Various artists album review
Riddim Driven ~ I Swear
VP Records
September 14, 2004

Tracking list

  1. Good Morning Jah Jah - Jah Cure
  2. Marijuana - Richie Spice
  3. I Swear - Chuck Fenda
  4. Mama's Blessing - Anthony Cruz
  5. For You - Sizzla
  6. Woman To Man - Richie Stephens
  7. Conquer Dem - Natural Black
  8. Dem Story - Junior Kelly
  9. Tell Me - Luciano
  10. Why Can't You - Pliers
  11. What A Life - Melchezidek
  12. Your Goals - Jah Penco
  13. Tragedy - George Nooks
  14. Long Way - Iley Bless
  15. Never Had To Lie - Omar Silk
  16. Zion Gate - Ultimate Shine
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)

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

Actually the second roots riddim this year featured in VP's Riddim Driven series, and like its predecessor Germaican Records' 'Doctor's Darling', it's a dancehall-dancefloorfiller. Devon Wheatly for Fifth Element Productions produced a killer riddim with a melodic hook and immediately recognizable guitar riff, that has taken Jamaican and foreign dancehalls by storm. It's a superb riddim, and the production takes it to even higher heights, the backing vocals on every single track deserve the full attention of a special mention here, because they really bring added value, and the ladies providing them should have been acknowledged on the cover. The first track shows still imprisoned Jah Cure hasn't lost any of his vocal abilities, although I do think "Good Morning Jah Jah" lacks lyrical freshness. The two deservedly biggest tunes in the dancehalls on the riddim follow this track, Pliers and Spanner Banner's brother Richie Spice's ganja-tune "Marijuana" and Chuck Fenda's pledge "I Swear" that i will never switch / i swear / i keep on give you songs like this, already defending himself against all those predicting he will voice more slackness than Sizzla in just a couple of years . My personal favorite track on the riddim however comes from Fifth Elements' crooner Anthony Cruz with the splendid tribute to his mother "Mama's Blessing". On this roots riddim Sizzla shows he still can voice very convincing tunes outside of Bobby Digital's camp with his melodic "For You" over a little more dubbed up mix of the riddim. It's up to Richie Stephens to take Buju Banton out of Outrage's spotlight, and become the next artist challenged by gay-rights-activists with his excellent "Woman To Man" / (man to woman) / that is the plan / (to build a nation) / tell me why you wanna change the natural ways of life // jah creates the world / he made a he & she / so that they could bring forth a you & me / jah jah got a plan he made Adam & Eve / no but jah jah never made no Adam & Steve // let's talk about it / in a real conversation // come on everybody make we a face the truth / men to a man can't bring forth no youth / woman to a woman just can't bear no fruit / never seen such miracle before / we nah condone them crude behaviour. Natural Black's "Conquer Dem" is one of his strongest releases so far, as his delivery benefits as much as Sizzla's of being more melodic over a rootsriddim, something which can also applied to Junior Kelly, whose "sick a "Dem Story" is excellent, despite his strange vocal gimmickry in the chorus. This 'I Swear'-riddim is like the aforementioned 'Doctor's Darling' an excellent backing for roots-singers, and Luciano proves that with "Tell Me" what am i doing wrong, an almost paranoid one-man-against-the-world tune. The equally fine conscious "Why Can't You" is brought by Richie Spice's brother Pliers, who without longtime-DJ-partner Chakademus adapts at times a more singjay-like phrasing. More singers goodness in Melchizedek's sufferers-tune "What A Life" is followed by the at times swaggering delivery of "Your Goals" by Jah Penco. Veteran George Nooks deliveres an excellent "Johnny Was"-inspired tale in "Tragedy", whereas Iley Bless' singjaying on "Long Way" like Jah Penco's lacks a clearcut style and tone. A beautiful lovers tune is contributed by newcomer Omar Silk, whose "Never Had To Lie" is really heartfelt. The last track on this album is for Ultimate Shine, whose voice indeed shines on the conscious "Zion Gate". It's unfortunate that no clean version of this wicked riddim is included on an otherwise very fine Fifth Element produced roots-riddim-driven album, that will please both roots and dancehall fans.