September 19, 2009
from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)|
|Vocals : 4/5||Backing : 4/5||Production : 4/5||Sound quality : 5||Sleeve : 4|
The T.O.K. story started in November 1992, with four ambitious high school boys. Alistaire "Alex" McCalla, Roshaun "Bay-C" Clarke, and Craig "Craigy T" Thompson were in the school choir at Campion College headed by John Binns, while Xavier "Flexx" Davidson attended Calabar High. Originally, the acronym T.O.K. stood for 'Touch Of Klass', but over the years it has taken on different meanings from 'Taking Over Kingston' to 'To Klaat', and whatever else the creative minds of T.O.K. can come up with.
Like many of that era's young singers they were greatly influenced by the brilliant harmonization of 1990s American boy bands including Boyz II Men and their favorite Shai, but as Jamaican youth they were equally inspired by the Islandís ubiquitous reggae and dancehall riddims; their shared vision for T.O.K. was to create an adventurous union between beautifully nuanced vocalizing and dancehall's rough and rugged edge.
T.O.K. did their first recording session, covering 3Tís "Anything For You", for producer Stephen Greig's Nuff Records label. In 1997 T.O.K. sought out producer Danny Browne whose Main Street Records label was having great success with General Degree, Red Rat and Buccaneer, among other artists. Browne had a lukewarm reaction to T.O.K.ís sound but his nephew (then fledgling) producer Richard "Shams" Browne was so impressed he offered to manage the group. He produced the combination tune "Hardcore Lover" with Lady Saw, which became the group's first top 10 hit. A succession of hits were recorded with several top producers including "Man Ah Bad Man" (Richard "Shams" Browne), "Eagles Cry" (Dave Kelly) and "Money To Burn" (Tony "CD" Kelly).
In 2001 VP Records released their debut album "My Crew, My Dawgs", which did quite well. The four men crew continued to put out smash hits like "Fire Fire", "Galang Gal", "Gal You A Lead" and "Footprints" (a tribute dedicated to Alex's brother who was a victim of a senseless killing), but for whatever reason it took four years before their sophomore album "Unknown Language" was released. And now, again after a four-year hiatus, there's their long awaited third full length album entitled "Our World" (first released in Japan on June 16th and worldwide on August 25th).
In contrast with their first two albums, this 16 track set contains a notable amount of previously unreleased songs along with a few of T.O.K.'s recent hits including the Arif Cooper produced tunes "Guardian Angel" and "Couple Up" over the "National Pride" riddim, and the Mario "Mad Scientist" Lawrence produced "I Wanna Love You". T.O.K. is known and loved for delivering sharp harmonies, rhythmic verses and solid hooks, and this set showcases it to the fullest. Besides aforementioned producers Arif Cooper and Mario "Mad Scientist" Lawrence, "Our World" furthermore features production works from Shane Brown, Chester Walker, Rohan "Jah Snowcone" Fuller, Karim "DJ Karim" Thompson and Tony "CD" Kelly. The latter, responsible for some of T.O.K.'s biggest tunes, reunites with the group after a six year lapse.
T.O.K. mainly treats the listener to a collection of dancehall bashment, with here and there R&B, latin, and hip-hop influences shining through. The occasional one-drop tune, actually the perfect framing for T.O.K.'s alluring vocal textures, includes the well known smash hit "Guardian Angel" (a prayer for spiritual strength) and the lovers tune "I Wanna Love You". Furthermore there's the rather mediocre acoustic plaintive peace plea "Live It Up". The rest of the tracks will certainly be appreciated by dancehall aficionados and party-goers alike. Lyrically it's not always that impressive, but who cares when you're moving your dancing feet on a crowded dancefloor. To get a party going we would suggest to check out tunes like "Afternoon Pornstar", the Gangsta anthem "It's Over", the Flexx produced "Whining", the combination with Beenie Man entitled "Miss World", and "Gyrate" on a riddim strongly reminiscent of the "Diwali".
Some tunes instantly grab you, others have to grow on you, but all in all T.O.K. delivers a solid third album.