Album review
Friends For Life
Buju Banton
Anti Records
Promo CD-r

Tracking list

  1. Paid Not Played
  2. One To One
  3. Excerpt Of Speech By Marcus Mosiah Garvey
  4. Up Ye Mighty Race
  5. All Will Be Fine
  6. Maybe We Are
  7. Mama Africa
  8. Hooked On The Love
  9. Get It On featuring Wayne Wonder
  10. Friends For Life
  11. Good Time featuring Beres Hammond & Fat Joe
  12. Damn
  13. La Da De Da
  14. Feeling Groovy
  15. Pensive Mood
  16. Look Good (Spectacular)
  17. What Am I Gonna Do featuring Nadine Sutherland
  18. Mr. Nine
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)

Vocals : 4/5 Backing : 4 Production : 4 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 4

Mark Anthony Myrie, better known as Buju Banton, emerged on the dancehall scene in the early nineties. Since he took the dancehalls by storm with early hits like "Batty Rider", the controversial "Love Me Browning" and it's answer version "Love Black Woman", the pulsating "Bogle" and "Big It Up", he managed to remain a position as one of Jamaica's top dancehall artists. Buju's debut album Mr. Mention, produced by hit producer Donovan Germain and released on his "Penthouse" label in 1992, earned Buju more number one singles than any other Jamaican artist including Bob Marley. Soon Buju put himself in the spotlights of the international music industry and his second album, "Voice Of Jamaica", officially laid the foundation for Buju Banton as a dominant voice in the world of reggae.
The increasing violence on Jamaica in the mid nineties caused a reaction by artists such as Tony Rebel, the late Garnett Silk, Luciano, Capleton, Sizzla and also Buju Banton who started to teach the youths about Rastafari and positivity instead of guns and badness. Buju's anti-violence anthem "Murderer", which was written after the brutal murder on his friend and fellow deejay Panhead, is regarded as one of the songs that caused a new awareness for reality in the dancehall. This song is also featured alongside key tracks like the spiritual "'Til I'm Laid To Rest" and the acoustic "Untold Stories" on the innovative album "'Til Shiloh", which is regarded as an absolute classic.
Buju's musical story unfolds with even greater maturity throughout the release of "Inna Heights", an album that ranges from African choral chants on "African Pride" and deep roots reggae on "Hills And Valleys" to hardcore dancehall on "Love Dem Bad" and the spiritual ballad "Destiny". Buju continued this musical variety on the album "Unchained Spirit" which featured dancehall anthem "Pull It Up" with Beres Hammond, the commanding "Mighty Dread" and "23rd Psalms" featuring Roy 'Gramps' Morgan of roots reggae group Morgan Heritage.
Now - nearly three years since the release of "Unchained Spirit" - the man with that characteristic rougher than rough voice returns with a brand new cd entitled "Friends For Life", Buju's second album for the Epitaph subsidiary Anti Records. On board are producers such as Donovan Germain, Bobby "Digital" Dixon, Sheldon "Calibud" Stewart, Steven "Lenky" Marsden, Troy Rami, Jammy "Jam 2" James and Mark "Buju Banton" Myrie himself. Some of the finest musicians in the business like Sly Dunbar, Robbie Lyn, Dean Fraser, Steven "Lenky" Marsden, Steely & Clevie and the Firehouse Crew, have laid the backdrops for an album that includes a variety of musical styles ranging from sensitive ballads, sweet lovers rock and African influenced riddims to roots reggae, ska and hardcore dancehall. Even some hiphop/r&b influenced tracks are featured here, seemingly an attemp to attract the attention of a broader audience. All in all "Friend For Life" has the same musical concept as utilized for its predecessor "Unchained Spirit".
The albums kicks off with a rather mediocre piece called "Paid Not Played" across the "Surprise" riddim, a hiphop flavoured dancehall track produced by Troy Rami of Black Shadow Records, responsible for Sean Paul's chart success with "Gimme The Light". The mood then changes into sweet Lovers Rock with the Bobby Digital produced "One To One" on which Buju confesses his love to a girl. It's a solid cut which is followed by an interlude featuring an excerpt of a speech by Marcus Mosiah Garvey, one of Jamaica's National Heroes and founder of the Black Star Liner Company, who had a huge influence on the Rastafari doctrine. Next drops a standout track, the powerful and inspiring "Up Ye Mighty Race", a statement for equal rights and justice and a call to stand up for your rights. The mood changes again with the acoustic "All Will Be Fine", a great song of hope and positivity that features the Sons & Daughters Choir, and then the beautiful "Maybe We Are", a cry for one love and unity even though we are all different people with different colors and speaking different languages. Also worth of hearing is "Mama Africa", actually a cover version of the Peter Tosh original and a tribute to the African continent.
With the Donovan Germain produced track "Hooked On The Love" Buju Banton not only returns to classic dancehall style & fashion, but he also takes us back in time as he rides the "China Town", a classic riddim track from the vaults of legendary producer King Jammy. In the early nineties it was Wayne Wonder who introduced a young Buju to producer Donovan Germain and since then the sweet-voiced singer appeared on nearly every Buju Banton album. So, here's "Get It On", Wayne Wonder in combination with Buju Banton delivering a solid tune with modern dancehall vibe. The hiphop/r&b influenced title track "Friends For Life" is all about the importance and beauty of true friendship, but unfortunately fails to make a strong impression. The same goes for "Good Time", a combination tune with reggae veteran Beres Hammond and ace rapper Fat Joe, and the weak Damn", which represents the hiphop sound of today featuring Cool & Dre. Things are getting better with the easy to sing-a-long "La Da De Da" and return to form with "Feeling Groovy", a ska-flavored party tune delivered across a remake of the Don Drummond classic instrumental "Eastern Standard Time", recorded for producer Duke Reid. "Pensive Mood" is a very beautiful tune, with Buju singing over an appealing jazz and blues influenced riddim track.
The awesome "Look Good (Spectacular)", underpinned by King Jammy's classic "Peeny Peeny" riddim and produced by Jammy "Jam 2" James, revisits the days when the early digital dancehall sound ruled Jamaica. Nadine Sutherland can be heard on the decent combination song "What Am I Gonna Do", an infectious tune that features the dancehall drum patterns of the legendary drummer Sly Dunbar. Finally we're treated to the wicked anti-violence song "Mr. Nine". Produced by Sheldon "Calibud" Stewart, the stepson of producer Bobby Digital, Buju delivers his lyrics over the resuscitated riddim of Gregory Isaacs' "Tune In".
"Friends For Life" is an album that has to grow. Although some tracks are below par one this set features enough notable tracks to make it worthwhile checking!

Teacher & Mr. T.