Title
Artist
Label
Format
Date

The Other Side Of Eljai
Eljai
Jah Mix Entertainment
Digital Release
July 30, 2016

Track list
  1. Everything I Do
  2. Sailing
  3. Empress
  4. For You
  5. Machine Gun Love
  6. Wings With Me
  7. Apple Of My Eye
  8. Right Here Waiting
  9. Sweet Belize
  10. Fyah Blaze
  11. Arise
  12. Jah We Praise
  13. General
  14. 24/7
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Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 5 Backing : 4/5 Production : 4/5 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 4
Eljai, born Lloyd Carlton McFarlane Jr. in Belize City, Belize, moved to Los Angeles CA in the late 1980s, where he became the lead singer of a local band called The Dominators. During this time, his love for singing and music grew tremendously and he started to also develop an interest in song writing. In 1989, Eljai released the EP "Give Your Loving To Me" in his native country and it sky rocketed on the charts. In the early 1990s he teamed up with Carl and Delly McGregor to form the group Belize, which were signed to Prince's Paisley Park label, where they recorded their first album. Belize was later signed to Warner Brothers where they wrote and released "I'm Looking Out For You", the theme song for a TV show named Real Stories of the Highway Patrol. After that he embarked on a solo career.

Eljai's debut CD, "Da Rebirth", was recorded in 2006 with the production help of musician/producer Fabian Cooke and master drummer Carlton "Santa" Davis, who was part of the Soul Syndicate band. "Blessed", a single taken from that album, was a big hit that year and was later re-recorded with the help of reggae dancehall artist Capleton. Also the track "Down In The Wilderness" reappeared as a collaboration with General Degree and gained a lot of chart and media attention. Eljai had another breakthrough year in 2008 when he hit the Jamaican charts for the very first time with his single "Don't Leave" on Kemar "Flava" McGregor's "Drop It" riddim. His sophomore studio album "I Know" was released in early 2010 and featured production work of Fabian Cooke and "Flava" McGregor (No Doubt Records), who produced half of the album tracks. With the album's single "The Leaders", Eljai reached #1 on the Jamaican Weekly Music Countdown Reggae Singles Chart and also hit reggae charts in Italy, Holland, New York and Florida. Then Eljai released a 4 song EP in early 2012, which included "Empress", "If You Really" (featuring E-Dee), "From This Day" and the hit song "24/7".

Various producers were involved in producing the tracks that are included on "The Other Side Of Eljai", the first full length album since 2010 for Los Angeles-based Eljai. Among them Dean Fraser, Stingray's McLead brothers, Carrol "Bowie" McLaughlin, Fitz Livermore, Phillip "Winta" James, Master One, Ralston Anthony Barrett, and Carl McGregor (the producer of the 1989 EP "Give Your Loving To Me"). Sometimes albums with that many different producers on board lack consistency, but that certainly ain't the case here. Some of the good ones on "The Other Side Of Eljai", like for example "Empress", "For You" and "24/7", have already been around for a while and sound very familiar to our ears. Eljai has an excellent voice, which is often strong but when required can also sound a bit fragile.

The album takes off with "Everything I Do", a well done reggae version of Canadian singer Bryan Adams' 1991 mega hit "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You". The second track is also a nicely done cover of Christopher Cross' number 1 hit "Sailing" from 1979. And these are not the only covers Eljai has included on this album. Further down you'll find an interpretation of Richard Marx's 1989 hit "Right Here Waiting". Nothing wrong with covers, especially when an artist does them in such a decent way as Eljai has done, but including three covers of soft rock songs is a bit overdone. Of course, there's also a rendition of Ini Kamoze's "Wings With Me" across "Winta" James' massive "Rootsman" riddim. However, no problem with that as Eljai revisits a reggae tune and turns it into a strong effort which will surely appeal to the all reggae aficionados.

Anyway, let's turn to the ten fresh compositions included here. Not only is "Empress" a beautiful ode to the love of his life, it's also clearly one of the better tunes on the album. And then there's the Dean Fraser produced hit song from 2013, "For You", for which Eljai rides a great sounding updated version of Ernest Wilson's "Undying Love" riddim. Also the solid "Machine Gun Love" deals with the romantic side of life and so does the matching "Apple Of My Eye" on the "Oxygen" riddim. Listening to "Sweet Belize" makes us think of "Smile Jamaica", as lyrically this tune is reminiscent of Chronixx's ode to his homeland. Then tunes like the strong roots piece "Fyah Blaze", the superb "Arise", the real nice "Jah We Praise" and the powerful "General" add a welcome dimension to Eljai's stock-in-trade lovers material. Last but not least there's the compelling "24/7", which is a strong album closer.

"The Other Side Of Eljai" finds the Belize-born reggae singer clearly on his way to great things.