Anthony B ADD
Album Review: Anthony B - Bread & Butter
by Steve Topple
It’s been over three years since Anthony B’s last full album, King In My Castle – where the legendary Reggae/Dancehall artist relentlessly smashed genres to good effect. So, what of his latest release?
Bread & Butter, released via Ineffable Records, sees Mr B continue his infinitely eclectic style – and he does so with more aplomb than in 2020. Production comes from the man himself and his imprint Born Fire Music – with various guest producers and artists then coming in to play their parts. Overall, the finished product is a quality record, with keen attention to detail across the mixing and mastering. However, it is of course Anthony’s performances and the music which really shine through.
After the heavily orchestrated Bread & Butter Interlude opens the album, we’re straight into Save Humanity - featuring another legend, Freddie McGregor, and produced by the ever-busy House of Riddim. It’s delicate, meandering Roots that is gentle on the ear but heavy on the conscience. Then, House of Riddim is back, along with S-Class Beats, across Music Free My Soul. It changes tack slightly, moving Bread & Butter into a heavier, Dub-influenced Roots vibe. Then, superstar Collie Budz joins Johnny Cosmic to produce Chill Out. It continues the previous track’s musical theme. However, it brings it slightly more up to date with its use of ambient synths – along with a nice series of chord progressions and an efficient performance from Anthony.
However, out of nowhere and Weed Baby brings Trap Dancehall to Bread & Butter, thanks to producer Mint Records. Its ominous, brooding and grimy – with the lower kHz instrumentation brought to the fore, while the snare drives the beat and hi-hats tinker in between. OK, so it’s not the hardest entry in this genre which has taken over the Dancehall sound – but it works, and fits with Anthony’s slightly old skool delivery; credit to him for platforming a younger sound, too.
Next, and Everybody brings Busy Signal (on point as always) on board and sees House of Riddim return, with a light-touch AfroDancehall arrangement heavily influenced by more traditional African sounds, thanks to the intricate drum arrangement. Heaven In Your Eyes is a fascinating and engaging creation from S-Class Beats – fusing Dancehall beats with RnB orchestration. The driving bass and kick, along with military buzz rolls on the snare, are offset by a meandering keys line, heavily engineered, along with some gorgeous backing vocals. Pure class from S-Class.
Stand Firm featuring Chronic Law is smooth Afro-RnB from Jah Boy Productions, Alrick Bailey Solone, and BMI. Then, Hot Spot takes Bread & Butter back to some smooth Dancehall thanks to Mint Records: mellow but still with a decent wind. The sax line is a great inclusion, and the slight extensions on the length of the kick beat stop the track being too hard. There’s a pleasing bass line, and those chord progressions are once again lush. Another strong track. Then, Beautiful And Sexy treads a more obvious, old skool Dancehall line – but with some inflections of the 2020s, like the Trap buzz rolls in the hi-hats and a lilting line from the piano.
Back To Normal is slick AfroDancehall which leans into smoother RnB vibes. The stuttering arrangement is strong, with pointed use of the third beat of the bar as the accent. It’s bass heavy but with pleasing instrumentation on top, including good use of a pitch-bended vocal. Then, Drop A Bomb sees Trap vibes meet something Ambient Rock: a driving beat coupled with lilting acoustic guitars and some pleasing keys thrown in. Anthony did this style well across King In My Castle, and it works equally well here, too.
Into The Dark is the first Lover’s Rock track of Bread & Butter, complete with wah-wah’d guitar, sweet, soulful call and response backing vocals and pleasing chord progressions and melodies. Anthony is at his soulful best during the straighter vocals, while delivering a slick singjay across the verses, too. Up-and-coming outfit Train Line Records team up with Gilmore Walters to produce Mankind Evil – a soft, thoughtful Dancehall track that is delicate and fluid, but still with that relentless clave running throughout.
Irie Love featuring Robbyn Goode is another Lover’s Rock track – but the strongest of Bread & Butter, and perhaps also of all Anthony’s Lover’s releases in recent years. It’s extremely well-constructed and pleasing, partly due to its intricate chord progressions – going from major, to minor, and back again. The track is pacey, the instrumentation well arranged by producers Eric Burrell and Buggie Productions, and Anthony and Goode are a perfect pairing – both delivering strong performances that bounce-off each other excellently. Superb works all round.
Bread & Butter closes with Revolution, featuring Zamunda, Bramma and Lina Mulan. It’s the album’s one foray into Revival Reggae: strong Hip Hop beats meet Reggae sensibilities, coupled with some excellent use of instrumentation and a haunting, unsettling arrangement in a minor key. The obligatory theremin has been used well, as have the additional synths and samples. The four artists are well-placed together, and each deliver rousing performances. It’s a fitting closure to the album.
Musically, Bread & Butter is predictably strong. Vocally, Anthony is as strong as ever – and little needs to be said about his exemplary performances throughout (as always, he lends himself to any genre and style perfectly). So, what of the lyrics?
Well, there’s bruk-out and gyal tracks a plenty – from Chill Out and Hot Spot’s party vibes, to Beautiful And Sexy’s homage to women. The Lover’s Rock tracks, particularly Irie Love, fit into the overall project well. But as usual, Anthony also deals with the political and social in a forthright manner.
Music Free My Soul is a love letter to Anthony, and others’, craft. Weed Baby deals with the criminal justice versus the ethical implications of cannabis; hardly an uncommon theme for Anthony to touch on, however here he injects some wry humour into the debate. Back To Normal is an almost ‘diary entry’ written during the pandemic lockdowns – with a healthy smattering of cynicism about the motivations behind them. Drop A Bomb follows on from this, with a critique of corrupt politicians – and Mankind Evil broadens Anthony’s assessment of his fellow humans out. And of course, Revolution ties this all together – giving a searing assessment of the state of society under Babylon, juxtaposed with the need for radical change from the bottom up.
Overall, Bread & Butter is excellent – in fact, better than King In My Castle. That album was undeniably brilliant – however, here Anthony has been even more adventurous in terms of the blem of genres, and it’s paid off. Him and the various producers and artists have created a sweeping project that’s even more interesting than the last – and it woven together as a complete package quite wonderfully. Sterling works all round.
Anthony B - Bread & Butter
DIGITAL RELEASE [Ineffable Records]
Release date: 03/24/2023
01. Bread & Butter (interlude)
02. Save Humanity feat. Freddie McGregor
03. Music Free My Soul
04. Chill Out
05. Weed Baby
06. Everybody feat. Busy Signal
07. Heaven In Your Eyes
08. Stand Firm feat. Chronic Law
09. Hot Spot
10. Beautiful & Sexy
11. Back To Normal
12. Drop A Bomb
13. Into The Dark
14. Mankind Evil
15. Irie Love feat. Robbyn Goode
16. Revolution feat. Zamunda, Bramma & Lina Mulan