June 12, 2011
from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)|
|Vocals : 3/4||Backing : 4||Production : 5||Sound quality : 5||Sleeve : 3|
It's commonly known that reggae music (and all its sub-genres) isn't solely produced in Jamaica anymore. Many years ago, but especially since the beginning of the new millennium, reggae has gone international. With the internet making it easy as 1-2-3 to introduce new production works to the masses, it was inevitable that it would cause a growing interest in products coming from all over the world. In particular reggae artists from Europe (think Gentleman) and the US Virgin Islands (think Midnite) strongly benefitted from this development. Also interesting was to witness releases coming from countries that you don't expect to have a fertile ground for reggae like e.g. Spain, Sweden, Italy, Austria, and Serbia, to name only five. And now, with the release of the "Better Days" compilation, we can also add Israel to that list.
"Better Days" is a project from Sabbo & Kuti, a production duo working together on side projects from their independently successful careers. The pair recently won the ACUM Award 2010 for their production and arrangement on prominent soul/funk/reggae singer Karolina's album "What Do I Do Now?". According to the judges from ACUM, Sabbo & Kuti maintain "a profound understanding of Israeli music and its history and an intelligent use of local sounds and colors in order to produce something that is simultaneously both Israeli and international, and above all something daring, exciting and a fine work of art."
Sabbo is a member of the critically acclaimed DJ/production crew Soulico, which released their first album "Exotic On The Speaker" on JDub records in 2009. The album features guest appearances from Ghostface Killah, Lyrics Born, Del The Funky Homosapien, MC Zulu, and Rye Rye. Recently Sabbo has been working on official remixes for the likes of T.O.K., Burro Banton, Perfect Loosers, and more. Sabbo has released several singles on different labels over the last couple of years.
Kuti (aka Kutiman) is a very talented musician, composer, producer, and a pioneering video editor from Tel Aviv. His groundbreaking project, Thru-You, was launched in March 2009 and received more than 10 million pages views. Time Magazine chose Thru-You as one of the 50 best inventions of 2009. Internationally lauded, this project also received hailing reviews from newspapers, magazines, blogs, and media outlets all over the globe, including the Washington Post, New York Times, New Yorker Magazine, CNN, Spiegel (Germany), Metro (UK), Fader, and El Pais (Spain). His work has been deemed "the future of music" and "internet's new frontier".
The "Better Days" project was created when these two Israelis traveled to Jamaica in early 2003 with the intention of recording and experiencing reggae at its source. They stayed there for nine months and recorded local and unknown talents from the St Thomas parish on the riddims from their laptop. They even had the chance to record more established artists such as Turbulence and Kulcha Knox at the legendary Harry J studio in Kingston. Back in Israel they not only took time to rework some of the songs, but also did a few recordings with Israeli artists to add to the project. Eight years after the duo went to Jamaica, their "Better Days" compilation finally hit the streets.
Many forms of reggae (sometimes blended with elements of other musical genres) are represented here, which makes "Better Days" a well varied, dynamic collection of tunes. The compilation gets going with "Plant It" by Turbulence, Higher Trod and Tedross, an enjoyable conscious tune that comes across an infectious dancehall riddim. Next we're treated to Humble Lion's "Till Jah Jah Soil", a modern roots piece that leaves a decent impression. The final song from the opening batch, "Pass Another Light", is a very entertaining reality tune, delivered over a full sounding riddim with great horns by Israeli reggae artist Omri (of Hatikva 6). What a great way to start this compilation as it instantly grabs your attention and furthermore whets your appetite for hearing more musical niceness.
And indeed, there's much more to enjoy throughout this album, although not every track is as good as the first three. However this doesn't imply we've heard a weak tune or a filler while listening to this "Better Days" set. The most ear-catching and worth noting efforts are Milton Blake's great roots tune "Raggamuffin Soldier", the beautiful title track "Better Days" by Jah Rightful, I-Lu's "What A Joy" (mainly for its awesome riddim), the wonderful combination tune "On My Way" by Soul-J, Bazooka & Nechi Nech, and I-Bell's "Me Nah Mad", a dark piece of dub poetry.
Overall this is a pretty interesting release, well worth checking out!