CDs

CD Reviews: The Boot Box May 2004

The Boot Box

May 2004

Reviews by Ted “The Boot” Boothroyd

Boot's Rating System


Jackie BrownJackie 

Brown: I Still Love You, Jackie Brown Music/Ejaness Reggae Comprehensive,

2003

www.ReggaeCd.com

Rating: A-

Same name; could it really be the

same guy? I am more than hopeful but not quite positive. I look at the

cover photos. Hmm, leather jeans and jacket, heavy jewelry, not exactly

my mental image of Jackie Brown. But yeah, must be him. An older him.

It’s been so long. Over to my CD player. Track one: “Look Pon You”. A

riff that’s familiar, taken from another song. The vocal starts. Familiar

voice, boyish voice, light and easy style; yes. Yes! It’s him. I sit back,

relax, await whatever is ahead.

What’s ahead both reassures me

of Jackie Brown’s great talent and mildly disappoints that Jackie Brown’s

reggae has progressed. Apparently I didn’t want him to progress, to keep

up with the times. My memories go back to his deep roots classics like

“Wiser Dread,” “Sheep and Goat” and “Bearded Babylon.” But these new tempos

are rushed, using various dancehall rhythms, and these arrangements are

modern. And yet, and yet. There is an old-fashionedness about this album,

and it makes me feel very, very comfortable. Is it that the songs are

short, there are 12 of them, and the whole thing clocks in at 43:19? Is

it Brown’s silky, reassuring tenor? The innocent lyrics combined with

appealing tunefulness? The numerous (sometimes extensive) musical allusions

to earlier songs, his own and others? Certainly it’s helped by his several

covers of decades-old country and western songs—how can you sing, sweetly

and sincerely, “Send me the pillow that you dream on/So darling I can

dream on it too,” without appearing hopelessly old-fashioned, fast chugging

reggae beat or not?

I have a bunch of favorites, such

as “Behold Jah Live” with its intense, busy arrangement contrasting with

its Sunday School melody (think Cornell Campbell’s “I Shall Not Remove”).

But the whole album, despite its sometimes aggressive rhythms, is thoroughly

entertaining, comforting, even low-key, thanks to Brown’s beautiful voice

and relaxed vocal technique. Quaint would be a strange word to use, so

I won’t. Charming would be better. Charming dancehall, that’s what we

have here.


LehbanchulehLehbanchuleh: 

Claim the Joy, Banchu Musik (Stone Tiger Entertainment Group),

2003

http://www.stonetigerentertainmentgroup.com

Rating: A-

The name “Lehbanchuleh” is fairly

new to reggae, but in his previous incarnation as Norberth Clarke, this

guy has actually been active for quite a while. That fact goes a long

way toward explaining how this inaugural album can radiate the veracity

and confidence it does. How many of us could persuade Luciano, Mikey General,

Sugar Black, Anthony B. and Terry Ganzie to appear on our debut solo CD?

How many of us would implicitly challenge listeners to compare our own

singing and songwriting to Sam Cooke’s singing and songwriting by including

a cover of “Change Gonna Come”, which Cooke wrote, sang and made

famous? And who among us would be brave or crazy enough to include an

a cappella song on any album, let alone our first? So, if you get the

feeling I’m impressed, you’re right.

High production values, accomplished

singing, interesting arrangements, memorable songs with constructive lyrics;

it goes from one crackerjack track to another. Especially impressive:

the hooky “Hold On, Be Strong”, the beautiful introduction to the Cooke

tune, the ear-grabbing interplays with guest deejays and singers, the

church-camp-style tune of “Moving On”, and very definitely, the unadorned

a cappella vocal treat. Listen for that one near the end; it’s called

“BinghiMan”—unfortunately it’s too subtle and beautiful for radio play,

so you may just have to get this album to hear it. According to the liner

notes, proceeds from sales will go to the Maxfield Park Children’s Home

in Kingston, Jamaica—which I point out in case you need one final darn

good reason to buy it. Go ahead.


IntuitIntuit: 

Intuit, Compost Records, 2004

www.compost-records.com

Rating: B+

Attention all lovers of complex

Afro and Brazilian rhythms, laid-back jazz vocals and funky horn arrangements:

get Intuit’s Intuit and get into it, because this is your album.

“Intuit” is the new moniker for

a couple of musician/producer guys from southern Germany who have already

released big chunks of this music under their own names: Thomas Braun

and Till Maragnoli. So this is a sort-of “best-of, plus” kind of album,

which helps to account for the fact that it can go on and on for close

to 79 minutes of pretty strong to very strong material, with only one

reprise—and even that one is a totally different arrangement. Considering

the wealth of musical ideas encased in all those tracks, this means there’s

a lot to listen to here. And considering that the nine guest musicians

and vocalists are not merely along for the ride, but in truth make significant

contributions, this means that most of those many minutes are fresh and

interesting.

The primary strengths are in the

musicianship (including—very much including—the percussion) and in the

production, and that’s obvious from the very start. With its lively and

emphatic bossa nova rhythms, the first song is a perfect introduction

to the album, and the perfect vehicle for Brazilian vocalists Airto Moreira

and Flora Purim. Just to keep it from becoming predictable, a funky horn-driven

r&b work-out emerges effortlessly part way along and then melds back

into the mix. The second track has a strong African feel, with Andy Bey

delivering a tight-throated but fluid and appealing jazz vocal. Next comes

“A Hard Night’s Day”, which has nothing to do with “A Hard Day’s Night”,

not that I can detect; the singing this time falls into the easy-listening,

generic jazz mode that I don’t particularly like, but hey, the arrangements

are fine and the vocal does eventually take a soulful turn.

That’s a taste of what to expect:

highly crafted arrangements, complex percussion and lots of attention

to the structure of the songs, including changes in tempo and mood. As

far as the English lyrics go, well, let’s just say the sound is more important

than the sense, with well-meaning but fluffy advice and musings of an

uninvolved, unfocused, mixed-metaphor, pseudo-intellectual kind. Try this:

“Relax yourself and let your mind be free.” Or this: “A new day is dawning

and it’s dawning in the west.” Or: “He watched himself break free,” and

in the same song: “Feel the sunrise burning in your heart.”

But aside from an abstracted “life

and existence” as the common lyrical theme, there’s not much to complain

about. Rhythms rule, inventiveness pervades, funkiness prevails. I do

believe I hear echoes of Sly and the Family Stone here and there, and

that in itself is a great sign.


Errol MooreErrol 

Moore: It’s Time, Bad Newz Entertainment, 2003

www.badnewzentertainment.com

Rating: B+

It’s Time, and what’s it

time for? The song of that name has one answer (see below), but the press

kit has a different one, suggesting it’s time for Errol Moore to take

centre stage, meaning he should come out of the shadows and step into

the revealing light he deserves. From what I hear on this CD, I wholeheartedly

agree. Too bad the photographer of the bizarrely-lit cover photo wasn’t

brought on side, though. (It is marketing, after all, and Moore has already

been bitten once by a marketing issue.)

In those backstage shadows, Moore

has been doing reggae for a long time—producing, song writing, audio engineering,

guitaring, band membering and even recording. So he knows what he’s doing,

and it shows. Most of the tunes are strong (meaning memorable and distinctive);

the production is thoroughly professional, and the performances are up

to both of those high standards. Balance is a key thing too: rootsy singing,

lovers rock, dancehall rhythms, bopping beats, funky r&b horns and

lively female-duo raps all play their role in the mix. Moore’s exceptional

guitar skills are well-used but never gratuitous, and the sparkling background

vocals by Erica Newell are remarkably supportive, always fresh. The overall

result is not only listenable and danceable, but as confident and life-affirming

as one expects of a veteran reggae artist.

The lyrics are included, typos

and all, and they split about 60-40 between interesting and perceptive

(the 60), and bland and generic (the 40). As an example of the good stuff,

take first the urgent “Signs of the Times” in which you wonder whether

songwriter Errol Moore and filmmaker Michael Moore are related: “If we

nuh deal with humanity/Then we will surely lose we liberty/Signs of the

times, so crazy crazy/Everyone afraid.” Good example number two: “Try

love, it’s the antidote to mental poison.” Example three comes from the

title track, where to a swinging rhythm and friendly tune, the famous

passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes is given a neat twist: “There is

a time to jump, time to prance/Time to sing, time to dance/Time for us

to move from behind/So Africanize your mind.” Nice.

It all seems so comfortable and

easy-going, from Moore’s appealing songs to his self-assured delivery

(somehow relaxed even when intense) to the expert backing and sympathetic

production. It’s good stuff, and this album well deserves its time—all

72 minutes of it—in the light.


Ernest RanglinDr. 

Ernest Ranglin: ska wey dat, (2 CDs) Trojan/Sanctuary, 2003

Rating: B+

In one package, four happy surprises.

First surprise for me: the “Dr.” designation. Nice going, Ernest—an honorary

degree, no doubt, and well deserved after your long and illustrious career.

Second surprise: these are relatively recent recordings, not old tracks

unearthed from Trojan label’s huge vaults. Pleasurable though that historical

stuff always is, it’s nice to see the label taking a present-tense mode

by licensing this worthy music and getting it out there internationally.

The first of the two CDs is actually

EB @ Noon, recorded after Ranglin’s acclaimed Memories of Barber

Mack and issued in 1999 with only limited distribution. Except for

the lead track, a big band powerhouse of a piece, this is relatively unadorned

jazz guitar at its finest, with all the skill, versatility and musicality

that genre implies. Yes, there is a modest ska or reggaeish groove on

most tracks, even including a smidgeon of nyahbingi drumming, but you

should think Django Reinhardt or Lenny Breau, not roots reggae or The

Skatalites.

Disk 2, entitled “Ernest Ranglin

In O.D. (Live)”, presents a 1998 concert before a wildly involved California

audience. Its first few tracks continue the guitar workout, with Ranglin

joined by Cedric ‘Im’ Brooks on tenor sax; but then, the third surprise:

Floyd Lloyd’s Ska Band appears halfway along and suddenly it’s party time.

The restrained beauty of Ranglin’s melodic, contemplative guitar gives

way to boisterous, danceable ska with Lloyd commanding the spotlight:

it’s a bit of a jolt.

And the fourth and final surprise:

the liner notes, by Stephen Nye, are actually coherent, interesting and

beneficial, not something to take for granted from Trojan Records. How

refreshing, and how appropriate, given the coherent, interesting and beneficial

music in this package.


NhojjNhojj: 

Someday Peace Love & Freedom, 2003

www.nhojj.com

Rating: B

The mellowness of Sade, the ambition

and musical genius of Prince, the moral righteousness of Jesus—no wonder

Nhojj has only one name.

Nhojj seems to have done everything

on this album except invent the jewel-box. He did the writing, arranging,

performing (vocals and instruments), producing, recording and mixing.

That’s an amazing feat, and it should therefore come as no surprise that

in his lyrics Nhojj is big on the first person. Here are some first lines:

“I laid in my bed last night”; “I am begging at this corner”; “I am a

warrior preparing for war”; “My heart’s been waiting”; “I once was lost

but now I’m found”, and “I open my eyes and look around at the place I

am at” (this one is spoken and unaccompanied; apparently it’s a poem.)

The second person does appear when he wants to give moral advice: “What

would you do if you saw 2 children arguing?”; “Cut the strings untie the

things/That keep you down bound facing ground”. And sometimes he shares

the stage: “U are my sun U are my moon”; “Remember how we used to touch”;

“Some day we’ll get together”. That’s it; the only remaining track is

a very brief spoken bit of his philosophical advice. If he had shown any

humor at all, I would almost have expected the old line, “But enough about

me; what do you think of my self-absorption?” But he didn’t

show any.

Fortunately, Nhojj does his introspection

in a reggae mode. His intimate, breathy, melodious singing generally ranges

from serene to tranquil, but he has created complex arrangements for what

goes on around the vocals. The songs are therefore highly individualized,

often with strong, inventive percussion. His harmonies (with himself,

of course) can be gorgeous. Yes, he makes some wonderful music, my favorite

being the “Amazing Grace” look-alike called “Lost/Found”, in which he

pounds out a solid rhythm between drum and guitar, and when his vocals

enter, they’re more direct and straightforward than usual, thanks to the

gospel influence. You can get lost in the funky strumming that continues

throughout the song, and in the prolonged scatting in the latter part,

but don’t worry, you’ll find yourself again at the end. Very appealing.

Someday Peace Love & Freedom

. Sure, we sincerely hope so. I also sincerely hope that some day

Nhojj moves beyond himself and recognizes that there are other things

of importance in this world. Given his incredible talent, it would be

wonderful to see what could result.


Eek A MouseEek-A-Mouse: 

Mouse Gone Wild, RAS Records, 2004

www.rasrecords.com

Rating: D

This album is more YIKES than Eek.

I wonder if “Mouse Gone Grotesque” was the original title.

We all make mistakes; we’ve all

done things we regretted later. But we don’t usually cram so many of them

together and willingly go public with the whole embarrassing package.

It’s sad to witness Mouse doing that; it’s also sad to see reggae so debased.

In “Lick Shot” he gleefully brags

about being the wicked and strong “original bad boy”, complete with a

chuckle after the final gunshot sound effect. Then in “Schizophrenic”

he laughs that his “medication’s not working.” Soon he turns his attention

to refined sex: “Take off your bra, take off your thong/You can feel my

bong, bong-diddy dong.” Another song, more sensitive sex (with rich American

girls, please): “Brunette, blonde or nappy head/Curly, straight, let’s

go to bed.” Next song, more discriminating sex (not just any female this

time, she has to be famous): “Let me pick your cherry, Halle Halle Berry.”

Then it’s the more comprehensive “American Dream”: “From here it’s up

up and away/Stay out of my way/Make my day/Come, let’s play/I’m diggin’

livin’ in the U-S-of-A.” I’m not clear how this great achievement of his

relates to the very next song, “Hannibal the Cannibal”, but “I’d like

to eat your wife, raw” is one of the more subtle lines, so if it’s a clever

political statement then it’s a well disguised one.

Compare all that to the Eek-A-Mouse

of 1983’s “Struggle,” where he sings (singjays, whatever) a stark, understated

tale of hardship: “Under the golden moonlight she just sits there and

cries/Her only love had died leaving her with a child/Sometimes she just

a holler/Sometimes she just a bawl/Her budget it small, it really small/Yes,

she really feels it brother/God knows she feel it.” The boy in that song

turned to crime in adulthood and got himself killed, leaving his mom worse

off than ever. The song was touching and powerful, the very antithesis

of Mouse’s one-dimensional approach and woeful abdication of social responsibility

now, twenty years on. Where the old Eek-A-Mouse tried to be part of the

solution, now he’s happy to have become part of the problem.

In “Pussy and the Mouse” he sings

both the male and female (body) parts, orgasms and all, with the effect

that he’s screwing himself. As far as I’m concerned, that’s exactly what

he has done. I won’t be paying any more attention to Eek-A-Mouse.

I forgot to say something about

the music. It’s dancehall. You can get your dancehall elsewhere.

——————

Although the closest Ted Boothroyd has come to a personal
association with the Caribbean was to have a Trinidadian grandfather, which
Ted
didn’t really have a lot to do with, he happily took in Harry Belafonte’s
calypso
hits in the ’50s and became a huge reggae fan in 1969 when Desmond
Dekker’s “Israelites” hit big in Canada. Ted has reviewed books
on Caribbean music for The Beat, writes album reviews for other periodicals,
and co-hosts
a reggae and world music radio show in Fredericton, New Brunswick,
on Canada’s east coast.

——————

Although the closest Ted Boothroyd has come to a personal
association with the Caribbean was to have a Trinidadian grandfather, which
Ted
didn’t really have a lot to do with, he happily took in Harry Belafonte’s
calypso
hits in the ’50s and became a huge reggae fan in 1969 when Desmond
Dekker’s “Israelites” hit big in Canada. Ted has reviewed books
on Caribbean music for The Beat, writes album reviews for other periodicals,
and co-hosts
a reggae and world music radio show in Fredericton, New Brunswick,
on Canada’s east coast.

——————

Although the closest Ted Boothroyd has come to a personal
association with the Caribbean was to have a Trinidadian grandfather, which
Ted
didn’t really have a lot to do with, he happily took in Harry Belafonte’s
calypso
hits in the ’50s and became a huge reggae fan in 1969 when Desmond
Dekker’s “Israelites” hit big in Canada. Ted has reviewed books
on Caribbean music for The Beat, writes album reviews for other periodicals,
and co-hosts
a reggae and world music radio show in Fredericton, New Brunswick,
on Canada’s east coast.

——————

Although the closest Ted Boothroyd has come to a personal
association with the Caribbean was to have a Trinidadian grandfather, which
Ted
didn’t really have a lot to do with, he happily took in Harry Belafonte’s
calypso
hits in the ’50s and became a huge reggae fan in 1969 when Desmond
Dekker’s “Israelites” hit big in Canada. Ted has reviewed books
on Caribbean music for The Beat, writes album reviews for other periodicals,
and co-hosts
a reggae and world music radio show in Fredericton, New Brunswick,
on Canada’s east coast.



About Ted Boothroyd :

Ted has enjoyed music all his increasingly lengthy life. He has gone through various favorite artists along the way, from his mommy crooning lullabies at crib side to his dad singing folk songs on car trips to The Everly Brothers to Ian and Sylvia to The Dave Brubeck Quartet to The Lovin’ Spoonful to The Kinks to The Miracles to Ravi Shankar to Tchaikovsky to Pentangle to Miriam Makeba to The Red Army Chorus and Band to Captain Beefheart to Gilbert and Sullivan to The McGarrigle Sisters to The Clash to Louis Jordan to The Flying Bulger Klezmer Band to Manu Chao. He has trouble choosing favorites when it comes to reggae - that fixation has been too longstanding and too complete. Ted started writing about music late in 2002 with a book review in The Beat, continuing with book and album reviews until the magazine's untimely passing. His association with Jahworks.org dates back to 2003, and he has hosted a couple of radio shows featuring reggae and "world music". Ted also sculpts in plaster and wood. | View all posts by Ted Boothroyd

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About the author

Ted has enjoyed music all his increasingly lengthy life. He has gone through various favorite artists along the way, from his mommy crooning lullabies at crib side to his dad singing folk songs on car trips to The Everly Brothers to Ian and Sylvia to The Dave Brubeck Quartet to The Lovin’ Spoonful to The Kinks to The Miracles to Ravi Shankar to Tchaikovsky to Pentangle to Miriam Makeba to The Red Army Chorus and Band to Captain Beefheart to Gilbert and Sullivan to The McGarrigle Sisters to The Clash to Louis Jordan to The Flying Bulger Klezmer Band to Manu Chao. He has trouble choosing favorites when it comes to reggae - that fixation has been too longstanding and too complete.

Ted started writing about music late in 2002 with a book review in The Beat, continuing with book and album reviews until the magazine's untimely passing. His association with Jahworks.org dates back to 2003, and he has hosted a couple of radio shows featuring reggae and "world music". Ted also sculpts in plaster and wood.

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