=weak (forget it)
=ok (not my cup of tea)
=good (consider it)
=very good (get it)
=superb (what are you waitin for?)




Sizzla: Soul Deep


Hardly ANY roots reggae on this; hardly any hardcore dancehall either! On "Soul Deep" most tracks are some pseudo-pop/hip-hop/electronic mid-tempo type of deal I obviously do not favor at all. On top of that I simply don't buy Sizzla's whole "Rastafari!girlswannabewidmesoifucktheirpussies-anifyuhdissmemyglockagobussyourheadopenlikecoconut" attitude whatsoever anymore. Sure, there are two extreme, nearly contradictory factors at work in Jamaican music/culture (as there always have been). On one hand the conscious (rasta) approach that stands against senseless war-mongering; on the other the slack, violent ghetto-approach, which celebrates and even feeds on the tribalism that is part & parcel of every rough neighborhood back a yard. Yet Sizzla reminds me of Beenie Man a few years back: a flag flying whichever way the breeze is blowing. Chanting pure righteousness in one tune, poppin champagne bokkle & flinging the bling as he's partying with the ladies in the next, while he burns a million fassies in yet another badman anthem (shooting, killing) only to call for justice & an end to ghetto warfare in the next. Its GOOD for artists to show a certain versatility, yet in the cases of Beenie & now Sizzla this has become so extreme, that you sometimes don't even know anymore where they really stand. In turn, they lose credibility. Sizzla has the potential to be a great artist no doubt, yet he's digging far too many items from out of his dark mind & putting them out in the open. As far as I'm concerned, half that stuff oughta remain hidden, basically making Sizzla albums (with few exceptions) a dime in a dozen.

Aside from his magnificent "Be Strong" on Don Corleon's massive DROP LEAF riddim, and the following hardcore-tune "Why", no-one really needs any of this. If Sizzla would only release 1-2 albums per year with his strongest selections, they would improve dramatically. As it is, it seems like he's just trying to milk the industry for every last drop. Boring!


Stronger Productions Ltd.
PO BOX 1144 Stony Hill PO Kingston 9
Jamaica West-Indies

Paul Elliott: Self Reliance

(Stronger Productions Ltd.)

Wow has gotta be the first word outta my mouth after giving this album a listen. A most talented singer, Paul Elliott has been blessed (or cursed?; nah) with a voice incredibly similar to other Jamaican vocalists before him. On "Push Forward" he reminds me a bit of Junior Delgado (as well as at other moments), on "Bad Boys" I hear a bit of Edi Fitzroy, while most of the time it is quite evident just who served as this man's main influence: the late-great Dennis Brown.

While there are a number of yard-singers who are similar in voice & delivery to the crown prince of reggae, no one comes as close as Paul Elliott on tunes like "No Man Is Perfect" and "Chat Them A Chat Wi". Guest vocalists include Richie Spice, Mango Seed & Daddy Rings (who all do well), while some traditional riddims are at work here ( I LOVE KING SELASSIE, WAR, STORM & others). What really lifts this album a cut above though, is stellar musicianship from the likes of Firehouse Crew, Ruff Cut Band, Sly & Robbie, and further luminaries like Danny Browne, Computer Paul & Barnabas. Produced by Soljie for Stronger Productions & Lion Dub. Besides the 5th Element releases by Mr.Spice & Chuck Fender last year, this has to be my favorite rootical release of 2004/2005.

3 points of advice here: 1.) Search! 2.) Locate! 3.) Buy!!!



Greensleeves Riddim Album # 76: Ice Cube

(Mista Wilks/Greensleeves)

I think the ICE CUBE (re-named & re-released by Greensleeves) is the first riddim from Mista "Ernie" Wilks and what a premiere!!! Usually I'm not that big a fan of beats that are exclusively produced for air/home-play (this will NOT work in NM dancehalls folks) yet there are so MANY hot tunes on this release that I have no choice but to approve. Leading the way are Dr.Evil (aka Lefteye aka Colin "Leftside" Parks), Wayne Marshall (whose "Marry Wanna" was the original title track for the riddim), Daville, Red Square and Future Troubles. Veterans like Captain Barkey, Ward 21, Red Rat, Harry Toddler and Hawkeye have excellent tracks on the ICE CUBE, as do newcomers like Shane-O & KB, Angel and Alaine. Great beats call for grrreat tunes, que no!

Anyone even pretending to be a thug NEEDS this desperately: at home & abroad (as they go cruising the REAL badlands).



Greensleeves Riddim Album # 75: Siren

(Time Travel/Greensleeves)

A fantastic riddim from Patrick "Roach" Samuels alongide Mr. Blaxxx Lewis, the SIREN hits HARD from the second the needle first touches the wax. For the most part the actual songs don't quite match the quality of the riddim, yet there are worthy exceptions. Vybez Kartel's "Emmergency" is my long-sought anthem from the bad-man dj from Portmore (much of his output in the latter half of 2005 has left me fairly cold). He spits out hardcore lyrics like: "Emmergency! We a suffer round here. Round here man dead, things tough around here! Crimescene: yad up, man a tough around here!" A good reflection of the reality in Jamaica and a far cry from the Club-Med vibe their tourist board tries to sell to us a foreign. Further good tunes on the SIREN come from Wayne Marshall, (the title-track from) Buju Banton and the second Kartel; less conscious & full of "bad wud" but really just a continuation of the madness: after the "Emmergency" it's time to "Call The Ambulance". Good project but I think the top few singles oughta be enough for most.




Anthony B: Black Star


A strong, new album from the original fireman, "Black Star" shows Anthony B at his best. The lyrical content is conscious ("Never Sell Out", "Black History", "Praise Jah"), the riddims (mainly built by Maximum Sound's Frenchie) are tight, and guest-performances by Jah Cure and Ras Shiloh are right on. The cover of Ini Kamoze's "World A Reggae Music" actually works and on "I Understand" the classic Viceroys YA HO riddim is being re-vitalized. Not one weak moment on the entire album : tuff !!!


Greensleeves Riddim Album # 67: Jonkanoo

(Don Corleon/Greensleeves)

Yow! Here it is : 2005's REAL dancehall treasure-chest. A head-bobbin', hyper-paced cannon-ball, Don Corleon's JONKANOO has set the standard for this year. Still utilizing the "clap-clap", the beat is even faster than KOPA and COOLIE DANCE, yet mixes nicely with both. As y'all know: great riddims make for great tunes and it's no different on this one. Beenie leads the pack with "Chakka Dance" and the infamous"Ah Nuh Mi", yet Sean Paul strikes gold on "Eye Deh Ah Knee", as do TOK on "Hey Ladies", Voicemail on "Do What You Like", Vybz on "Too Fucky Fucky" & "I Neva", Bling Dawg on "Aerobics Class", Wayne Marshall on "Make Dem Come" and Bounty on "Sen On & Heng On". Buy !!!



Greensleeves Riddim Album # 65:Slow Bounce


H2O Productions does it again! With the help of Don Bennett and Nigel Staff, Michael "Liquid" Brissett releases a monster follow-up to last years outstanding FRENCH VANILLA (Krazy Hype). It's called SLOW BOUNCE but don't let that fool you, as the beat strikes like lightning at 120 + beats per minute. An eastern flute-lick, some trumpet blasts, some Don Corleon' flamenco guitar-picking on top of a thundering riddim.

All vocalists are in top form: singers as Nicky B (baaaad!), Tami Chin, Daville and Mr.Easy. Dj's like Ele, Bounty, Beenie and Cartel. Crews like TOK, Ward 21 and Tanto & Devonte. The only thing missing is the ONE big hit. For me, Donovan & Nigel are the TOP dancehall producers of this new generation, besides the South Rakkas team. Buy !!!


Greensleeves Riddim Album # 64:Klymaxx

(Greensleeves/Juke Boxx)

Another heavily electronic, highly charged beat that gallops thru the dancehall at 115-120 bpm's, the KLYMAXX reminds me a bit of Renaissance's excellent TUNDA CLAP. Christopher Birch and Shane Brown worked out the riddim and they assembled the usual culprits, like Bounty, Lexus, Ward 21 and Kiprich, amongst newcomers like Jagwa and Black-Er. Top tunes come from Capleton ("Burn The Place Down") and Vybz Cartel ("Any Boy Yuh Lef") this time around, while there are further good cuts from Keishera& Shaggy and Macka Diamond; by herself as well as alongside singing-bird Daville. Good riddim but one probably just needs the top 3-4 tracks.


Greensleeves Riddim Album # 63:Chicatita


John John's new hardcore riddim has hit the streets, and, as is the trend in Jamaica and beyond these days, it either has a eastern vibe or a latin one- the latter obviously being the case here. Aside from some acoustic guitar-strumming and a kid saying :Ai yai yai Chicatita, there are few latina elements at work here though. Nonetheless, the CHICATITA should work well on American dancefloors, being reminiscent of George Michael's "Faith".

Standout tracks are a conscious Wayne Wonder, an outstanding Capleton, a slack Sizzla combo with the brandnew auto-tuned singer Rainbow (who sounds GREAT) and a BAD Bounty Killer/Angel Doolas cut. The Killer is at his best these days when he a) teams up with other artists b) leaves behind his bitter "Cross, angry, miserable…"routine, which fails to either bring joy or even a sense of badness into the dancehalls. Just pure frustration. Anyways, Bounty does both here, so the tune is pure MURDER; possibly the best on the entire riddim. Further artists include Ele, Beenie, Cobra, Ward 21, Vybz, Ninjaman and so on. Basically looks like John John has assembled just about all the big dancehall stars these days but notably absent are the female chatters. Good riddim and some great tunes!


Bad Gal Riddim

(Mad House Records)

Dave Kelly does it again !!! Just in time before 2004 is completely up & gone, Jamaica's top dancehall producer releases the BEST bashment riddim for the entire year. While FIESTA & PRETTY PRETTY (Dave's other 2003/2004 riddims) were very successful in the reggae charts, the beats didn't really move me that much (although a number of the tunes were KILLERS). Not so here: from my first listening, I KNEW that this is IT. The kinda irresistible dancehall soulfood that will have droves of patrons on the dancefloors in a flash; wether they like it or not.

A bouncy, mid-tempo riddim, the BAD GAL is a simple, incredibly catchy piece of music, completely devoid of the eastern and/or latin melodies and licks that have dominated dancehall reggae these days. Notably absent are reggae's biggest stars as well. The fact that the beat is able to do SO well without any of the Kartels, the Beenies, the Bountys or the Eles, is further testimony to the producer. No matter who rides this masterpiece, the outcome is excellent. Leading the pack is Baby Cham by himself as well as on a combination track with new artist Toi (who sounds good) and Macka Diamond, Spice and Cobra are also red-hot. Together with South Rakka's RED ALERT, this is 2004's high-grade, so get busy & blaze it !!!!!


Greensleeves Riddim Album # 62:MIDDLE EAST

(Greensleeves/Black House)

Straight on the heels of the success of this year's dancehall smasher BLACKOUT, Buccaneer & Blaxxx release their second riddim; the MIDDLE EAST. While there is an eastern strings/violin lick, the Carnival type of drums and the Latin horns all combine to prove that dancehall reggae has become the planet's most universal music. It utilizes so many influences from so many corners of the world, that simply no other style of music can claim to keep up.
The rowdy drumbeat made the MIDDLE EAST a bit difficult for me at first, yet after a number of listenings, the riddim keeps growing on me. The usual culprits ride this beat, yuh know: Vybz(twice), Ele, Bounty and Sizzla. Some cool newcomers as Leaf A Life (what a name!), Movado and Sanjay are included as well. Very interesting, yet unable to keep up with their extra-hype BLACKOUT.


Greensleeves Riddim Album # 59: KASABLANCA

(Greensleeves/South Rakkas)

The first dancehall beat that I am aware that Sly Dunbar had his hands on in quite awhile, the KASABLANCA is notorious for Vybez Cartel's "Badda Than Them". Another one of his badman-anthems, the Portmore dj says: "Gunshot mek yuh fall like di bridge over London. Gonna kick yuh like Van Damme, diss me outta east an' mi buch yuh over Boston, head a bust like a gas-pan." Definitely THE word-smith of the times, WAY on top of all the Bounty's and Beenie's and whoever else they may be. Produced by Alberto "Burro" Blackwood, the KASABLANCA features a bogle-ish type-of drumbeat and a funky keyboard lick. Points of interest include a rare Harry Toddler tune (did he get black-listed by dancehall producers, has he been laying low, or what? Remember the time when it looked like Harry Toddler was gonna be the big star out of the remainder of the Scare Dem Crew, rather than Elephant Man (with "tunes as "Dance The Angel")?), Capleton's "Lock What" and Galaxy P (who has apparently recovered from being shot in 2003) with a wicked Buju-esque "Do That Damn Thing (Gal)". Anthony B is "Smoke(ing) the best", Junior Kelly is telling the girls to "Get Busy" (huh?) and Determine is suggesting for them to "Take It Off" (the eyeliner & the make-up, not the clothes guys). Solid effort which continues to grow on me the more I hear it. Singles are out on Slam Records.




Greensleeves Rhythm Album #51: Red Alert

(Greensleeves/South Rakkas)

It seemed impossible for South Rakkas to match their high-grade premier release CLAPPAS, which also managed to achieve the maximum score, yet Mr.Dennis "Dow Jones" Shaw does it again !!! By far THE best dancehall beat of the year so far (again!!!), the RED ALERT is a catchy, bouncy mid-tempo riddim that works extremely well in the local dancehalls. Not only is the beat excellent but a number of the tunes are gems as well. Cecile's "Hot Like We" continues her trend of being the champion female jockey to ride the current Jamaican creations far better than the rest of the pack. Other scorchers include Capleton's "Real Hot", TOK's "Let It Shine", Zumjay's "Gal Dem Want Me" and Ninja Kid's and Bajie Man's "La Di Da Di". Further interesting selections feature the spanish Papichulo Crew's "Cho Cha" and a french tune by Firestorm. Ground-breaking; absolute MURDER !!! BUY !!!!!



Greensleeves Rhythm Album #54: Cold Fusion

(Greensleeves/Vendetta Records)

A co-production of Ward 21's Suku, Donovan Bennett, and Nigel Staff (who has his hands in nearly everything these days, including FRENCH VANILLA and BLUE STEEL), the COOL FUSION is the usual, driving Don Corleon style of beat, featuring his trademark acoustic guitar and further strings alongside a typically annoying dancehall-lick, which nearly ruins the otherwise quite good riddim for me. Why many dancehall producers continue to insist on down-grading, if not even outright ruining their otherwise excellent beats with these dorky melodies is beyond me. Unfortunately it has been one of the trademarks of the music since its inception in the 1980's.

What the beat itself lacks in excellence is more than made up for by the tunes themselves. There are outstanding performances by Mister (who else?) "up to the time" Vybez Kartel, Vybez and Tony Curtis (!!!-an excellent ganja tune), Capleton, Nicky B and many more. Without the annoying lick, the COOL FUSION would have fared even better though.



Greensleeves Rhythm Album #55: Blue Steel

(Greensleeves/Maximum Sound)

A fast-paced beat with an east-Indian flute-type-of-lick, the BLUE STEEL is Frenchie's newest creation on the Maximum Sound label. The release seems to be pretty evenly split between girl-tunes and bad-man anthems. The former include artists like Anthony B, Elephant Man and Vybez Kartel, while the latter feature word-smiths as Bounty, Future Troubles, Taz and Lexus. Junior Kelly breaks the mold with one of his best works in years, entitled "Style". He says: "Kill em with your style: red, green and gold!…to be like you dem haffi born again…."

Worthwhile for the beat and rare artists (as Future Troubles, Taz, and Chukki Star), who don't voice on literally EVERYTHING these days. Pretty cool!



Various - Dub Fire (Basque Dub Foundation)


I know I keep railing about the superiority of modern European roots releases opposed to those coming out of Jamaica these days: yet here is further proof. Out of France, the Basque Dub Foundation / Heartical crew re-created Aswad’s DUB FIRE/PROMISED LAND riddim, with full-on-melodica solos. While it does not quite match the punch of the original, analog version, it is easily as good as the excellent re-issue on Reggae Central a few years back (remember Sizzla’s “Catch Di Place A Fire” ?). Maybe it is because the Europeans are more choosy, re-working RARE riddims like this (and Night Nurse/Doctor’s Darling for that matter) as opposed to run-of-the-mill vibes like Heavenless (Massive B), Ba Ba Boom (Black Scorpio) and Real Rock (Xterminator), all of which have been voiced numerous times in the past few years alone. On top of that the European productions often sound fatter, more powerful and far cleaner than a lot of the scratchy yard-stuff (at least on 7” vinyl). Best selections on the beat come from veteran Al Campbell and the messenger Luciano, yet tunes from Chronicle, Pinchers and Sugar Minott are quite good as well. Local French artist Uman also rides the riddim nicely. If you long for some quality, new rootical material, here it is! Distibuted by Ernie B’s in the USA. Buy !!!



Greensleeves Rhythm Album #58: Summer Bounce

(Greensleeves/Annex Records)

Another completely mad, quirky, intense yard production, the SUMMER BOUNCE is the Annex labels first effort in a while. HYPE is the key-word here as well, as the up-tempo, percussive beat just races on down the line. “Umbrella! Propeller! Over the wall! Boom boom! Over the wall!” Metromedia’s mc Sky Juice screams on his crazed “Dance Moves”. While the SUMMER BOUNCE would work well in areas that have a large Caribbean population, I doubt that many Americans will “get it”. Then again, the hip-hoppers seem to be jumping on the yardie-dance-move-bandwagon (“Lean Back” y’all) so you never know. Ele, Capleton, Queen Paula all kick butt as do Action K, Queen Paula, Merciless, Vybez Cartel and Insane. Wild !!!!



Greensleeves Riddim Album #57 - Scoobay

(357 Productions/Greensleeves)

A bouncy pocoman-streetsweeper type of beat with emphasis on the one, the SCOOBAY is top-a-top selector Tony Matterhorn’s first riddim outta street. A total footstomper, steppers kind-a-ting, that has been ruling the dancehalls in Jamaica for much of 2004, the riddim has enough crossover-potential to become quite successful in New Mexico as well.

While there are no definite eastern melodies at work here, the SCOOBAY still somehow carries that mid-to-far-eastern vibe that has been so dominant in dancehall music since 9-11 (RETURN, EGYPTIAN, COOLIE DANCE just to name the tip of the iceberg). Boom tunes include Vybez & Beenie’s “Breast Specialist”, Tony Matterhorn and Richie Feelings’ “All About Dancin’ 2”, and Elephant Man’s “Swear”. Some veteran artists (Cobra, Lady G and Macka Diamond aka Lady Mackerel) are featured alongside relative newcomers as Martina, Bunji Garlin and Voice Mail, while Wayne Wonder (alongside Textra) even delivers a rare, conscious contribution. One of the riddims of the year !!! Props to Mario C & Tony Marijuana! Buy !!!



Greensleeves Riddim Album # 56 - Mad Guitar


A hyper-paced, extremely percussive piece-a-music, the MAD GUITAR features little (if any) guitar, or any other licks or melodies for that matter. Produced by Donovan Bennett (who else?), his trademark acoustic-guitar-lick is noticeably absent this time around. While MAD GUITAR may tear down heated-up dancehalls a yard, it may prove a bit difficult in the American Southwest, due to the lack of natural hype and identification with this krrazy Jamaican dancehall madness. Top tunes include a new Beenie Man/Miss Thing combination, Nicky B’s “Hot Over Cold”, and Buju’s “No Tek Check”. Hype, and actually not bad at all, but Vendetta has definitely done better.



Greensleeves Rhythm Album #49: French Vanilla


Originally entitled KRAZY HYPE, the FRENCH VANILLA is another killer Donovan Bennett production and possibly his best so far. Extremely fast-paced with a typical latin, Don Corleon-flamenco-style guitar, this riddim is amongst the best yard has to offer in 2004. Smooth, yet hardcore and innovative, FRENCH VANILLA is better than cooked food.

Besides the extra-hype "Girls Gone Wild" by Assassin and "Krazy Hype" by Elephant Man, there is a good ganja tune from (who else?) Roundhead, some nice galis-selections from Bounty, Vybez and new artist Earthworm, as well as a premium bad-man anthem by Zumjay. Big ups also out to Nigel Staff for his hand in creating this gem. Dancehall the way it was meant to be. Buy !!!



Greensleeves Rhythm Album # 52: - Black Out


A hard-driving, pumping riddim that reminds me of a cross of Herbie Hancock's infamous "Rock It", some house/techno vibes, and straight-up Jamaican dancehall madness. A co-production of Daniel "Blaxxx" Lewis (of Blaxxx Records) and Andrew "Buccaneer" Bradford (of Opera House Records), the two also combined their labels to form a brand-new one in Black House. Although quite fast-paced, BLACK OUT may actually work in New Mexico's dancehalls, where hip-hoppy crossover tracks with catchy hooks and poppy elements usually succeed the best.

While the riddim itself is the highest grade, many of the actual tunes do not quite rise to the occasion, with the exception of Kartel's "K.I.S.S.I.N.G." (or "Picture This" as it is called here), Elephant Man's "Doin' It Right" (done to the melody of the Bee Gee's "Stayin' Alive"), and Bounty's tuff "Anthem". Don't get me wrong: selections from Sean Paul, Looga Man and Buccaneer are not bad at all, yet they do not match the pure hype of the riddim. The cool trend to customize many of the riddim tracks to suit the individual artists continues here to provide FAR more variation than used to the case on these one-riddim selections. Buy !!!



Greensleeves Rhythm Album #48: - Tunda Klap


Similar to Renaissance's first release (REBIRTH), the new TUNDA KLAP features similar string-arrangements over a thundering, fever-pitched dancehall beat. These extra-fast riddims are all the rage in Jamaica at this time and EVERYBODY from Lenky to Don Corleon and from Blaxxx to Delano is riding the wave. Crucial tunes on here are Vybez Kartel's big hit "Tekk", Capleton's "I Love The Way" and Looga Man's "Huff 'n Puff". A few upcoming artists actually provide some of the stronger tracks, as Kenny & Busy Signals' "Shake It Fast" and Bugle & Tornado's "Soldering". Other than that you have the usual culprits: Ele, Bounty, Cobra, Ward 21, Vegas and so on. Next time something completely different may be in order though.

Still : buy !!!


Various Artists- Salsa Riddim

(Big Yard/Vp)

After 2003's SEXY LADY, Christopher Birch returns with another latin-flavored beat: SALSA.

While it has more of a niyahbingi-feel to it than a salsa, there definitely are some latin elements at work here. On one hand the SALSA is quite rootical in its foundation, yet on the other it is coupled with plenty of modern pop and dancehall vibes that the outcome is quite unique. Not only is the riddim outstanding: a number of the tunes on it are as well, led by Bounty Killer alongside Angel Doolas and the Shaggy/Rik Rok combination. While the SALSA has quite some cross-over potential (KISS fm here in NM just added the Shaggy/Rik-Rok tune to its rotation), there are still a number of hardcore selections on it also, from artists as Ele, Ward 21, Ice Man and TOK. Big up to Chris Birch and Shaggy's Big Yard Camp.




Colin Levy aka Iley Dread - Unite The People

(Kings Of Kings/VP)

The mastermind behind the Kings Of Kings label and possibly one of the most under-rated vocalists/song-writers on the island at this time, Iley Dread finally releases his first full-length album. As always with the dread, the vibe is heavily conscious, as exemplified by tunes as "Babylon Burning", "Reward From Jah", and the stellar "Prayer Medley" (featuring Capleton, Sizzla, Morgan Heritage and LMS).

I have always liked the Kings Of Kings label with its healthy mixture of rootical AS WELL AS hardcore dancehall riddims. I also appreciate the fact that this label voices and therefore promotes an enormous amount of upcoming & lesser-known artists, aside from the run-of-mill kinda guys that seem to be on practically EVERYTHING that EVER gets released these days. A nice, smooth, extra-professional effort from Mr.Levy, featuring an incredible amount of guests in the form of U-Roy, Marcia Griffiths, Heather, Nicky Burt, Anthony B, Christini, Norrisman, Warrior King, and the list goes on. Positive !!!




Norrisman - World Crisis

(Kings Of Kings/Jet Star)

Out of the upcoming generation of conscious dj's out of Jamaica, Norrisman hits us with his third album "World Crisis". The riddim tracks vary from the extra-rootical, niyahbighi-style "Love Conquer" to more hardcore dancehall, as on "Don't Boast" (featuring Frisco Kid) and on the classic J-Lo LATINO beat (featuring Anthony B). While most of the tunes are quite good, I wonder why tracks as "My Type" and "Selassie I Hail" were included. They are so "un-musical" (out of tune/key), that they are almost painful to listen to and bring down the rating of this otherwise solid release. Norrisman does have some good lyrics though and some of the riddims are red-hot. Therefore still recommendable.


Various Artists - Trifecta

(Don Corleon/Greensleeves)

After a whirlwind of hard hitting riddims, Donovan "Don Corleon" Bennett ends 2003 with the mighty Trifecta. This is a fast hardcore beat with it's spastic drum hits is meant to keep things steaming on the dance floor. Donavan Bennett is one of those producers who is on the cutting edge of following trends in the dancehall as well as with popular American hip-hop/r&b, which is no surprise when you hear the amount of auto pitch correction scattered through many of the songs on this disc. My favorite tracks have to be Elephant Man's weed smoking anthem "Nah Stop Smoke" and recent Grammy winner Sean Paul's gal tune "Head To Toe". Bounty Killer's revoice of "Breeda" sounds good but definitely doesn't compare to Lady Saw's X-rated gal tune "Pretty Pussy". Other artists like badbwoy Vybz Kartel, Bling Dawg, Wayne Marshall and the always hot Ward 21 show off nuff talent. With the quality of production coming out the Don Corleon camp I think 2004 is gonna be the year for this pioneering producer.



Various Artists - Roots Dancehall Party

(Silver Kamel Audio)

Silver Kamel really did it this time !!! A classic compilation going back to the roots of dancehall reggae in a showcase stylee. Back in the days when the music was still being played by LIVE musicians. Singers include Anthony Johnson, Barrington Levy, Sugar Minott, and the legendary Johnny Osbourne, while the dj's are represented by the likes of Early B (r.i.p.), Ranking Toyan (r.i.p.) and Jah Thomas. All tracks are licensed from Jah Thomas' killer Midnight Rock label, which ruled the dancehalls back in the day. My only beef is (AGAIN) the lack of mention of the various players of instruments and the generic cover-art. A must for all reggae lovers !!!



Various Artists - Roots Rasta Party

(Silver Kamel Audio)

Another excellent Silver Kamel release, this time focusing on the heavy rastaman vibration out of Jamaica at the end of the 1970's and the beginning of the 1980's. The 8 extended tracks are kicked off by some of yard's greatest singers of the time, including the sweet voice of Cornell Campbell, Philip Frazier, Linval Thompson, Barry Brown and the vocal harmony trio Mighty Threes (who have an uncanny resemblance to early Israel Vibration). They then blend into a dj or dub-version, providing us with the killer showcase-format once again. Mic-chanters consist of the likes of Prince Alla, Ranking Trevor, Peter Ranking, General Lucky and (my favorite) King Rolex, while the riddims range from rockers to rub-a-dub.

Whereas Roots Dancehall Party exclusively featured Jah Thomas' productions, a number of them can be found here (Augustus Pablo, Niney Observer, and the aforementioned Jah Thomas). The players of instruments and mixing engineers are stellar on every track on their list reads like a "who is who" of reggae music: The Aggrovators (Sly & Robbie back in the day), Soul Syndicate, King Tubby, Scientist and of course the late-great Augustus Pablo. Awesome !!!



Various Artists - Spanish Town

(Higher Ground Sound)

If heavy hitting deep roots riddims voiced by conscious artists is what you hungry for, Spanish Town should satisfy your appetite. With the three riddims featured on this CD, the Higher Ground crew mix it up with a variety of different artists. From the typical Anthony B or Luciano to more obscure voices such as Wadi Gad to the new bloods such as Leopard and J Chushna, every tune is a quality production. From the first notes of the nyabinghi driven Lutan Fyah "It's Good To Know" you can almost feel the drummers in the room with you. Criss production. Stand out tunes on this CD include Rocker T's freewheeling "Gangja Progress", the aforementioned Wadi Gad's "Can't Conquer Me" and Spectacular's "Free Up The Youth". Hiyah Rems hits the mark with "Just Drop a Bomb" as does Leopard with "How The Guns Get So Prevelant". Other new comers such as Changa and J Cushna show much promise for the future along side contemporaries such as Spectacular, Jah Mason and Turbulence.Fourteen vocal tracks and three dub versions make this a must have for all contemporary roots and consciousness lovers. Higher Ground Sound is on the move!!!!

Higher Ground Sound Records & Entertainment

PO BOX 11176

Various Artists - Soldiers of Jah

(Higher Ground Sound Records)

Another new, independent US-reggae-label, based out of Oakland, California, Higher Ground Sound specializes in rootical, niyahbinghi-style riddims. Besides better-known artists as Anthony B, Luciano and Steve Machete, there are a number of obscure performers like Leopard, Muscle Emanuel, Lion Cub, Hiyah Rems and others. I'm not quite sure what the actual name of the beat is on this 'one-riddim album' but I think that African Bump would serve quite well, supplemented by Bongo Herman's able repeater-playing. All artists put in good performances (I especially LOVE to hear the new bloods), making this one of the best independent US-releases in a while.


Various Artists - Surprise Riddim

(Black Shadow Records)

Black Shadow's highly anticipated follow-up to the BUZZ (Sean Paul-Give Me The Light) riddim is finally available in all shapes & forms, including the full-length album/cd. Leaning heavily on Dave Kelly's highly successful BUG from back in 1999, the SURPRISE is a hypnotically droning, slower beat. While it may not be as hype in the dancehalls as its predecessor, it is as fat, danceable track that works quite nicely in cruise-mode. Many of the tunes were well-written and voiced. Especially hot are Sean Paul's "Shake That Thing", Elephant Man's "Jamaica" , and Wayne Wonder's "Enemies", but there are further hot-shots from Bounty Killer, Buju Banton, Beenie Man and many more. Yet another high-quality Black Shadow release.




Greensleeves Rhythm Album # 35: CLAPPAS

(Greensleeves/King Of Kings)

Greensleeves Records out of the UK continues to license the hottest Jamaican riddims and releases them on "dj-friendly" double -lp's, enabling selectors to save quite a bit of $$$ by buying a $15-20 double album, instead of having to cough up $3 per tune (if you were buying 7" 's instead).

After a stellar finale to the year 2002 in dancehall reggae (with the release of such gems as the TAI-CHI, the MASTERPIECE and MI NUH KNOW), I have been rather disappointed with many of the hype Jamaican riddims of 2003 so far. Fortunately, South Rakkas finally comes in with the real HIGH GRADE in the form of the CLAPPAS riddim. A heavily percussive, rockin' rollish-beat with a clap-sample, CLAPPAS has that irresistable something that automatically gets the ladies on the dancefloor, shaking their booties. Stand-out tracks include Capleton's " Clappin' ", Ward 21's "Hotta Betta Phatta", Mr.Vegas',Alozade's and Hollow Point's re-creation of "Under Mi Sensi"and best of all, the first Beenie Man & TOK combination. A HUGE premiere for South Rakkas !!! Looking forward to more in the future.





Greensleeves Rhythm Album # 38: C-4

(Greensleeves/King Of Kings)

Greensleeves Records out of the UK continues to license the hottest Jamaican riddims and releases them on "dj-friendly" double -lp's, enabling selectors to save quite a bit of $$$ by buying a $15-20 double album, instead of having to cough up $3 per tune (if you were buying 7" 's instead).

A slower, hip-hoppy beat, Craig "Leftside" Parkes' C-4 features a killer bag-pipe line and cool string arrangements. While it may not be a "dancefloor-thriller", it is excellent for rolling in your ride, especially if it can handle some BASS. Capleton puts in one of his best performances in a while with "Know Wi" and many artists dig deep into their lyrical bags to spew out lines like "Boom We Fi Boom Dem Up, Blast We Fi Blast Dem" (Bling Dawg) or "Nah Eat Cat Nah Eat Kitten Put Up Yo Hand And Seh Rastaman Sitten " (Anthony B). The King Of Kings label continues its cool tradition of featuring upcoming, virtually unknown artists. This time it does so in the form of Spotlight, Petrocan, Geenie Slick & Stinga D, Fuzzy Jay, Wayne Passion and a few others. Sizzla, Bascom X and Future Troubles bun down Babylon & its informers, while Ele, Jagwa and Roundhead are ready to party hearty. Something for everyone here. Big up Leftside !!!




Black Ice - Deliver Me

(Yard Groove Records)

Plenty of vocal talent shines forth on Black Ice's "Deliver Me". Not only the featured artist but many of his guests, as Junior P, Djahana and Rootsman convince. The lyrics are conscious and the vibes are mellow. Unfortunately the computer tracks do not match the vocal talent. Don't get me wrong: the riddims are tight and well-played, yet they sound too generic and not quite fat enough to these ears. This probably is the cause of my favoring the last two, semi-accapella tracks. The vocals on "Enemies" and "Jah Live" (not the Marley song) are soaring, complimented by sparse instrumentation, lifting the tunes well above those featuring the full mix. Still a good release for Black Ice & friends, yet with harder beats it could rank even higher.


Billy Boyo - Zim Zim

(Silver Kamel Audio)

A wicked 1980's set of rub-a-dub, courtesy of the UK's Silver Kamel label and the (late great) Billy Boyo. Billy Boyo dj's in a refreshingly youthful and natural style, somewhat inspired by his mentor, the late-great Toyan. Each one of the 6 tracks is complimented by a dubwise version, in a crucial Jamaican showcase stylee. The live musicianship is stellar, lacking a little punch in the mix though. Unfortunately, the liner-notes do not include info about the players of instruments, only mentioning Trevor Ranking as back-up vocalist.

Top tunes include "Jamaica Nice", the album title "Zim Zim" and the heart-wrenching "Every Mockell Tell". A crucial re-release, re-introducing one of yard's most talented rub-a-dub singjays. Check it people !




Dub Station - Forward Ever

(Dub Station Music)

Based out of the Boston area, Dub Station comes in with this fresh cd. The style is roots, the vocals are conscious and even though the riddims are computer-driven, they are solid and sound professional. A number of different singers get showcased on this release, including my favorite TWEET 'A BIRD (a singing bird for real), singjay SONBEAM, ELIHU, DIA, JEM-I, and I-TAL FIRE.

While the vocalists can definitely hold their own, it is associate producer Diavallan Fearon and musician Rider Mc Coy that lay the musical foundation which lifts "Forward Ever" over the top. After a while it all sounds a bit too smooth and clean for my taste but nuff people like that style. Altogether more on the impressive side. Boston rocks !!!




Mikey Dread - World War III

(Ernie B's Reggae)

Michael 'Dread At The Controls' Campbell, aka Mikey Dread, just had his legendary album"World War III" re-released on EB's Reggae and he was kind enough to send me a copy, so here we go.

Recorded in the 1980's and backed by Jamaican masters Roots Radics, "World War III" may rank as one of THE top reggae albums of ALL time. Much of the music is crucial rub-a-dub, performed by stellar musicians as Style, Flabba, Bingy, Sowell, and Deadly Headly, and even the list of backing vocalists reads like a who's who ina reggae music: Edi Fitzroy, Earl 16 and Watty Burnett.

Killer tracks include "Jumping Master", the classic "Break Down The Walls", "Skin Head Skank", and "Warrior Stylee", all finding Mikey Dread in fine form, before the release severely dubs out during the last, few numbers. If you don't have it already-get it!!!



Kulcha Shok Muzik
1218 Drexel Ave. # 203
Miami FL 33139

Natty Remo - Babylon Fall

(Kucha Shok Muzik)

Also out of the Kulcha Shok stable hails Natty Remo, a Jamaican dj who calls Florida his home. The computer riddims sound top-notch again, possibly even a bit fatter than on the Wookie J release.
On top of that Natty Remo delivers the goods. Excellent lyrics and a variation of dj-styles (at times reminding me of Shaggy or Red Foxx ("You're My Lover"), at others of Prezident Brown or Tony Rebel ("True True Love")) lift this one over the top.

A number of lesser-known guest artists such as Manna Panna, Ragga Lox and Wookie J contribute nicely but it is the Garnet Silkish vocals of Yah Breeze on "Wrong Babylon" and Natty Remo's sound-killing rampage on "Champion Sound" that rate as the highest grade. If Remo had remained in Jamaica, I imagine he would have been voiced on a regular basis but as it is, it was up to Lance-O in Miami to bring forward more talent outta yard. Great independent reggae release. Big up Kulcha Shok !!!



Wajesskor Music
P.O.Box 20596
Huntington Station, NY, 11746

Watty Burnett - To Hell And Back

(Wajesskor Music)

Legendary roots reggae vocalist Watty Burnett, the deep barritone voice of Congos fame, hits back with this excellent release. While the computer tracks are obviously unable to match the musicianship of the Congos, say, at the Black Ark studio (where they were backed by the Upsetters, who later went on to become the Wailers but that's another story) the riddims are solid and Watty is still in fine form. Standout tracks are the hypnotic "On The Run" and the dancehall combinations with NY dj Red Foxx, whose voice, style and delivery have an uncanny resemblance to Shaggy. Crazy is the hard-rockin cover of "Bol Weavel", while Watty's version of "Rainy Night In Georgia" is extremely smooth, showcasing this artists' versatility. Great is the Upsetterish "Chances", involving reggae legends as Lee Perry, Sly Dunbar, Earnest Ranglin, Robbie Lyn, Winston Wright and Boris Gardener. Roots fans-get it! Watty is back!!!



Kulcha Shok Muzik
1218 Drexel Ave. # 203
Miami FL 33139 co

Wookie J - Big Up The Children

(Kucha Shok Muzik)

A solid release from Lance-O's Kulcha Shok label out of Florida. Wookie J, self-proclaimed student of the late-great Nicodemus, sounds a bit like Shaggy at points. Wookie J rides the riddims tightly and what the dj may lack in versatility is more than made up for by the combination tunes featuring guest-artists such as Shinehead, Rocker-T, and Natty Remo. The lyrics range from conscious to lovers and Kulcha Shok utilizes some classic riddims as Death In The Arena and Diseases. The music is mainly rootsy blending well with Wookie J's laid-back vocal delivery. There are a few hip-hop elements (vocal & musical) plus some smooth dubs (mixed by Karl Pitterson) to round things out. Altogether quite promising. I hope Kulcha Shok keeps up the good work as this could be one of THE upcoming labels to promote reggae music in the U.S.



Various Artists - We Are Getting Bad:The Sound Of Phase One

(Motion Records)

From Motion Records out of London comes yet another oldie but goodie;"We Are Getting Bad:The Sound Of Phase One". In its hey-day in the late 1970's, Phase One produced some of the most killer underground reggae music in Kingston , which is surely saying quite something. While big-timers as The Heptones and Dean Fraser contribute some first-rate material, it is the more obscure artists as The Untouchables (not the US-ska band), The Chantells, Jah Berry, and the unknown dj, who toasts in the U-Roy style of the time, that really shine. Producer Roy Francis has since moved on to run the famous Mixin Lab studios in Kingston. The excellent liner-notes give detailed info about him, a number of the contributing artists, and the Phase One label in general. The music, ranging from rockers to steppers and one-drop, is premium high-grade: pure chronic!!! Sound-quality and musicianship are both top-notch. My favorite Motion Records release up-to-date. A must-have!


As I closely work together with a number of radio-shows in New Mexico (including REGGAE RUNNINS at 90.7 fm KSFR in Santa Fe and IYAH MUSIC at 89.9 fm KUNM in Albuquerque) I receive a number of promo-releases every week. Many of these releases, especially the cd's, do not get featured as much as they deserve (namely in the dance). I therefore decided to start this reviews-page: to feature and promote some of these excellent albums of upcoming as well as veteran artists/labels/producers. Anyone who would like to submit some promos is welcome to do so-cd's are fine for reviews and radio-play but I prefer vinyl. That way I am able to feature material in the numerous dances I play as well and really test it out: LIVE and DIRECT.

Submit promos to:

Don Martin
311 Camino Chico
Santa Fe NM 87505 USA.


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