Know The Road
January 17, 2009
from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)|
|Vocals : 4/5||Backing : 4/5||Production : 5||Sound quality : 5||Sleeve : 5|
Born and raised in the notorious Trenchtown and Arnett Gardens area of Kingston, Jamaica, Christopher Campbell, now known as Norris Man, had Bob Marley as a hometown hero to inspire his immersion into the musical arena. As a young boy Norris Man (named because of his enthusiasm for karate king Chuck Norris) would sit under a tree to write his own songs of redemption. Feeling music within him, Norris could not ignore his gift of singing and performing. In the Kingston dancehalls of his youth, older sound boys would hoist ten year-old Norris on top a Guiness box and hand him the mic to stir up the dance. Such experiences lit the musical fire for this ghetto youth. From there his musical journey began.
By the mid-nineties, Norris Man found himself fully committed to his faith as a Rastafarian, wherein he experienced a shift in his consciousness to a higher spiritual and musical level. He created lyrical content that became more potent, more socially uplifting, and more meaningful. Throughout the second half of the nineties he met producers like Iley Dread of Kings of Kings, Richard 'Bello' Bell of Star Trail Records and Colin McGregor of Jah Scout Records, and with the assistance of Cordel 'Skatta' Burrell on the mixing board, he recorded his groundbreaking songs "Persistence", "Hold Onto Your Faith", and "Bad Road".
Since then Rasta chanter Norris Man has delivered a steady stream of 7" singles including "Home & Away" (a huge international hit in 2005) and eight studio albums (not counting the "Unity" set, which he shared with Determine). A retrospective look at these album releases learns us that Norris Man is a 'hit or miss' artist, one that definitely needs the right producer to get the best out of him. His 2000 released debut album "Persistence" was a solid collection of tunes, but its follow-up albums "Better Your Soul" (2001), "World Crisis" (2003), and "Hey Woman" (2004) failed to make a strong impression mainly because in the long run most of the material gathered on these albums wasn't good enough to urge the listener to check it over and over again.
In terms of quality the Byron Murray produced "Home & Away" (2006) and also the overlooked "Cultura" (2006) from Isalyeikie Productions are far better and more consistent efforts than their predecessors. In particular "Home & Away" proved to be a strong album which gave the artist's career a well-deserved push and made his old and new fans longing for more good stuff to come. Unfortunately the early 2008 released "The Heat Is On" album was a real disappointment as it turned out to be a truly unimpressive album.
And now there's Norris Man's brand new album "Know The Road" from the Lustre Kings production camp, which has consistently maintained its high standards during the last few years with quality releases of Lutan Fyah, Turbulence, and Al Pancho, and great collections of concious music such as "Culture Dem Vols 1 & 2", and "Shining Riddim". Thus an album done with Lustre Kings is always worthwhile checking out as they have proven to stand for quality roots reggae music.
First thing you'll notice, even before the music is leaping out into your room, are the striking martial arts poses on the cover. And next there's the music, which starts off with the first single taken from the album, "Sign Of The Times". The latter is a solid reality tune, almost perfectly delivered over a beautiful riddim with a haunting acoustic guitar line. It's followed by the sweet "Blessing Is All Yours", which is driven by the bubbling bassline of the "Sunshower" riddim. Next drops the moving "Power Of Love", without doubt one of the finest tunes to be found on this album. All in all these three tracks can be regarded as a very promising start of this new Norris Man album.
Luckily the rest of the tracks don't restrict themselves to being promising efforts. Amongst the remaining 14 tracks you'll find such deadly goods as "Nah Pollute Your Faith", a wonderful message song done in combination with Lutan Fyah, the outstanding "When Your Time Is Up" on Itation's "Show Love" riddim featuring Pressure (Bussspipe), the awesome "We Try" together with Cruzan reggae artist Ras Attitude, and the spiritually charged homage "King Of King Of Kings" with Jah Dan of Noble Society. This tune, and also a few others including "Blessing Is All Yours" and "Power Of Love", is produced by Zion I Kings -- actually the Rastafari label family formed by Lustre Kings, I Grade Records and Zion High Productions with the musical directors of each label, Andrew "Moon" Bain, Alfred "Tippy" Laurent, and David "Jah D" Goldfine, often collaborating by 1) recording together as the Zion I Kings or in other combinations, and 2) swapping riddims and production amongst the label families' pool of talent.
Besides these combination tunes there are also nuff solo efforts worth of hearing. Standouts are the title track "Know The Road", the slow-paced "When Babylon A Burn", the wonderful "No Boys Without Girls" and the wicked "Wish They Were There" with a nice Arabian vibe in the riddim track. Matching cuts are "Live Yuh Life Clean", "King's Son", and "Where The Wind Blows". In fact this collection doesn't contain any real weak piece -- even the two romantic numbers, "Got To Let You Know" and the combination with Sabrina Pallini "Just Can't Get Over You", are decent songs.
Norris Man's eclectic and varied vocal styles combined with the lush grooves and deep roots production from Digital Ancient, Zion I Kings and Nick Fantastic, make "Know The Road" a strong album and a worthy successor of his acclaimed "Home & Away" set.