Chal­ice re­works ‘A Song’ well

Jamaica Gleaner - - ENTERTAINMENT - Mel Cooke Gleaner Writer

IMUST ad­mit that I have done Chal­ice’s al­bum A Song great dis­ser­vice in my lis­ten­ing for re­view pur­poses. Af­ter I lis­tened through three or four times, I have ended up play­ing from track nine (Youth Man) through to the clos­ing track 14 (A Song) over and over (and over) again, re­vis­it­ing the first eight tracks less of­ten.

It is not that the first third or so of the set is bad. Hell no, not when it starts with a clas­sic about keep­ing rock­ers alive like I’m Try­ing, fol­lowed by the wish for eter­nal re­ward for a good life in Good To Be There. Nah, it is just that six tracks (five songs, as the ti­tle track is done twice) ap­peal to me im­mensely. They are (in run­ning or­der) Youth Man, He­roes, Si Mi Ya, Praise Him and the A Song dou­ble punch.

But be­fore we get to the end, there is the be­gin­ning – and be­gin­ning not in the sense of where A Song be­gins, but what the al­bum is about. And make no mis­take, the set is about ex­cel­lence, as it beau­ti­fully adapts an ap­proach that has been used re­peat­edly to con­nect es­tab­lished per­form­ers and songs to newer au­di­ences. So Chal­ice has guests on each of the songs – for ex­am­ple, Tar­rus ‘Singy Singy’ Ri­ley is the new voice on Good to be There and

Richie Stephens is the band’s guest on He­roes.

How­ever, un­like the trib­ute al­bum to Ja­cob ‘Killer’ Miller trib­ute al­bum Song­book: Chap­ter a Day, re­leased in 2005, a quar­ter-cen­tury af­ter Miller’s death and other such post­hu­mous song up­dates, Chal­ice is very much alive and ac­tive. This cre­ates the lat­i­tude for ar­range­ments to be re­worked ex­ten­sively (so Praise Him, fea­tur­ing ‘The Artist M’ is now a su­perb nyabinghi track) and the orig­i­nal voices (no­tably Wayne Ar­mond and Dean Stephens’) to be utilised on the new, of­ten sub­tly ad­justed, rhythms.

Also, in a de­par­ture from the ac­cus­tomed ap­proach, Chal­ice has not gone strictly for younger per­form­ers. So while Sky­grass is on I’m Try­ing, so is the grav­elly tim­bre of Ernie Smith. And San­jay is the guest on Fig­ure You, but Richie Stephens does the hon­ours on He­roes. Sadiki fea­tures in the first take on A Song, but Tanya Stephens changes the gen­der fo­cus of Cya Dub.

Then the ex­quis­ite, acous­tic ver­sion of A Song (it is ac­tu­ally called A Song Epi­logue in the track list­ing) which closes the al­bum is done by Char­maine Li­mo­nius. The guests are well cho­sen for abil­ity and syn­ergy and Chal­ice’s pro­duc­tion touches are ev­i­dent – I can’t re­mem­ber Richie Stephens sound­ing quite like he does, es­pe­cially on the first line of his He­roes guest slot. Tar­rus Ri­ley’s in­flec­tions in the vo­cal in­ter­play of Good To Be There are well worked out and de­liv­ered.

SU­PERB SONGS

Un­der­pin­ning it all is the qual­ity of the orig­i­nal ma­te­rial, mak­ing the al­bum’s name very apt, even if there was no ti­tle track to sup­port the ti­tle. These are su­perb songs in the first place, whether the sub­ject mat­ter is love and food (Stew Peas, which now fea­tures Tanto Metro and Devonte) or Blaze (a fit­ting take on the band’s name, ad­dress­ing the mar­i­juana le­gal­i­sa­tion move­ment).

In some cases, the lyrics are not ad­justed from the orig­i­nal. Where there are ad­di­tional lyrics, the stan­dard is al­most al­ways kept high. So on I’m Try­ing, Sky­grass puts it:

“If rid­dim was a plant I would roll it up and smoke it

Plant a cou­ple hun­dred acres watch the mu­sic grow quick”

Tanya re­verses the re­spon­si­bil­ity for dance pro­fi­ciency in Cya Dub, which crit­i­cises a woman’s bub­bling skills from the get-go, ask­ing in the in­tro­duc­tion “a wonda when me tell you me work a Shades or Palais Royale?” (both famed ex­otic danc­ing clubs in Ocho Rios and Kingston, re­spec­tively). Then, she turns the woman’s clum­si­ness (“then I feel your knee come creep­ing up, to a ten­der place”) in the song to self-pro­tec­tion:

“A tell de worl’ say me knee you like me nah no sense

Yu nah tell dem say me knee you inna self­de­fence

De man a lamps me

De man a poke me

De man a heng on so tight de man a choke me ... . ”

How­ever, it’s not univer­sal bliss and joy – I found the added dee­jay lyrics to Stew Peas ba­sic in con­struc­tion and de­liv­ery. Also, the ad­justed start to He­roes not as good as the orig­i­nal, which I searched for and bought on a cas­sette with a grey/sil­ver in­sert many years ago.

Those are mi­nor quib­bles about an out­stand­ing al­bum based on the en­dur­ing power of that most ba­sic of re­quire­ments for mu­sic, in an era where it is as much watched as lis­tened to – A Song.

Speak­ing of which, where is the slow tear­jerker Still Love You? I’m miss­ing that Chal­ice ‘boom’ tune.

TRACK LIST­ING

1. I’m Try­ing (fea­tur­ing Ernie Smith & Sky Grass)

2. Good to Be There (fea­tur­ing Tar­rus Ri­ley)

3. Blaze (fea­tur­ing Wild Life)

4. Easy Street (fea­tur­ing Ari Lopez)

5. Cya Dub (fea­tur­ing Tanya Stephens)

6. Fig­ure You (fea­tur­ing San­jay)

7. Stew Peas (fea­tur­ing Tanto Metro & Devonte)

8. Joy in the Morn­ing (fea­tur­ing Isha Bel)

9. Youth Man (fea­tur­ing Duane Stephen­son)

10. He­roes (fea­tur­ing Richie Stephens)

11. Si Mi Ya (fea­tur­ing Rootz Un­der­ground)

12. Praise Him (fea­tur­ing The Artist ‘M’)

13. A Song (fea­tur­ing Sadiki)

14. A Song Epi­logue (fea­tur­ing Char­maine Li­monous)

The mem­bers of Chal­ice are (from left) Demar Gayle, Stephen Gold­ing, Keith Fran­cis,Desi Jones, Dean Stephens, Alla and Wayne Ar­mond.

CON­TRIB­UTED

LEFT: The cover of Chal­ice’s al­bum ‘A Song’.

Tanto Metro (left) and Devonte.

Char­maine Li­mo­nius

Duane Stephen­son

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