Most helpful positive review
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Okay So I Might be Partial. . .
on June 24, 2008
At the end of the day, when all the numbers have been tabulated, all the votes have been counted and all parishes have reported, Sizzla Kalonji is without a doubt my absolute favourite artist of all time. In my era of listening to music (which pretty much perfectly align itself with the entire age of modern reggae music) we have never seen an artist who, at his definite best exudes what reggae music is all about. We haven't seen an artist who can make music with a message, which teaches and is pleasing to the ears and entertaining at the same time. An artist who would eventually grow to begin producing and making himself a full fledged true musician and NEVER lose touch with the youths of Jamaica from the ghettoes and the country same way. For me personally, his rise to prominence coincided with my own acceptance of Rastafari and let me tell you! Never since Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and finally Dennis Brown closed their eyes has reggae had such a wonderfully flawed, yet seemingly unshakable roots man for the people as Sizzla Kalonji. His real talent has always been in his lyrics: Where the standard roots artist would have a strong message in his/her tunes which would virtually mirror what you would hear in a Kalonji tune, his method of delivery and actual method of writing the words would be so different and yet say the same thing while giving a decidedly `fuller' version. I say that to say you'll probably never see Sizzla fitting into the stereotypical Rastaman artist, "Praise Jah", "Times getting red" and "Di wicked ah guh suffer", role which is SO filled these days with mediocre and downright UNTALENTED artists. In my opinion, Sizzla has also been instrumental in bringing forth the next generation of artists as well. In the dancehall, you'll hear most young artists call upon the name of Bounty Killer more often than any other when detailing exactly which artists he/she listened to as a youth and who inspired them to want to take the dancehalls. In roots, the same role is often played by Sizzla, even more so than the more popular and longer serving Buju Banton and well popular veterans such as Capleton, Luciano and Anthony B. MAYBE, if for never Kalonji, we wouldn't have names such as Lutan Fyah, Jah Mason, Jah Cure or I-Wayne or at least not to the (THANKFUL) degree to which we are blessed with them now. To put it simply, in roots music playing actually in Jamaica, Sizzla Kalonji is THE man and has been THE man for quite some time, and for me personally (while I hate to give such distinctions, I will anyway), the single most dominant figure in reggae music in my lifetime (SO FAR) (And I say that instead of saying, `the Bob Marley of our time, which I hate to hear).
Sizzla was also one the first artists (whether good or bad) alongside Beenie Man and Luciano and the likes to make his name, at least in part, internationally, due to a more than steady release of albums. It wasn't until he really hit his peak of prolificacy (which thankfully, due to his own business ventures such as recording, producing and managing artists and his own label, has SLIGHTLY slowed these days) that concepts such as `over-saturation' began to be introduced in reggae music as Sizzla could rather easily put out four or even sometimes up to six different albums on six different labels in any given year without showing the slightest hesitation and his fans (and I'm one of them) seemingly marched in a robotic like state to scoop up each and every one of them. If you have a label, you seemingly almost NEED a Sizzla release to `justify' your existence (and I joke) as one can sit and talk about the WhoDat Records and Reggae Centrals of the world who popped in and out but made sure to get a Sizzla album out (Blaze Fire Blaze and Hosanna, respectively) (and the practice continues, just last year the unknown US based A-Town Records released Jah Bless Me With Life for Sizzla and coming this year is the highly anticipated Addicted from MBIG Music/LGN Entertainment)(the latter is also doing a Madd Anju release, FINALLY!). However, that being said, Sizzla's undeniably most loyal and trusted label throughout the years has been the UK based Greensleeves who in the past ten years, has released no less than TEN studio albums from the August Town native, including the landmark original Black Woman & Child (the greatest studio album he has ever done) and well respected pieces such as Bobo Ashanti, Royal Son of Ethiopia and most recently 2007's AMAZING I-Space. Over the same period of time, VP Records, Greensleeves largest competitor and the biggest Caribbean music label in the world period, has released and re-released quite a few as well (the actual number, whatever it is, is probably more than ten and some of them were doubles). Thus, it was quite interesting when earlier this year VP announced that it had indeed purchased Greensleeves and its extensive catalogue. While that figures to be a problem for many an artist (and many a producer) one man who figures to benefit highly from the merger despite not having any OFFICIAL ties with either label is Sizzla as his release has become a staple in Greensleeves spring/summer schedule and he has been absent from VP's roster since 2006's Ain't Gonna See Us Fall. While I imagine the days of dueling Sizzla releases from both companies are officially gone, one can expect now to see at least one MASSIVE release from the still young artist all but guaranteed every year now. The first product of such potential comes forth now in the way of an excellent greatest hits style compilation release, The Journey: The Very Best of Sizzla Kalonji. It would be mighty difficult to (at least in good faith) bungle a greatest hits release from Sizzla as he has more than a decade full of worthy candidates.
The track selection here is quite interesting to say the least and I wonder just how much different it may have looked were it done under Greensleeves direction alone. As it is, the album features tracks not only from GS albums but from VP albums same way. It also does just a BIT of mixing in new tracks, which is always a good idea for greatest hits albums in my opinion. And it gives a fine variety of tunes through its well PACKED twenty-one tracks. Getting things started here is very much a VP track, the well popular Just One of Those Days (Dry Cry) from the Da Real (Live) Thing album(s) for Bobby Digital. The song was arguably the most popular from the album which many hailed as the return of the once mighty roots artist who, at the time, was drawing much criticism (and justly so) for doing a variety of much more hardcore dancehall tunes. The tune itself (you know it) is absolutely lovely and made Sizzla fans which typically wouldn't have paid attention to his vibes and it was (and remains) a VERY popular staple of his stage show and undeniably one of the strongest lover's tracks of his entire career. Next up is the title track from one of the greatest reggae albums of all time, Praise Ye Jah from his former longtime home base, Xterminator. The song is one of the finest of Sizzla's career (he loves it so much he constantly employs it to open performances all over the world) and Xterminator's for that matter. It is the type of song indeed which made me such a fan of the artist as you cannot help but listen to the tune and come away with some knowledge of the matter as well your nodding to the well enjoyable sounds. Completing the opening here is, fittingly, one of the newer pieces here, the very nice The Solution on the enchanting Paradise riddim. The tune hit a vibe with me almost immediately when I heard it and I use tunes such as The Solution when I explain to people how easily roots music comes to Kalonji. No, unfortunately, you won't hear him do that on each and every tune anymore as he did in the Praise Ye Jah days, but it is at WILL that he is able to create downright beautiful roots music for the people such as The Solution and a score for the album: To my knowledge you won't find it on any other official release.
There is a tune on The Journey which comes early on which is a newer song by the name of Africa Prepare. Africa Prepare is a MAMMOTH repatriation anthem from 2007 for Maximum Sounds. The song is definitely one of Sizzla's best in recent times and is even a highlight on an album so full of proven and tested hits. The even heavier hitters continue to roll through on the album and peak twice for me. My all-time favourite Sizzla track is the title track from what just may be the best album of all-time, Black Woman & Child. You CANNOT have a Sizzla greatest hits album and not have the tune present, it is impossible. BW&C was a song which just really hit so many people on so many levels and for me especially in these times, I have an Empress and we just had a child. The tune has never sounded better to my ears and it is the best song on any album on which it will ever appear. This one is no different. The other tune comes much earlier in the album and comes from the same producer and is just as special and unforgettable, Thank U Mamma. Thank U Mamma is the type of tune you remember where you were the first time you heard it! it's the type of tune which will make you run up your phone bill calling your Mother just to tell her thank you and it is without a doubt the greatest Mother's Day gift ever created (praises go to Bobby Digital and Co. for BOTH). There are other very interesting choices here, particularly on the tunes chosen from Greensleeves releases. Rise to the Occasion, which was a song which took a bit of time to take off with the people (and it STILL hasn't come down since), checks in and were this simply a GS Sizzla greatest hits album, you'd be hard pressed to make a case to keep it off the album and I'm not even going to try to do it. In a similar position (and from the same producer) is Where Are You Running To from the overlooked Soul Deep album (I'm finding myself going back more and more to that album these days, listening and referencing) the tune was one of the few signature tunes to come from that album (which also included Be Strong) and was a sizable hit. There's Give Me a Try, from the Rise to the Occasion album which became one of Sizzla's biggest lover's tunes as well. I SO didn't like that tune for quite awhile before `succumbing' to its oddness eventually, it features Sizzla's unmistakable. . . Wailing throughout and apparently we all love that HORRIBLE sound so much! And stacked on the album back-to-back are two of the hits from the I-Space album, Really and Truly and the downright BRILLIANT One Love. It was due to tunes like those and Chant Dem Down) which lead many (myself included) to call I-Space THE reggae album of 2007. It hasn't exactly had the time to make itself (and its tunes) on any greatest hits compilation for that matter, but I'm not at all surprised to see it well represented on The Journey. I was more than happy to see represented in The Journey, the Royal Son of Ethiopia album in the form of the only combination here, the MASSIVE In This Time with Luciano. 'At the time' the two were label mates at Xterminator and Sizzla was still opening shows for The Messenjah all over the world and they combined several times to makes some truly breathtaking music, one could make the case that the best of these offerings was In This Time, definitely. Also, I have to mention that mixed in are some TIMELESS material which bolsters any such album. And I was happy to see Rastafari Teach I Everything (quietly one of GS' best Sizzla albums) represented by its title track (although Beautiful would have been my choice). Like Mountain is an eternally overlooked tune from Kalonji but when you really listen to it that song is PERFECT! Complete with the heavy nyah drum knocking throughout, it sounds like a tune made three days ago and not nearly the decade ago which is closer to its actual age.
I have to say in albums like these one often starts to pick through tunes which would have made sense on the album and I will too, of course, just a bit. Speaking strictly from the Greensleeves albums, I would have chosen The World from the Bobo Ashanti album, As in the Beginning from the Royal Son of Ethiopia album and the aforementioned Beautiful from Rastafari Teach I Everything; all the signature tunes from their respective albums in my opinion. AND to comment briefly on the accompanying DVD. It features a pretty nice documentary on Sizzla at home and some videos and a well traveled interview. Definitely one for the collectors.
Overall, the strongest Sizzla Kalonji greatest hits compilation on the shelves is and remains VP's thirty track monster, The Story Unfolds, but coming in at a rather easy number two is now The Journey. Speaking specifically to the Greensleeves releases, this was just a wonderful idea, one which, to be honest may have even been more interesting were it just from GS tracks. But I definitely can't complain in the eyes of adding tunes the likes of Thank U Mamma and Dry Cry. The Journey is for newer fans or older fans who typically don't buy albums who'll love this one as well. And YOU Sizzla fan who buys just about any and everything bearing his name, you'll love it too. An introduction, re-introduction and a big wonderful HELLO again to one of the greatest MINDS reggae music has ever seen.