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Songbird Riddim

Songbird Riddim

Songbird Riddim

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A rhythm with a song at its heart.

Sampler

Songbird RiddimThe one rhythm album is a much maligned beast in these times. Some reggae fans yearn for its heyday; some celebrate its decline.

But now U.S. and U.S.V.I. production house conglomerate Zion I Kings have created the first in a series of backings that could revitalise the concept. The Songbird is a thing of beauty: a jazzy soulful smooth construction with a bittersweet mix of major and minor chords – where each of its 16 cuts stands its own against the last.

The music is written by two of the Kings David “Jah D” Goldfine (who plays bass) and I Grade founder Laurent Tippy I Alfred (keys). Yet the most striking arrangements are Balboa Becker and Daniel Casares’ horns and Jazzique’s cascading piano. In reggae – particularly where Zion I Kings are involved – emotions can be powerful without being visceral and hard.

The Songbird is released by I Grade and many artists featured are from the label’s US Virgin Islands home. There are versatile everymen like Pressure who contributes the holistically cultural The Rain. There is the quivering plaintive voice of Ras Batch who marvels at a world So Beautiful. And of course there is Midnite, whose contribution New Overstanding could easily have been a part of 'Kings Bell' - their accessible collaboration with Andrew Bassie Campbell (who shows up here playing the Kette drum).

But the Jamaican guests are not to be outdone. With typically steely conviction Jah9 takes us into the life of her mind during Tension – inspired by the Tivoli Gardens Massacre. Glen Washington – whose broken grain is akin to that of his VI colleagues – sings a philosophical love song in Bumpy Ride that recalls his Zion I album 'Masterpiece'. And Lutan Fyah, who recorded his second longplayer 'Time and Place' for the third King (Andrew Moon Bain) delivers She’s Got Soul, a single from his forthcoming Kings opus 'Music Never Dies'. It’s a tribute to an unsung woman ready to spread her wings and fly.

If the first instalment is anything to go by the Zion I Kings riddim series can restore faith in the single backing record across the board. Not only does it make for one continuous listen; it grabs right away. For this is a rhythm with a song at its heart.

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