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Challenges by Tarrus Riley

Challenges by Tarrus Riley

Challenges by Tarrus Riley

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VP releases Tarrus' debut to fill the void while we wait for a third outing

Sampler

Tarrus Riley - Challenges - 2008 (reissue 2004) VP RecordsIn an interview with United Reggae, Dean Fraser said of Tarrus Riley’s 2006 breakthrough record “We thought Parables was done, but it’s just making its mark… we are still writing, putting together new tracks, so by the middle of 2008… we are able to give you a follow up.” With the work on the aforementioned project still underway, VP have seen a gap in the market for a reissue of Tarrus’ first album, Challenges. Released by the small US Ya Man label back in 2004 (and again produced by Fraser) it sounds surprisingly fresh four years on, but is a very different animal, steeped in “can-do” eclecticism and the vigour of youth.

Like its successor, it starts with a declarative opener. The clean, lavishly arranged minor key meditation Larger Than Life could be the strongest composition of Tarrus’ career so far. I’ll Be Your Friend - an AOR tinged chugger with a melody close to the Temptations’ My Girl - establishes his early songwriting prowess further, as does the midnight soul of It’s Better This Way.

This fearless splicing of styles is the main point of contrast with Parables. Jah Will is pure jangly power pop – giving credence to VP’s crossover-hopeful “singer songwriter” description on the cd’s stickered blurb. There is also a stark dancehall number, Rastafari At The Control, where sinuous beats meet distinctly 1980s guitar harmonics and slap bass sounds.

Two bonus tracks bring up the rear. Love Created I skewers colonial Christianity over the Jah Live rhythm and strikes home with the line “don’t be offended when we shout black power” - a still timely comment on those who criticise displaced Africans for not becoming “colourblind”. Save The Children is another sleek minor key piece with a swinging drumbeat and a falsetto vocal refrain.

This isn't as disciplined or cohesive an effort as Parables and traditionalists may be put off by the pop/rock direction. But, these traits aside, it is clearly the work of a prodigious and precocious talent.. Challenges is sure to keep Tarrus admirers happy until record number three hits the stores.

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