Thursday, December 30, 2010

Reggae Star Boom Viniyard Triumphs over Trials and Tragedies

 After being missing from the reggae scene for almost four years, reggae artist Boom Viniyard once deemed as "the next great thing" makes a triumphant return.


It was almost four years ago after the release of his hit single “You Don’t Have to be Like Them” that many in the reggae industry referred to Boom Viniyard as the next great reggae star out of Jamaica. But just as quickly as he burst unto the scene, he disappeared out of the spotlight.

Now Boom Viniyard is back again and his intentions are to take up right where he left off. His first single since his return is entitled "I Survive", a song that tells the story of exactly why he has been missing for so long. From being the victim of an attempted armed robbery, a near fatal car accident, trouble with the law and a stint in jail, Boom Viniyard seems to have been through it all. Still the artist seems to not only have triumphed over these obstacles but they have inspired the lyrics to the artist's new song.

“I survive, I survive
I drifted and drifted for miles
Blowing in the wind from a juvenile
But I made it y'all, everything is alright.”

The artist has also released a second single entitled “My Word” which is a tribute to the special woman in his life, his empress. In a recent interview with the Jamaican Gleaner, Boom Viniyard said, “She has always been there for me, through the lows and the highs, like myself, she has proven to be a rider for life, so it was only fitting that I wrote a song especially for her.”
As for the near future, the artist is currently hard at work in the studio so fans can expect a lot of new material very soon. Boom Viniyard songs can also be found on the 18 Karat Reggae releases with other reggae greats such as Beenie Man, Sizzla, Luciano, MasSicker and more. While he has had a song on every release in the 18 Karat Reggae series, the artist told the Gleaner that for 2011 fans can expect a big surprise. “I can’t really divulge into all the detail right now, but me and the label behind 18 Karat Reggae has been in a lot of talk, and if things go as planned the fans will be delightfully surprise on the next release of 18 Karat Reggae.
You can download Boom Viniyard's new songs for free at:
http://soundcloud.com/18-karat-reggae/sets/reggae-gold-2011/
The next release of 18 Karat Reggae is due out in the spring of 2011.
-Source: The Gleaner and PR Web

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

VP Records presents: REGGAE ANTHOLOGY: STEELY AND CLEVIE-DIGITAL REVOLUTION

(17 NORTH PARADE/VP RECORDS, NEW YORK) - Jamaican-born production team Wycliffe "Steely" Johnson and Cleveland "Clevie" Browne are more than producers - they are pioneers of dancehall reggae's digital age. Thus, it is only fitting that this compilation album featuring their top hits is deemed Digital Revolution, set for release on January 25, 2011 from 17 North Parade, a division of VP Records.

Having built their world-renowned reputations as studio musicians, with Steely playing keyboards and Clevie playing drums, the duo rose to prominence as the house band at King Jammy's studio at the time when drum machines were first introduced on reggae records. They quickly became Jamaica's hottest production team and together forged a sound that would rule the dancehall scene for decades. Their imprint logged numerous top Jamaican hits and multiple U.S. crossover radio hits from 1989 to 2005.

Digital Revolution is a three-disc collector's edition that includes 42 of their most influential and biggest hits on discs 1 and 2. Disc 3 is a DVD that contains a 1988 interview and studio demonstration with Steely and Clevie filmed for the Jamaica Broadcasting Company (JBC), as well as a 2005 interview with the producers sponsored by Red Bull Academy. This collection presents fan favorites and rare insight on two of reggae's most influential producers - a must have for collectors, and fans, everywhere.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Interview With Gappy Ranks

We recently caught up with Greensleeves recording artist Gappy Ranks. His latest album 'Put The Stereo On' has been receiving rave reviews from across the globe. It did not take long to realize that he is a very focused professional that is determined to succeed not only as an artist but also as an entrepreneur. He showed  a maturity that goes well beyond his 27 years. A man with talents the likes of Gappy Ranks (read on and you will see he has many!) is definitely going places!

R.R.- Where were you born and what was it like growing up there and how important was music?
G.R.- I was born in a part of London called Harlesden. My father is from Jamaica and my mother is from Dominica so music was always in the household, especially reggae music, and in the community in which I lived in which is a 95% Jamaican area. It played a very important part of my life but it wasn’t easy growing up in London as both of my parents were immigrants to the country. We still had to go through that hard background. Reggae music on a national level, it wasn’t the top seller and especially where I came from there was a lack of producers. They declined from the area after so much years and history. I had to find a way to get out myself. So I would go to fun days and night clubs and deejay. I joined a group in 2002 called Suncycle. I left that in 2004 because I wanted to become a solo artist. I thought I had more to offer than 16 bars and 8 bars. But, I learned a lot there. I left the group on good terms. I learned studio engineering and 98% of my stuff I engineer today.
R.R.- I know that Bitty McLean had his start engineering too…
G.R.- Definitely. It was one of the avenues that we have to go through especially in the UK because of lack of producers and just media attention and eyes on the world. It never was like that because a lot of greats came to record there from all different genres of music but now it’s looking promising again.
R.R.- Speaking of looking promising, the Peckings production crew. What lead you to them? How did that relationship come about?
G.R.- I was doing some work in the studio with a producer called Cool Hand Luke. He actually knew the Peckings syndicate. They heard I was in the studio and they had heard of me. At that time I was doing a lot of dancehall tracks. Actually, first of all they came to give me dancehall riddims. But, a later session after that I was in the studio with them and I had them voicing an artist called Bunny Lie Lie and I asked them, I said to them “you should be giving me these riddims…Studio One riddims, man, I can handle them.” and it’s like “You sure?” I said “Come on man, I love this music.” They gave me two riddims that day, the ‘Soul Rebel’ riddim and the ‘Mountain Top’riddim. I recorded ‘Heaven In Her Eyes’ and ‘Mountain Top’ on the same day. So ever since working with them it’s been tremendous.
R.R.- You can definitely tell that you love those riddims and that you can handle them! Am I correct in saying that’s how ‘Put The Stereo On’ came about?
G.R.- Definitely. As I said, I remember when music was playing on a Sunday, especially on a Sunday because every other day was a working day for my parents and me and my siblings were at school.. Even at the saddest times, when music was played in the house it bring everybody together. I think everybody can relate to that no matter what culture you grew up in. Music is a bigger form of communication and it brings people together. It’s very relevant on this album that’s why I said ‘put the stereo on’ and I touch on topics like ‘Mountain Top’, ‘Pumpkin Belly’, and things like that.
R.R.- Tell me a little bit about ‘Musical Girl’.
G.R.- Well, ‘Musical Girl’, I wrote that song..I used to remember listening’ to pirate stations…there’s a lot of pirate stations in the UK. You’ll have a certain female maybe calling the radio station all the time for requesting a song or she loves to be around the artist, the whole musical experience..That song is for the females out there like that. That’s why I called it ‘Musical Girl’. It’s happening out there and it’s today. I was writing it from a positive standpoint. She’s trapped instrumentally, trapped by the instruments, trapped by the love of the music.
R.R.- One thing that really differentiates you from a lot of artists is the fact that you sing and you deejay. Usually artists do one or the other.
G.R.- Yeah, well you know reggae music brings forth the dancehall and the hip hop which we all love and listen to today. I’ve always loved reggae music and that bring me in to doing the dancehall music. It’s a tradition. It’s a transition. It’s a process. I’ve always respected the foundation and it made me do the dancehall easy, especially coming from London, which is such a multicultural city. I’m really versatile and attentive like that. I love all styles of music, but as I said reggae music brings forth all the genres we love today so I find it very easy to do these things.
R.R.- You’re equally adept at both.
G.R.- Well, it’s all a process because everyday I’m maturing and everyday I’m learning something new on how to better myself.
R.R.- What are some of your influences, past or present?
G.R.- I have many influences by the songs I’ve listened to or by the people I’ve met, even more today that I get a chance to see the world and sing reggae music all around the world. It’s only Asia and Africa I haven’t been yet. I’ll be visiting those places early next year. Seeing the world and getting to know myself more, all these things influence me…things that are happening today, other peoples experiences, my experiences, all these incorporate into what Gappy Ranks sings about. I make music based on emotion so however I’m feeling that day this it’s what’s going to portray and reflect on my song. I try to keep it positive but obviously everyday’s not a happy mood. So, not all of my songs are going to have happiness and joy. I’m going to sing about my experiences and hopefully everybody can relate to it because we’re not perfect but I’m trying to stay positive.
R.R.- You’re here in the states right? New York, yeah?
G.R.- Yes, I’m in New York. I’m promoting the album on the east coast. I’ve been to Boston, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and I’m finishing off here in New York. I’ve done a lot of promo work on the west coast in the whole of California from Humboldt County to San Diego, Atlanta to Miami. I was just in Florida for the Labor Day. I visit the area quite regularly.
R.R.- Any particular artist that you would like to work with, reggae or otherwise?
G.R.- There’s so much good music and so much people working hard out there and making good music out there right now. It’s very hard to mention one artist or one particular songwriter. How it’s going right now, I’m collaborating with a lot of artists. I’m also producing for artists. Look out for my label ‘Hot Coffee Music’. We’re doing a lot out there right now. I’m the C.E.O. of that label. I’m hands-on in everything, from recording and production, so it’s not like I just sit back and just watch everything being done.
R.R.- Are you focusing on all different kinds of music?
G.R.- Yes. Definitely. ‘Hot Coffee Music’ is the aroma of reggae music. So, wherever the aroma can drift to. Maybe we’ll drift to other genres. There’s all different works we’re working on right now. I’m sure in the new year you’re going to hear a lot about ‘Hot Coffee Music’.
R.R.- Anything in particular that you are listening to right now?
G.R.- Right now I’m listening to Ijahman ‘Are We a Warrior’, which is a great song. I remember listening to that song growing up. Actually, he’s one of the reasons as to how I do reggae music today. Ijahman is a great artist. That’s what I’m listening to right now. It’s my ringtone.
R.R.- Any talents besides making music?
G.R.- Music brings lots of different avenues…especially fashion or food and other different things. So, don’t be surprised, if in the next few years, you walk into one of my chain of restaurants or you’re wearing one of my garments. Anything can happen. Any avenue that the music takes me right now, I’m happy. As long as I keep it positive and keep my shoes muddy, my feet on the ground, everything is great. I’m also a top chef, as well. I like to cook so people may want to know that about me.
R.R.- Do you specialize in a certain cuisine? Caribbean?
G.R.- All different foods. Going around the world, seeing different parts of the world I’m incorporating all different recipes. I make a great Italian pesto and penne pasta. Food is like music. It touches the heart.
R.R.- Growing up in Harlesden, West London you must be a football supporter?
G.R.- Just lately actually. I’m a West Londoner so I support Chelsea. But just lately have I become interested in sports. I remember my father really wanted me to be a sportsman and part of me rebelled against that. I’ve always loved music, and not that he didn’t know I had the potential. I think he just wanted to shield me from the dangers that the music portrayed. I think that was the part of me that rebelled against sport. But, I like sport now. I watch football and Chelsea’s my team.
R.R.- You talked about your writing and how you write based on your experiences. Do you take a riddim and write to it or do the lyrics and melody come first?
G.R.- No, I write to the riddim. It’s however I’m feeling that day, what emotion I’m in that will portray or compliment the riddim. That’s the art of making music. Music is a scientific art of joining vocal and instruments together. Big up to all the producers who give me the privilege.
R.R.- It’s great you’re getting in to producing. Do you play any instruments?
G.R.- I’m learning to play the guitar. It’s very important for an artist to play an instrument. My modern instrument is all engineering and it’s all technical now. I’m learning to play an instrument so give it a year’s time and Gappy Ranks will be performing with a guitar.
R.R.- What are your thoughts on Gregory Isaacs?
G.R.- Gregory Isaacs was one of my heroes! I actually performed three times with Gregory Isaacs. I meant him on many occasions. It was a sad loss to lose such a powerful pioneer in the music business. He will always be remembered. He was one of those artists that was very versatile. Simply Red covered ‘Night Nurse’ and sold millions so it just shows you how inspiring reggae music is.
R.R.- What other music do you listen to?
G.R.- All different types. It’s very important to me and any artist I think to be listening to all different kinds of music. I incorporate all types. My favorite is Celine Dion. She’s such a great artist...and voice. I listen to her a lot. It could be anything from Gregory Isaacs to Alton Ellis to Al Green. It could be anybody. I love good music. I just use reggae music as my vessel, if you like, because it’s such a compatible music. It’s very important to have variety now a days. Music has no limitations.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Interview with Duane Stephenson Part Two

In part two of our interview with Duane Stephenson he talks about his talents outside of music, the football club he supports, and what it was like working with the legendary Mutabaruka.

R.R.- Rescue Me with Gramps- In the video it seemed liked you were having a really good time. True?

D.S.- Definitely! From beginning to end- from the first stage of recording to the end of the video- trus me, it was a great time. That’s what the song was basically about. Many times, as a reggae artist, we take ourselves a little bit too seriously. Sometimes you have to have a softer side to the music and a fun side and I was trying to create that fun side but still manage for it to be a great song. That balance is kind of hard to find but I accept these challenges. That’s what I try and like to excel at. I try to really make a difference in whatever direction I choose to go in. Sometimes you have to just let your hair down, roll up your sleeve, roll up ya pantsuit and just get in the water and have some fun.

R.R.- Who in the reggae world would you like to work with?


D.S.- I would have loved to have worked with Lucky Dube before he passed. There’s Alpha Blondy and I am definitely looking for the next project to do some work with Gentleman, and some of the upcoming artists. I’d like to do a track that I hope would draw the attention of U-2 because of what they represent, see if I can do some work with them. It’s a long shot but as I said, musically I don’t give myself boundaries.


R.R.- With the message you put forth and U-2’s message, your paths might cross sooner rather than later.

D.S.- Even in the heights of their career, and not that their career has fallen off any, the undertone of their music has always been about humanity and the human cause. I guess it’s because of their upbringing in Ireland and how complicated Ireland’s been in terms of its ongoing religious and civil war, classes, race. In the Caribbean and as Africans, it’s there but in terms facing trials and tribulations it’s not left to color or creed. It’s just a people thing and once you can get to that point you realize so much more that you’re not alone.

R.R.- Where were you born and was it a Christian household or Rasta?


D.S.- I was born in Kingston. I’ve always been in August Town. That’s all I know.
My father, there was almost an alliance. He’s always been into Rasta culture. Two of his brothers were actually Rastafarians back in the day when it was almost outlawed to be that way. My mother is Christian. Most Jamaicans are Christian rooted. The thing about Jamaicans is that we always look out in other directions. In terms of religion, Jamaicans are optimistic.


R.R.- Do you possess any talents besides music, writing, and singing?

D.S.- Well, I love to play tennis. I don’t play so much anymore but I used to actually coach kids. It’s a family sport somewhat. My family played tennis so I played tennis. By trade, I am a refrigeration technician. If I had continued, by now I would be an engineer but I got to technician and I decided to change fields. It’s a great field. The time that I was there I really enjoyed it.


R.R.- Are you a football fan?


D.S.- Yeah mon and I remember that you are a Tottenham fan! They're actually playing very good now. They beat Inter straight into the ground. It was a good match. Tottenham has a history so I don’t know why people are surprised right now. It’s Chelsea and Manchester spending all the money in the business but there are other great teams out there.

R.R.- You’re an Arsenal supporter, right?

D.S.- Yeah mon and simply because Arsenal deals with the most youth in international football, not just in England but anywhere in the world. It’s always Arsenal and Lyon. They have the best youths coming through their ranks.

R.R.- What music are you listening to?

D.S.- I’m a great fan of country and western, from Garth Brooks to Taylor Swift. I listen to it all. Taylor Swift is a great singer, it may sound strange that I listen to her music but I do. I’ve been listening to a lot of alternative too. I listen to a little rock, some James Brown, some Coldplay and the Rolling Stones. Angie is one of my favorite songs of all time. I go as far as Rap. I listen to mostly the old rap music, Tupac, Biggie and those guys, Public Enemy because they had so much more to say. How much are we going to listen to pretty boys, rims and cars, and girls? C’mon man, it gets boring after the first ten songs. After the first ten songs that you’ve done put words in the song now! (Laughs)

R.R.-What was it like working with Mutabaruka?

D.S.- He was so much fun to work with. You have to be quick with him. In the middle of a laugh, he’ll ask you a serious question. He is what he is. He is that powerful voice that you hear. He’s educated, powerful, and very smart. So when you’re around him- even though you laugh- you still have to keep your guard up, you have to be at the top of your game. It was great working with him! The little time we spent together, I learned so much.

R.R.- Thanks so much for taking the time!

D.S.- Thanks for having me mon! Anytime. Take care.

For a certainty, Duane Stephenson is a gentleman. In the short time that we spoke with him it was evident
that he loves life, music, and people, as if his music weren't evidence enough. It's always a pleasure to chat with someone, even if it is just for a moment, because you get a sense of what the person is all about. What Duane Stephenson is all about is simple.... he's just like everyone else. He's concerned about the condition of the world so he voices that concern the best way he knows how: through music. He realizes that you can't take life or yourself, for that matter, too seriously. "Sometimes you have to just let your hair down, roll up your sleeve, roll up ya pantsuit and just get in the water and have some fun." That was, and is, a very telling quote. Truly words to live by! Duane Stephenson also understands that he doesn't know everything. Reflecting on what he said about Dean Fraser, Gregory Isaacs, and Mutabaruka you can clearly see that he is as much, if not more so, a student than he is a teacher, ready and willing to learn on every occasion.

That in itself tells you something about his character and personality- he is a humble man. His talent is tremendous, yet he remains grounded, displaying an eagerness to grow and learn from others.
Look for great things from Duane Stephenson. U-2's next project? Duet with Taylor Swift? Writing a song for Jimmy Cliff? None of these would be a surprise. Why? To quote Duane himself: " Musically, I don't give myself boundaries."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Interview with Duane Stephenson Part One

Duane Stephenson
VP recording artist Duane Stephenson was kind enough to spend a little time with us recently. He spoke very candidly about his latest album 'Black Gold', Gregory Isaacs and the impact he had on reggae music, and many other topics relating to life, music, and everything in between, including a few things about himself that most people probably don't know. For instance, he's a huge fan of Taylor Swift and he loves to play tennis!

R.R.-How do you go about crafting a song? What’s your process and inspiration?


D.S.- The process changes from song to song. Definitely my songs come from things that are happening around me. I’m pretty much in tune with what’s happening on a global scale. I like to know what’s going on everywhere and that’s what I write about. Beyond that, sometimes somebody ask you to prepare a particular song. Especially when it’s for someone else, then you think to look into what the person’s interests are and to write something that is reflective of that person. On the other hand, someone gives you a riddim to write for. Each riddim has a tone or vibes it speaks to its own. So once you get the riddim you get a feel of the kind of song that is required for that riddim. I do a little of that, but I prefer to write from scratch. Most of what I do will be from my personal experiences or maybe a bredren’s. Sometimes in the middle of a sleep you get an idea and you jump up and write it down. Scribbles that don’t make total sense or words that don’t add up but have a melody. Sometimes I start that way and get back to it later.

R.R.- You wrote 2 songs on Luciano’s latest album. Who else have you written for?

D.S.- I’ve actually written on 3 Luciano albums and I’ve done work extensively with Jah Cure including ‘True Reflections’, which up to date is probably my most known piece.

R.R.- You’re particular, though, about who you write for? True?

D.S.- Definitely. Because the way I write..not everybody might necessarily be able to carry the kind of melodies that I have a tendency to write. I write without boundaries. I write for singers. I am not a deejay. I can do a limited amount of sing-jay vibes. If I’m writing for somebody I would like to think that they have the ability to carry that melody. I like to know what the person is about, their life situation. Not everybody would suite me writing for them. So, I am particular about that. I write a certain kind of song with certain standards. There are certain things that I just will not write. So most of the people that I work with will fall within these standards.
R.R.- You collaborated with Tarrus Riley on your album ‘August Town’. You also toured with him last year. How did your friendship with him come about?

D.S.- I met Tarrus when I was doing my first recording as a member of the group To-Isis. Roughly 1997. We’ve been bredrens since then in terms of music. We’ve always been around each other an ting. Even when I was a part of the group I used to spend much time together with him writing and going over to his house just to hold a vibe. Tarrus career started to build up and I left the group. I used to sing background for Tarrus on the road, you know me a say? A bredren help a bredren. I was on his first record. He was on my first record. I did some work on his second album also. It’s just that this time around Tarrus got busy because the second album came out and he was running all over the place. But, we’ve always been working together on albums or projects.


R.R.- When you first met Tarrus that was also the first time you were going into the studio with Dean Fraser?

D.S.- Yeah, I knew Dean before but he had said he would love to work with new talent so I went to the studio with the group an everyting and the first thing I saw was dis bredren who a run up an down inna de studio, making a lot of noise and just enjoying the music. The song he was recording at the time was ‘Larger Than Life’, which was his first recording also. So, I guess because of that whole vibe, that energy..it’s pretty much that kinetic energy that made me interested in breaking into the business.

R.R.- Dean Fraser has been very influential on both of your albums. Talk a little bit about him.

D.S.- Most of what I know and have learned about the recording industry and the music business is stuff that I learned from Dean. Even beyond the situation with the group I started doing background for Dean because he thought there was so much more that I could have learned, and he was right. When I first started doing background with the girls I was put to shame in terms of their ability to remember what they are doing and to create their own melodies and whatever, so there’s a whole other side to the music that I had never even learned. With our group everything was pretty much taught to us and we just reproduced. I actually started expressing in terms of your own vibes and learned that the background might change according to the song that you are doing, the vibes. I’ve learned so much from him about that aspect of the business and the history behind music. Dean’s been coming up through the ranks of Bob Marley. He played for Bob. He was one of the members of Peter Tosh’s band. He was musical director for Dennis Brown. There is so much to learn from him and by extension the kind of people that he associates with.

R.R.- One thing that many probably appreciate about your music is its originality. You’re not out there voicing on every riddim. Do you start your songs with you and a guitar?

D.S.- Most of the time, yes. I’m not the greatest guitarist in the world, definitely far from it. One of the things I’ve learned from Dean is that you have to at least be able to fool around with an instrument just to be able to put things together and I do a lot of that. But if the movements are complicated I link up with a bredren named Monte (Lamont Savory of Blak Soil.). He’s a very good guitarist, plays with Tarrus. He plays and we work it out there. Most of the music that I do starts from there. It always starts with a good idea and then of course, a good chorus and it builds from there to a melody. I like to things that way. In terms of riddims, I probably will do one or two but I don’t think it’s something that you want to get too deeply into. A lot of people don’t totally understand what you sing so they gravitate to riddims. Then you go somewhere and the riddim is playing for like10 or 12 minutes and it becomes ridiculous. It becomes monotonous. The music loses its value. It’s not worth it. It’s one or two things out there and then you come with a thousand projects. If I’m giving an album I’d like to think it’s an original piece. Something fresh and new and not just compilations of work that I’ve been doing for the past two years, that’s ridiculous. An album should be a journey. You take people on this journey. When they put the CD in there’s supposed to be different roads on this journey, you know weh me a say?...a new path that you might take for the first time and then you bring them to an old familiar building down the road. It should be that kinda vibe.
"One of the things I've learned from Dean Fraser is that you have to at least be able to fool around with an instrument just to be able to put things together and I do a lot of that."- Duane Stephenson on the guitar being the basis for most of his songs.


R.R.- You covered Tyrone Taylor’s ‘Cottage in Negril’ on August Town and on Black Gold you cover ‘Members Only’ which he also covered on one of his albums. Is that just a coincidence or is there some sort of connection between you and Tyrone Taylor?

D.S.- It’s a little of both. I remembered someone singing over that song many years ago of course, clearly. But I didn’t remember that it was Tyrone Taylor until I started searching for the song. Because of publishing situations it’s always best to do a certain amount of original works. But in terms of people you need to go a little bit beyond that to satisfy people’s need for the music. You have to give a little. Having said that, I try to pay homage to some music that has been passed on, great music. It was half-way to getting this song that I realized “Rahtid, It was Tyrone Taylor was de one dat actually did ova dis song.” I guess it’s because of our similarities in our vocal range. I totally respect Tyrone Taylor and his works. To me he was an awesome singer and a great performer. I saw him perform at a veterans show about 2 years or so before he died and even as an elderly man he was still a powerful performer.

R.R.- Speaking of paying homage, what are your thoughts about Gregory Isaacs and the impact that he had on the music, his contributions?

D.S.- Gregory Isaacs was a great stalwart in the business. There is so much to learn from him on both sides of the music- both the good, and the bad. But, you can’t deny Gregory Isaacs great influence on the music business. In the midst of all the artists singing about social change he brought a whole different side to our music- a softer side, lovers rock. Nothing survives without balance. While all of these other great people like Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff, Bob Marley and all these people are on one side, he was probably the only man that was on the other side, along with Dennis Brown, that was balancing the field in terms of great love songs. Most people were thinking revolutionary changes. For so many great people to be on the other side and himself and Dennis to be balancing that side that is a true testimony to how great this man was! I don’t know if there’s a Jamaican that exists that doesn’t have a favorite Gregory Isaacs tune. Everybody has a Gregory Isaacs tune weh dem say “dat my tune deh.” He was definitely a great man. He could be anything he needed to be. He had a few revolutionary songs but he chose to be ‘the Cool Ruler’, the ladies him a deal wit, an him dress the part and his music spoke loudly about it! For a young artist coming up you can learn so much from him about how you have to ‘live’ the music you’re performing. You have to ‘be’ the music.

R.R.- Like Gregory, you strike a nice balance between roots and lovers rock.

D.S.- Balance is everything. You try to take people on a journey. Life can’t exist without love. I think in music it has to be that same balance, taking people through different emotions. “Does this track have balance?” You can’t just be totally down. You can’t just be totally in love. Nobody is that way naturally. Everybody has different emotions and goes through different journeys and different paths from day to day. Musically, I try to emulate that and maybe that’s why my album comes out that way.

Tune in next week for Part Two of our interview with Duane Stephenson where he shares what it was like to work with Gramps Morgan and Mutabaruka, and much, much more!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Cornadoor 'Without Restrictions' Review (Soundquake)

Growing up in Bielefeld, north-west Germany, Cornadoor was introduced to reggae by his father’s record collection. His dad also took him to concerts and big festivals when he was still only a child. As a young man, he went to the Caribbean several times, getting to love the Caribbean lifestyle and the local patois. (His name is taken from the patois saying ‘throw corn a door’.) After returning from the Caribbean he recorded a couple of demo tracks which left a lasting impression on his current label, Sound Quake. This partnership has been going strong since 2008 with Cornadoor voted ‘Best National Newcomer’ for 2008 and 2009 by Riddim Magazine. Riddim also noted “All Cornadoor needs now is a nice roots album and next time he’ll be mixing it with the big boys.”


We’ve now reached that point with Cornadoor’s debut album ‘Without Restrictions’. It’s a record that establishes Cornadoor as a true player in the industry. This is more than a ‘nice roots album’. ‘Without Restrictions’ presents Cornadoor’s impression of the world in a very precise and discerning way, allowing the listener to experience a classic roots-reggae album, musically and thematically.

Cornadoor employs many of Europe’s finest production houses on the record, including House of Riddim, Kingstone Records, Goldcup Records, Bassrunner, and Irievibrations among others. The crew from Sound Quake is credited for 6 of the 17 tracks.

‘Without Restrictions’ is a quality collection of original, modern-roots riddims. At the moment, it appears that no one can match the smart sophistication that European producers are using to create their music. The instruments are played, not programmed. The attention to detail is impressive. The riddims are layered and multi-dimensional. This fact makes ‘Without Restrictions’ an exceedingly good record.

Cornadoor’s indignation toward government is felt strongly on the better than average tracks Crying, World Inna Crisis, Get Up (Set to Kingstone’s ‘Cognition’ Riddim), and How Long.

On the heart-wrenching Ten A Dem, Cornadoor tells a gripping story of the plight of the poor and quickly rushes to their defense with a call for equality. Definitely a stand-out tune!

The title track is a ‘feel good’ tune set to a bubbling riddim that breaks down in places allowing Cornadoor to chat the box in impressive fashion. This is one of those tunes that sounds great on record but will sound absolutely incredible live! Cornadoor’s message is one of unification and impartiality. “I wish I could burn my passport and become a world citizen… moving without restriction… Tear my I.D. to pieces and be a free man.” The message, though improbable to many, is one that this divided, insular world needs desperately.

Traitors sees Cornadoor calling out and rising above the plastic smiles and back stabbing of band-wagon friends that surface at the slightest hint of success. Sound Quake’s Bigfinga presents a sweet riddim reminiscent of a Winston ‘Niney’ Holness production of the 70s or 80s, sparse yet complete.

Long Road is a stand-out track that captures the never-give-up mentality that is so necessary considering the struggles that plague us all. Cornadoor’s raspy tone flows almost effortlessly over a polished and precise riddim played by Kapten Rod and Jeepstar.

From The Day is a tribute from Daddy to his ‘likkle treasure’. Cornadoor cheerfully gives thanks for his daughter, the blessing he cherishes most in life.

Outta Mi Heart is set to the same riddim as Sizzla’s ‘Africa Chant’. (You may recall this wicked track from Kalonji that was featured on the ‘Still One Drop’ compilation from Irievibrations.) Cornadoor rides the riddim beautifully though the song doesn’t quite reach the level of Sizzla’s. It’s an excellent, stand-out track for Cornadoor, nonetheless, closing the album on a very high note.

‘Without Restrictions’ is a really good album. It is a roots-reggae album, through and through. The music is unreal. The hooks are catchy and well-delivered. Cornadoor’s patois comes from a place that is not at all forced or contrived. His connection to reggae obviously runs deep, emanating from a heart full of love and appreciation for the music which fully explains why he was able to produce such a good record. Recommended.

Without Restrictions - Cornadoor

Track Listing:
1. Crying
2. Traitors
3. Ten A Dem
4. Get Up
5. World Inna Crisis
6. To All My People
7. We Ain't Leaving
8. With You
9. Be Aware
10. Police and Informer
11. How Long
12. We Nuh Know
13. Things You Gone Through
14. Without Restrictions
15. Long Road
16. From The Day
17. Outta Mi Heart

Monday, October 25, 2010

Duane Stephenson 'Black Gold' Review (VP)

After his debut album August Town, Duane Stephenson returns with another fantastic set of modern roots- reggae music. August Town produced hits such as Cottage In Negril, Mr. B, and the anthemic title track. The up-tempo, roots jam Love Inna Di City (featuring Anthony B and Mystic Roots) superbly showcased his inherent ability to craft a tune and why the decision to pursue a solo career was definitely the right one for Duane Stephenson. With ‘Black Gold’ Stephenson delivers roots- reggae in its finest form. Tight and powerful musical arrangements play an integral part in the sound that he has developed with the help of Dean ‘Cannon’ Fraser, who serves as musical director for ‘Black Gold’ the same as he did for August Town.

The album begins with Nah Play, a perfect and powerful one drop with an amazing breakdown and melody, complete with a message shedding light on the upbringing of impoverished garrison youths who seem to only pick up the gun. Listen for some real Jamaican Dub the last 10 seconds of the track as well. Next up is Fire In Me, a tremendous ballad stressing the fire and desire he has to succeed in a relationship. Stephenson has a real talent for expressing feelings that are brought on by the ladies.

Truth Is featuring Mutabaruka slows down the pace but still manages to deliver a powerful message to the leaders who don't seem to appreciate the reality of the sufferer. Stephenson encourages them to persevere and trust in the almighty and thus overcome anything. Mutabaruka’s deeply passionate delivery really shines bright. Deception shows a softer side of Duane Stephenson. Spanish guitars and soft drums set the musical tone as he delivers a tune about the mind games that lovers tend to play.

Suffer’s Heights (Rockers Version) is the first of several Boom Tunes on ‘Black Gold’. He tells an amazingly vivid story like only he can about the impoverished state that the tiny island of Jamaica is in, Suffer’s Heights being the bottom of nothing, "The youths them can’t find no dinner, and ah pure old clothes them dress up inna." The instrumentation done by the one and only Dean Fraser is, simply put, amazing. Next up is Woman, a dark, spanish- guitar- driven ode to the ladies. Stephenson croons "Cause when god made this land, his greatest gift to man, was certainly a woman." Fraser displays his undeniable expertise on a saxophone solo that would make Steve Gregory and Wham proud.

On the title track Black Gold  Stephenson clearly and fervently expresses his displeasure for governments and their love for oil, specifically mentioning the ‘Eagle’ and ‘Three Lions’. People every where are suffering, yet it seems their main focus is on crude oil. "Nature Boy, is this your great vision of democracy? For you no longer care for the people in despair. Well, it seems you've trade your soul for Black Gold."

Jah Works is another Boom Tune. The words are strong and descriptive, telling people to stand up for what they believe in. The message is clear: Everybody has something beneficial they can teach to somebody else. "People don't understand when Jah start something new, so never be afraid of the works Jah performing through you". This solid tune really showcases Stephenson’s writing ability as well as his faith in Jah.

Rescue Me features Gramps Morgan. This is a song that sounds like a conversation the two could easily have about similar love stories. It’s a very well-arranged song with excellent harmonies and it is evident from the outset that the two were meant to sing together.

Duane calls on Queen Ifrica for the John Holt classic Stay At Home , telling the story of a young gal mixing up in the negativity that plagues the world. Queen ifrica gives a good verse but nothing spectacular, no disrespect. Her add libs over Stephenson's vocals are definitely a nice touch. More is another ballad for the ladies. He truly has an affinity for this. Any woman would be honored to have someone put such deep thoughts about them into a song. There’s no stopping this crooner!

On Cycle Goes On, with its driving bassline and well-placed horn riffs, Duane delivers a meaningful plea for Jah's help as the never ending cycle of crime and violence destroys Jamaica. "The cycle goes on, peoples house and dreams ah get fire bomb. Can we seek a resolution? Why can’t we change the situation? Break the cycle."

Ras Shiloh compliments nicely on Soon As We Rise. Voiced on Kemar Mcgregor's ‘Classic Riddim’, they each stress the importance of serving Jah and living in a positive way. "You've sold your conscience, compassion is absent, but we won’t stick around to be trampled down.” No, the negativity will not hold them down. They will rise above it without question.

This excellent piece of musical artistry ends with another gem. Stephenson adds a lovers rock flavor to Larry Duane Addison’s mid-80s pop-soul lament Members Only. He re-paints a vivid picture of the heartbroken bringing their pain and troubles to an exclusive party. A beautiful ballad version of Suffer’s Heights closes a masterful set.

Duane Stephenson is arguably one the most under- rated reggae artists out there today. He has an extraordinary ability to put often hard- to-express feelings into song. On ‘Black Gold’ Stephenson can do no wrong! Indeed, with his inherent talents, coupled with the skillful guidance of a reggae legend like Dean Fraser, Duane Stephenson is poised for greatness. In the words of dancehall veteran Apache Scratche: “Can’t hold we down, Jah know dem can’t hold we down, tell a friend dat.” With ‘Black Gold’ Duane Stephenson can no longer be held down so make sure you tell a friend! CRUCIAL! ! !
-DownTown


Track Listing:
1. Nah Play
2. Fire In Me
3. Truth Is featuring Mutabaruka
4. Deception
5. Suffer's Heights (Rockers Version)
6. Woman
7. Black Gold
8. Jah Works
9. Rescue Me featuring Gramps Morgan
10. Stay At Home featuring Queen Ifrica
11. More
12. Cycle Goes On
13. Soon As We Rise featuring Ras Shiloh
14. Members Only
15. Suffer's Heights (Ballad Version)

Gregory Isaacs 'The Cool Ruler' dies at age 59

The Reggae Review family would like to express our heartfelt sympathies to the family, friends, and fans of The Cool Ruler who passed away this morning at his home in London after a lengthy battle with cancer. His family was with him until the end. Isaacs had been diagnosed with liver cancer a year ago and the illness subsequently spread across the rest of his body.

His wife, Linda, said in a statement, "Gregory was well-loved by everyone, his fans and his family, and he worked really hard to make sure he delivered the music they loved and enjoyed. He will be greatly missed by his family and friends."

A prolific recording artist, it is estimated that Issacs had released over 50 albums since the start of his career and his last album, 'Isaacs Meets Isaac,' a collaboration with singer King Isaac, was released in 2010.

Gregory Isaacs was in a class by himself. His works will forever be considered some of the finest reggae music ever produced. The Cool Ruler will be sorely missed!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

77 Jefferson 'In The Right Mood' Review (Self -Released)

If you’ve ever taken a little bit of time and browsed for reggae music on i-Tunes then you know that your options are endless, if not overwhelming. Of course, credit to i-Tunes and artists, bands, and producers for making so many selections available. However, with so much available it makes it extremely difficult for even the obsessed listener to keep pace with the output. For instance, if you were to search for bands like Rebelution or Iration you will notice a veritable cornucopia of similar bands in the ‘listeners also purchased’ area beneath your search results. Where do you even begin?! Unless you have a considerable amount of time on your hands the answer is a simple one: You don’t, which means that you may very well miss some gems that are out there waiting to be heard.
Thankfully, some artists and bands take the initiative to get themselves heard. One such band is 77 Jefferson out of Kansas City, Missouri. We at the Reggae Review probably would have never come across them had they not reached out to us with a copy of their latest album ‘In The Right Mood’. Needless to say, we are very happy they did.
What really stood out after the first couple of listens was the music. The record is full of original, one drop riddims with elements of dub and modern rock. At the forefront of many of the tracks is a jazzy rhythm guitar which makes for a mellifluous record full of many pleasing moments. The vocals are lacking a bit of emotion in the delivery on the first few tracks, however, there is noticeable improvement as the record progresses.
Stand-out tracks include Dive Back In, complete with a heavy riddim track and a classy guitar intro and outro. It’s a tale of forlorn delivered with appropriate expression and emotion. Ride On has a tremulous affect, the feel of a Bad Brains, bass-heavy riddim track with a spirited and smooth-flowing delivery. The Last Time is an up-tempo tune with a nice melody and again there’s passion in the vocals that is well-suited for the pace of the riddim.
‘In The Right Mood’ reaches a crescendo with the final three tunes, arguably the strongest on the album.
Live Like Kings is the spark that sets the record ablaze with its rapid-fire beat and vocals, forcing even the most reserved to move their dancing feet. The Meaning of Love showcases another heavy roots riddim. The dub influence is prominent here on a track layered with plenty of echo and effects. Vampires re-ignites the record again with its effervescent flow and infectious beat.
With ‘In The Right Mood’, 77 Jefferson has produced a quality record. It is most certainly an album that you can press play and enjoy from beginning to end. And, who knows, you might even find yourself rewinding a few times. Recommended.



Track Listing:
1. On My Way Home
2. Me and You
3. In The Right Mood
4. Before Too Long
5. Dive Back In
6. Ichiban
7. Ride On
8. Always Loving You
9. Wisem' Up
10. Lost My Love
11. The Last Time
12. Live Like Kings
13. The Meaning of Love
14. Vampires

Monday, October 04, 2010

Luciano 'United States of Africa' Review (VP)

When it comes to producing consistently good reggae music Luciano is in a very select class. His career has spanned more than 20 years and a seemingly countless number of albums (40+!) and singles. As far as roots singers go, Luciano is one of the best. His latest studio album for VP, ‘United States of Africa’, produced by Frenchie of Maximum Sound is another solid release from the Messenjah.

The title track (one of three penned by Duane Stephenson), set to Frenchie’s wicked ‘Good Over Evil’ riddim, beautifully envisions a unified, peaceful, and healthy Continent. Unite Africa has a similar message but it’s set to an up-tempo riddim.

Luciano tackles some very pertinent issues with this album. In This Recession is as topical as it is timely. He takes a hard look at the why and how of the economic crisis as well as the pernicious effect it is having on a global scale. Murder and Thief denounces the crime, violence, war, and bloodshed that is plaguing mankind while Be Aware (Vineyard Town Riddim) and A No Like We No Like Them (World Jam Riddim) warns of the dangers and dirty works that exist among the leeches, backbiters, and haters of the world. I Will Follow and Moving On, both penned by Duane Stephenson, are quality tunes. The former a song of redemption highlighting the mercy of the Almighty, and the latter a throw-back tune showcasing the Messenjah’s crisp voice over the Supersonic’s classic ‘Only A Smile’ riddim.

Bunny Lee’s ‘Creation Rebel’ riddim is the backdrop for Hosanna. Luciano is right at home on a timeless riddim track. Marley’s ‘Zion Train’ serves as the backdrop for the closing track Another Terrorist Attack featuring Fantan Mojah. Luciano’s timely and concise lyrics are complimented nicely by Fantan Mojah’s volatile delivery and words of condemnation.

“United States of Africa” is full of heavy, roots riddims with a real ‘classic’ feel. Frenchie procured some of the reggae elite for the record including Sly and Robbie, Stephen ‘Lenky’ Marsden, Dean ‘Cannon’ Fraser, Dalton Browne, Mafia and Fluxy, Sticky, and Paul ‘Wrongmove’ Crossdale, among others. The result is an
album full of quality tunes that are very easy on the ears.

‘United States of Africa’ doesn’t quite reach the level of some of Luciano’s previous albums, namely ‘Where There is Life’, ‘Sweep Over My Soul’, and ‘Messenger’, however the record is solid from beginning to end. Luciano continues to churn out consistently good roots reggae. His latest effort will NOT disappoint. Longtime fans will find many pleasing moments while the reggae novice will receive an excellent introduction to one of the most talented roots singers of all time. Recommended.

 

Track Listing:
1. United States of Africa
2. Footstool
3. In This Recession
4. I Will Follow
5. Moving On
6. Murder and Thief
7. Invasion
8. Be Aware
9. King of Kings
10. A No Like We No Like Them
11. Unite Africa
12. Nubian Queen
13. Hosanna
14. Only Jah Can Save Us Now
15. Another Terrorist Attack featuring Fantan Mojah

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Jah Cure Adds 'Producer' To His Skill Set



 International reggae star Jah Cure has decided to add to his lists of skills and credits the title of producer as he has recently been delving into production on a number of his recent recordings.

"We plan to include one or two of my own compositions on the album as well as release some as stand alone singles", says Cure.

The Artiste who has been known for hits including Love Is, True Reflections, Call On Me, and the increasingly popular Unconditional Love, has recently come back from a successful tour of Europe and has not lost any time returning to the studio accompanied by his supporting band.

The artiste says this latest move is a step he decided to take in order to infuse some more of his musical tastes into his tracks: “I have been in the music business for a long time and after so many years I have now decided to revisit the original and authentic sounds of roots rocking reggae music and as such bring in elements such as live horns and percussion in these sessions. Reggae is now being mixed with Hip Hop and many other genres and we just want to bring back some of the traditional niceness.”

So far, working out of Big Yard and Tuff Gong Studios, Jah Cure has recorded several live tracks which have been mixed and are ready for vocals. He says: “The tracks comprise of traditional reggae beats with hints of old school reggae techniques such as horns and other instruments which are not used as often these days.”

Jah Cure also says that this new turn can only be positive for the music: “Reggae music is constantly evolving but we have to be careful that we don’t move too far away from the founding principles of the genre. We don’t plan to just do one sound but we want to ensure that there is a variety of sounds that people have grown to know and love. This latest step is a good thing as it keeps us grounded and helps us to reconnect with many people who are ardent followers of the music.”

The rastaman sees this new direction in his music career as a necessary step in order to infuse more of his musical experiences and likes into what he does. With his next album slated to be released in the first quarter of 2011, Jah Cure says some of the new tracks will be included on that work and fans will love it: “We plan to include one or two of my own compositions on the album as well as release some as stand alone singles. I believe that my musical career can only benefit from me taking such a keen interest in the composition of my music and I know the fans will appreciate this new step in the way my music is produced.”-The Observer

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Gappy Ranks ‘Put The Stereo On’ Review (Greensleeves)

Born and raised in the inner-city town Harlesden NW10 which is unofficially known as London’s Reggae capital, Gappy Ranks discovered his passion for music at a young age. While attending school he strengthened his musical skills, devoting most of his time to writing. He made his studio debut with the Ruff Cutt band at age 11 and later joined Stonebridge stars Suncycle Crew. Having started a buzz on the UK music scene as part of Suncycle, Gappy Ranks has just released his debut solo album, ‘Put The Stereo On’. The album contains 12 original tracks with production provided by the renowned Peckings Crew. (Peckings’ debut release, Bitty McLean’s ‘On Bond Street’, was a runaway success and has become an essential purchase for any self-respecting music fan.)


The retro, old- school feel of the record is apparent from the outset. Gappy Ranks’ tone on the opening track Mountain Top is deep and coarse, yet at the same time smooth, appropriate for the tempo of the ‘Step It Out’ riddim which serves as the backdrop. His deejay skills are on display as he chats upon the riddim with slow precision, expressing his appreciation for the ghetto youths like himself who make it, so he’s going to ‘shout it from the mountain tops’. Incidentally this was Gappy’s first song to rise on the UK Reggae Charts.

The smash hit Heaven in Her Eyes follows. Gappy shows his versatility here, beautifully singing on a tune that remained at #1 on the UK charts for 13 consecutive weeks and introduced him to an international audience. Definitely a Boomshot!

On the title track and first single, Put The Stereo On, Gappy paints a vivid picture of his childhood and the music that influenced him to enter the Reggae scene. The revered ‘Hot Milk’ riddim suits Gappy’s flow as he sings: “Daddy, please, I beg you, put the stereo on…Take out a 45 and play de Studio One”. Wicked Riddim…Wicked Lyrics…Wicked Delivery…Boomshot!

When recording the record Gappy Ranks was granted access to classic reggae riddims like the Treasure Isle produced riddim featured on Happiest Day of My Life. He delivers again with a lovely, personal rendition of a theme written about in literally every genre of music. Nice tune!

Musical Girl is yet another stand- out track and arguably the best song on the album. The ‘autotune’ on Gappy’s voice adds a modern dimension and actually fits harmoniously with the vintage rocksteady riddim used on the track. Certainly one of many highlights of the album!

The second half of the record presents Gappy at his ‘rootical’ best. The conscious tunes start with a friendly request for A Little Understanding from mankind and the world would be a better place, which transitions into the powerful Thy Shall Love, a plaintive cry for the masses coupled with the admonition to love not only themselves but also one another. So Lost pinpoints the difficulty of choosing the right direction in life and the inherent spiritual need that must be satisfied in order to find our way.

Frenchie’s (Maximum Sound) updated version of Bunny Lee’s ‘Creation Rebel’ riddim underpins Gappy’s expressive and dynamic lyrical flow on Heavy Load.

To close the set UK legend Nerious Joseph lends his talents to a top- notch version of Marley’s Soul Rebel, with Gappy’s Tony Rebel- like chat flowing like Dunn’s River Falls.

‘Put The Stereo On’ has something for everyone. Gappy Ranks adroitly bridges the gap between classic and modern reggae music. The timeless riddims and old-school feel will impress anyone who appreciates vintage reggae while the modern topics and delivery will appeal to the younger generation. His extraordinary ability to transition from soulful singing to singjaying to rapid fire deejaying is a skill that very few even attempt let alone master. Without question, ‘Put The Stereo On’ is one of the best reggae albums of 2010. CRUCIAL!


Track Listing:
1. Mountain Top
2. Heaven In Her Eyes
3. Put The Stereo On
4. Pumpkin Belly
5. Happiest Day Of My Life
6. Musical Girl
7. A Little Understanding
8. Thy Shall Love
9. So Lost
10. Heavy Load
11. Rude Boy
12. Soul Rebel featuring Nereus Joseph

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Gyptian 'Hold You' Review (VP)


Born Windel Beneto Edwards on October 25th, 1983 in the King Weston District of St. Andrew to a Seventh Day Adventist mother and Rastafarian father, Gyptian received his musical calling at the age of 7, when he began singing in the church. Recognizing his talent, his parents soon introduced the resistant youngster to Mr. Wong, a producer from Portmore in St. Catherine. “I did not take it seriously” says Gyptian. “My family members have always been carrying me to Portmore to see him, but I usually disappear. One day, they dropped me off at his studio and left me and it all began there.”


Under the guidance of Mr. Wong and the legendary Earl ‘Chinna’ Smith, Gyptian honed his unique sound, winning the 2004 Star Search talent competition at Ken’s Wild Flower Lounge in Portmore, earning him a spot at Sting 2004, dubbed the greatest one night reggae show on earth.

Nicknamed from his habit of tying a shirt around his head and twisting his chin hair like an Egyptian pharaoh, the young, gifted, and conscious singer is very protective of keeping his sound 100% Gyptian. “You have to think about what people think and how they feel, the real things that people see. Any track at all you hear from Gyptian, right by my fingers out of my head.”

The previously unknown vocalist rose to international acclaim in 2005 when his debut single ‘Serious Times’ on the Kenneth Wilson (Frenz) produced ‘Spiritual War’ Riddim hit the top of the local and overseas reggae charts. Gyptian solidified his place in reggae music shortly thereafter when ‘Serious Times’ defeated Junior Gong’s massive international hit ‘Welcome to Jamrock’ for Jamaica’s Most Important Song of 2005. Gyptian had indeed arrived and he quickly established that he wasn’t going anywhere. He released his solid debut album ‘My Name Is Gyptian’ in late 2006 and has since consistently generated quality singles for various producers, many of which have charted in Jamaica and abroad.

Fast forward to 2010 and we find Gyptian rising to a completely new level with the crossover success of the single ‘Hold Yuh’, crossover only in the sense of Gyptian breaking down the doors of so-called ‘Popular Music’ and forcing his way in without compromising. ‘Hold Yuh’ is unadulterated reggae/dancehall! The jam of the summer, ‘Hold Yuh's’ unlikely rise to world domination begins two years ago, in the studio of producer Ricky Blaze (AKA 21-year-old New Yorker Ricardo Johnson). In town to promote the more typical Mr Lover-Lover shtick that made up the majority of his first two albums, Gyptian popped in to see Blaze, who had the ‘Hold Yuh’ (as it was titled in the US) riddim but couldn't quite figure out what to do with it. According to NYC's Village Voice, the song instantly grabbed Gyptian's attention: "Go back to that, what a ping-ping ting!" he's rumoured to have said of the song's distinctive plinky-plonky piano melody. Gyptian then laid down a vocal that was deemed so unremarkable and weird he didn't even bother finishing it; no one told his label it existed, and Gyptian didn't even ask for a copy when he left the studio. Blaze felt it had something but wasn't sure exactly what, so he asked a club-promo friend to email it out to his dancehall DJs contact list as a favour. The track's momentum has been unstoppable ever since. Starting out in the reggae clubs of the Caribbean and NYC, it became a word-of-month phenomenon that graduated on to the daytime playlist of New York's Hot 97 in February this year, after becoming one of the station's most requested tracks.

It peaked at #77 on the Billboard “Hot 100”, #31 on the Billboard “Hip Hop/R&B Songs”, and held the #1 spot on Billboard’s Reggae Charts for 9 consecutive weeks. With the tremendous success of the song it’s only fitting that an album would follow soon.

On July 20th VP released Gyptian’s latest full-length album appropriately entitled “Hold You”. With “Hold You” Gyptian introduces the world to the new era of Sexy Reggae Music as he dedicates this album “to the ladies across the globe.” NPR (National Public Radio) has even stated Gyptian is “swoon-worthy stuff.”

Oftentimes when a successful single spawns an album the result is nothing more than a bunch of filler songs quickly put together in order to further capitalize on the success of the hit single. Thankfully that is not the case with “Hold You”. Gyptian along with producer Jon FX, who gets credit for 9 of the 15 tracks, have managed to create a quality album.

Following a brief, thematic intro appropriately called To Be Held the album commences with the all-too-familiar Beautiful Lady. A seemingly odd inclusion considering it was released as a single by Vertex Productions way back in 2005 and it was featured on “My Name is Gyptian”. However, it makes sense here given what it’s about and honestly, it was a Boomshot when it was first released and it’s lost none of its luster. Call Gyptian and All InYou both have a throwback feel reminiscent of late 80s, early 90s reggae/dancehall with its prominent, syncopated drums and simple, driving bass lines. The latter uses a sample from the most overused and oftentimes annoying riddims of all time, the name of which will go without mention because of its explicit nature. The title track Hold Yuh has a similar feel but is still fresh and original. Who could have guessed that a few very basic notes on a keyboard and an equally basic drum pattern would serve as a masterful backdrop for Gyptian’s unique flow and delivery? Its catchy hook will cause even the most reserved to sing along. Nah Let Go is another stand-out track. Set to a bubbling, up-tempo riddim Gyptian again presents a lyrical flow that is 100% his own. Rendezvous introduces a classic roots reggae riddim to the album. The drum and bass is ultra-heavy. To his credit, Gyptian rises to the occasion and matches the quality of the music with a nice delivery, all the while staying on topic. So Much In Love is set to a modern roots riddim and Gyptian again impresses with his passionate delivery directed to his empress. Drive Me Crazy would be a much better tune if the ‘autotune’ was omitted, something completely unnecessary when you have a voice as smooth as Gyptian’s. Selah closes the album. Like the aforementioned Beautiful Lady it doesn’t seem to fit albeit for entirely different reasons. However, when you listen to the lyrics it becomes very clear why it’s here as Gyptian fervently gives thanks to everyone who helped him to get where he is today. He calls out the naysayers but more importantly graciously credits everyone who believed in him. Hence, it’s a deserving inclusion and a fitting conclusion to the record.

Gyptian fans will be more than satisfied with ‘Hold You’. Reggae fans in general will find many pleasing moments. Those new to Gyptian based on the success of the single will find a record that should help them to appreciate reggae/dancehall for what it is. Again, ‘Hold You’ is reggae/dancehall in its purest form. Gyptian wisely refused to compromise the integrity of the music. It's 100% Gyptian and 100% Reggae. Jamaicans and reggae fans throughout the world should be proud! Recommended




Track listing:

1. To Be Held
2. Beautiful Lady
3. Call Gyptian
4. All In You
5. Hold You
6. Nah Let Go
7. Haffi Easy
8. L.U=V.E
9. Rendezvous
10. So Much In Love
11. Na Na Na (A Love Song)
12. Drive Me Crazy
13. Where You Belong
14. Leave Us Alone
15. Selah