, written by Delamo, the joint Calypso Monarch of 1994, urges a final jump-up in the dying hours of Carnival. Love Conquers All is a traditional social commentary with a pleasant melody and a brisk pace. In Soca Bull Pistle, Baron sets himself up as the sheriff of soca who will make people dance — lyrically weak, but Baron’s voice overshadows the shortcomings. Simple arrangements and average mixing are offset by Baron’s commanding voice. The beguiling melody of Call Me is another compensation — it’s a lively, suggestive song firmly in the Baron tradition, as is One More. Buy this album for the great voice rather than dynamite music, arrangement and mixing.

Mix It Up Trinidad & Tobago

Various artists (Ivan Records 0001)

Yet another small, enterprising recording company enters the arena, with a 14- track album that ranges across different musical styles including pop, R&B and Trinidad and Tobago-style dancehall. There are several artists involved in this debut album. Natalie Yorke (Don’t Cry Over Me, I Am Confused) has sung with Sound Revolution, Blue Ventures and Shades of Black. Arlette Xavier (Tell Me, One So Dear, Surrender, Heart and Soul) is an all-round performer and former lead singer with Taxi. King C (alias Brian Williams) is a talented voice on the Trinidad young scene; singer George Soyer, L.J ‘n’ Chill (“the hop ragga brothers”), the four-man group K-US, and keyboardists/arrangers Graham Wilson and Andrew Forde feature strongly.

Loose Yuh Waist

Machel Montano and Xtatik (RW 451)

Hard-hitting soca and dancehall from Machel Montano, the most popular party singer on Trinidad’s young scene, and his band Xtatik. This album has live tracks — a rare treat in these days of the synthesiser — and features Kenny Phillips on guitars with Joseph Rivers. The title track sets a sizzling pace with demanding dance commands and-punchy percussion. Fire In De Dancehall weaves a soca/dub dance style with a sampler of Sparrow’s Mr Walker. The eight wild tracks represent the young sound of Trinidad and Tobago: good solid music, interesting arrangements and master mixing.

The Best Of Sound Revolution

Sound Revolution (Kisskidee)

A collection of party music, past and present, from a band which has produced good work for 20 years. Tracks include two 1995 Road March contenders —Jump Around, a lightning-fast soca in the SuperBlue vein, arranged by Leston Paul, and Don’t Stop the Party, written by last year’s Road March king, Bamett “Preacher” Henry, and arranged by Kenny Phillips. Several tracks blend zouk and soca happily. Hook lines are heavily borrowed from SuperBlue; many are reminiscent of Antiguan calypsonian Swallow and Trinidad’s three-time Road March winner Christopher “Tambu” Herbert. The album also includes vintage Sound Revolution tracks like Put Your Hand On Your Head And Wine, Shakin’ It and Play The Music. There’s lots of good brass, punchy horns and live percussion. The classic calypso ballad Stay offers a change of pace.

Fire in De Wave

Various artists (Ice Records 941502)

A good collection of Barbadian calypso and its influences: Trinidad calypso, traditional tuk bands, Jamaican reggae and dub and crossover, represented by Guyanese-born, London-trained, Barbadian-resident Eddy Grant, perhaps the most influential name in Caribbean music today. Grynner, the most successful Road March King in Barbados history, kicks off the album with a fiery party song which turns the Jump and Wave motif started in Trinidad by SuperBlue in 1991 into a heat wave. Gabby follows with Debra Gimme the Sugar, a witty double entendre. Square On has a catchy melody and combines Grant’s ring bang — a new twist of traditional Caribbean rhythms – with traditional tuk bands of Barbados. Adisa, who is making a name in the rapso business (rap vocals over soca music), offers a thumping rapso about ring bang called Jump in the Ring Bang Tide. Also featured on this album is Viking-Tundah’s Ringa Ringa Ring Bang. Background vocals by Eddy Grant; powerful rhythms, sweet melodies, and an excellent album which forges clear links between the past, present and future of Caribbean music.

Funding provided by the 11th EDF Regional Private Sector Development Programme Direct Support Grants Programme.
The views expressed on this website are those of the the authors and do not reflect those of the Direct Support Grants Programme.