Friday, February 17, 2023

Reggae Legends Make Rolling Stone's List of the 200 Greatest Singers of All Time

Rolling Stone recently released their list of the 200 greatest singers of all time. Not surprisingly, several reggae legends were included. Obviously, the list is subjective and those included are a matter of personal opinion. However, it speaks volumes about the talent found within the cauldron that is reggae music!

We'll start from the bottom and work our way up. Entering in at Number 143 is Luciano. Most definitely a worthy inclusion. Here's what Easy Star Record's Michael Goldwasser had to say about the Messenjah:

"I’ve never heard a bad Luciano performance live, even when he’s doing a backflip off a speaker. And in the studio, the Jamaican star is just as dynamic. The first time I produced Luci, I noticed his ability to instantly come up with a melody that seemed classic. When Luciano came on the scene in the Nineties, his tunes like “Sweep Over My Soul” and “It’s Me Again Jah” immediately entered the reggae canon. Luciano once sang that he had “the voice of a trumpet.” If anything, that’s an undersell; he’s got a range that extends from a rich baritone up to a strong falsetto. And he’s a master of the lost art of harmonizing — Luciano would be a top vocal arranger in N.Y. or L.A., if he weren’t so committed to the roots."  

Coming in at Number 125 is the inimitable Joe Strummer. Now you'd be correct in saying that the former Clash front man isn't necessarily a reggae legend. However, if you're a fan of the Clash, you know they were massive fans based on the reggae songs they covered and/or their originals. In fact, note 2 of the songs Rob Sheffield mentions in his words about Strummer:

"Joe Strummer always wore his heart on his sleeve. With the Clash, he could knock you flat with his mighty roar, but he could do a lot more than that — his deceptively gruff yowl was an astonishingly flexible instrument, which is how he could hit such a wide emotional range. Strummer could do rage, sure, but he had a unique gift for jolly let’s-go warmth, in the comic flights of “Bank Robber” or “Safe European Home.” He could do elegiac tenderness, as in “Spanish Bombs” or “Straight to Hell.” Or he could just could turn into the voice of doom, as in “Armagideon Time.” If you ever doubt his smarts as a singer, just listen to “London Calling,” in his intricate emotional swerves from anger (“Now get this!”) to mirth to terror. It’s a three-minute vocal master class." A deep dive into their catalog reveals a long list of reggae tunes including, among others, Police and Thieves, Pressure Drop, Rudie Can't Fail, The Guns of Brixton, Lover's Rock, Junco Partner, One More Time, Kingston Advice, Version Pardner, (White Man) in Hammersmith Palais, Ghetto Defendant and Cool Confusion, not to mention the wicked Rock the Casbah and Red Angel Dragnet mixes with the legendary Ranking Roger!  

Next on the list is Barrington Levy at Number 119. No argument here. Mr. Levy has one of the most distinct and notable voices that reggae has ever produced. 

At Number 98 is the Legend himself- Robert Nesta Marley. Rolling Stone reporter Jon Dolan summed it up nicely: "Influenced by James Brown’s funk declamations, the earthy equanimity of folk and blues, and the yearning hunger in rock’s search for mass connection, Bob Marley invented a down-to-earth yet heraldic idiom that reflected the struggles and aspirations of tens of millions of people throughout the world. His voice was lovably ragged even on smooth tracks like “Could You Be Loved,” but his command of the dramatic octave leap that signifies our shared search for a better tomorrow had few peers. And it says something about the communal gravity of his voice that one of his most deeply beloved recorded moments — the “No Woman No Cry” captured at London’s Lyceum Theatre in July 1975 — was created live out of thin air, bountiful warts and all."

Four spots ahead at Number 94 is Toots Hibbert. Honestly, just the first 3 lines of '54-46' could put him on this list: "Stick it up, mister! Hear what I say sir, yeah. Get your hands in the air, sir!" Rolling Stone and Toots himself had this to say: "Reggae pioneer Toots Hibbert possessed a rough-edged, fierce voice that gave fire to the incarceration chronicle “54-46 That’s My Number” and added a slyly endearing wink to the wedding-jitters chronicle “Sweet and Dandy.” The Toots and the Maytals leader came to music through religion: “My voice was developed going to church with my family,” he told Uncut in 2020. “I love singing; singing was what I thought I should do because it was born in me and I grew into it, straight from the church.” Over the years, it evolved further, with Hibbert taking cues from gospel and soul, helping him fulfill the promise he laid out in the title track to his classic 1973 album Funky Kingston: “I want you to believe every word I say/ I want you to believe every thing I do.”" 

The highest on the list at Number 67 is Dennis Brown. No real surprise here.  Rolling Stone encapsulated the Crown Prince of reggae beautifully: "Dennis Brown was a child star — his first hit, 1969’s “No Man Is an Island,” came at age nine — who matured into homegrown superstar. With a voice as tough-yet-velvety as suede, he was one of Jamaica’s smoothest love men ever, not to mention a dispense of homespun wisdom on the immortal 1981 hit “Sitting and Watching.” Sadly, Brown died at 42. Yet, throughout his career, his soulfulness was unimpeachable — no less an authority than Bob Marley once declared Brown his favorite reggae singer."

Overall one can't really take issue with those that are included. However, an argument could certainly be made for many others to have been included.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Jah Cure "Royal Soldier" Review (VP Records)

I’ve been a big fan of Jah Cure since the “Run come love me” days.  He continues to evolve his sound and message. For this I’m grateful.  The album starts with an uplifting hymn of confidence and forwards into an incredible, positive tune, pleading with Jah to send us a “Brighter Day”, with emphasis on Kingston and Montego Bay as the two cities continue to battle the woes of a petty gangster lifestyle. “Telephone Love” has been floating around as a single for a few years now.  It hits on every level!  “Magic” makes great use of the Beres Hammond hit “I wish”. Tory Lanez adds his touch to really shine up the track.  “Risk it All” is classic Jah Cure in combination with Phyllisia Ross.  Cure doesn’t miss lyrically when it comes to the ladies.  “Pretty Face” is an uptempo love tune with definite crossover ability. We even get a little bit of the Cure flexing his singjay muscles.  “Work it Out” is another classic, one drop love tune for the ladies.  Melanie Fiona’s feature is immaculate alongside the Cure's raspy falsetto.  “Eyes on Your Body” is a nice combination tune in an R&B style.  “Only You” doesn’t disappoint, as the Cure brings in the great Mya from the late 90’s/early 00’s R&B heyday.  It’s lovely to hear these two voices together.  “Don’t You Walk Away” is another classic Cure love song.  As I said before, he doesn’t let the ladies down lyrically......Ever!  The album takes a roots one drop turn with “Royal Soldier”. As the drum rolls kick off and the bass line drops, Jah Cure pleads for positivity and upliftment in his life.  Something we could all use more of.  “Life is Real” is another single that has been floating around for some time now.  He takes on the roll of inner city youths who feel crime is the only way out.  It’s a wicked tune with excellent imagery.  Popcaan & Padrino add a great layer of social commentary over Jah Cure's potent lyrics.  “Street Kings” ends the album with another heater, sampling the great Half Pint's “Greetings” in the background.  Yami Bolo and Junior Reid alongside Jah Cure's and Half Pint's voice is truly incredible!  What a great idea to combine these legendary, albeit similar voices together.  The only one missing is Mykal Rose!  Capleton adds a stellar feature in classic Clifton Bailey style, that only he can provide.  In my opinion, “Royal Soldiers” and “Street Kings” are the stand outs, but there is most definitely something for everyone as the Cure tends to do with each of his meticulously created albums.  On another note, I got a chance to meet and spend some time with  Jah Cure before a show earlier this year in Negril. (Give thanks to Doctor Dread for making this happen.)  He couldn’t have been any more pleasant to be around, as the feeling of love, joy and gratitude filled the air.  He even had his young daughter with him, who was just a delight.  Big up Jah Cure! Much respect and blessings to you, King.  Keep making great reggae music, the world needs it now more than ever.  One Love.
- contributed by DownTown

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