Tarrus Riley
VP Records
June 24, 2008

Track list
  1. Larger Than Life
  2. Jah Will
  3. It's Better This Way
  4. All Is Vanity
  5. Who Can Stand It
  6. Don't Give Up
  7. I'll Be Your Friend
  8. The Other Half
  9. Take Me Higher
  10. Ego
  11. Rasta At The Control
  12. Barber Chair
  13. Love Created I
  14. Save The Children
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 4 Backing : 4 Production : 4 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 4
In 2004 a small independent label called Ya Man Music released Tarrus Riley's debut set "Challenges". Since then Tarrus Riley has scored several chartbusters including "She's Royal", his biggest hit to date. It made VP Records re-issue the singer's first full length album with the addition of the bonus tracks "Love Created I" and "Save The Children".

Tarrus Riley, son of reggae singer Jimmy Riley, is a tenor-voiced singer and self-taught musician who plays the keyboard, congo drums and other percussion instruments. In addition he also writes his own songs. Riley, who is 24 years old, started out as a deejay and didn't try his voice at singing until a few years later. As a singer he steadily has built his name by performing locally at stage shows such as Rebel Salute and Western Consciousness. Now he delivers his debut album, "Challenges", which is produced by the great musical master Dean Fraser. That Riley draws his influence and inspiration from a variety of styles and genres of music including Bob Marley, Burning Spear, The Cranberries, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder and Mahalia Jackson, shines through on this collection of original tunes.

Of course, the 12 tracks featured here have a reggae foundation, but most of them also incorporate other musical elements like for instance pop rock, which gives them a strong international - crossover - feel. This is particular striking on tracks such as the single "Don't Give Up", "Jah Will", the ballad "The Other Half" and "Ego". Songs that stick closer to contemporary reggae music are the awesome album opener "Larger Than Life", the solid "It's Better This Way", the wonderful "Who Can Stand It", the excellent "Take Me Higher" and the wicked ode to the Rastafarian faith, "Barber Chair".

"Challenges" was recorded and mixed at Tuff Gong and I-Tek studios and features the late Carl Ayton on drums; Rudi Valentino, Dalton Browne, Lavaska, Leebert "Gibby" Morrison, Pablo Gauntlette on guitars; Glen Browne, Leebert "Gibby" Morrison, Paul Gauntlette on bass; Lloyd "Obeah" Denton, Carol "Bowie" McGlaughlin, Wrongmove, Pablo Gauntlette, Tarrus Riley on keyboard; Dean Fraser, Chico Chin, Nambo Robinson on horns. The harmonising vocals are provided by Conradine Campbell, Sherina Sharpe and Althea Hamilton.

It's obvious that Tarrus Riley has good potential with his distinctive vocal delivery and his ability to write songs with content, but due to the inclusion of (too many) crossover tracks it is doubtful that his debut set will receive great approval from the reggae purist.