Album Review: Sizzla - Radical
This collection showcases some of the lost tracks, recorded from 1992 to 2003
Sizzla’s star burned bright early in his career due to the fact that he had one of reggae’s greatest producers in his camp in the form of Xterminator’s Fatis Burrell. This collection showcases some of the lost tracks, recorded from 1992 to 2003 that stayed in the can or rather on the hard drive until now, to be unearthed like buried treasure. The riddim tracks are fortified with the basic ingredients of a Fatis riddim, a solid melodic thread that speaks to the soul, interesting delay effects that season subtle shifts on the downbeat that equal a riddim able the artist in the “zone”, comfortable and ready to slay the riddim with word, sound power.
The vocal delivery from Sizzla during this period is stellar, it is at this time that songs like Praise Ye Jah were recorded and the tunes on the Radical album echo this vibe. The title track itself, Radical is an out take on the riddim that eventually became Greedy Joe.
Another crucial essence found on this collection is the all-star cast of players that Fatis was able to enlist including Sly Dunbar, Earl “Chinna” Smith and Dean Fraser.
Assembled and produced by Kareem Burrell, one can imagine that the son of Fatis wanted to do something to honor his father and when he unearthed these tracks from what must be a vast collection of outtakes, he knew he had a fitting tribute. The release is also a fitting tribute to Sizzla fans, who will find these rare tracks a delightful window into Sizzla’s recording process over the years.
Dean Fraser’s sax is prominently featured on What’s Wrong With The Picture a conscious tune honoring the overlooked needs and issues of the poor, addressing the “bigger heads” directly asking them what they are doing to help the situation.
The tune Sad Mistake has a decidedly R&B groove to the riddim, Sizzla’s vocals are just splendid here, and they change to meet the moods of the groove which switch three different times lending to the outtake spirit of the set.
This release marks the inclusion the 2011 single, Burn Dem Schism on an actual full length Sizzla album. A catchy favorite on the Long Days Short Nights Riddim, he calls out all the wicked people that “neva have good fi say.” His own message is nearly forgotten due to the infectious sequencing, sounding perhaps like Sly Dunbar’s Midas touch making the listener get lost in the singjay’s tones as they interplay with the groove.
For Golden Rule Sizzla’s back to school style is full of anecdotes and encouragement, riding the sax-infused riddim over live drums and bubbling keys. On Its A Rocky Road the riddim actually includes a Barrington Levy vocal sample that repeats throughout a song whose lyrics are full of allegory as well as direct confrontation of Babylonian elements that threaten his security. He addresses the mission that Bob Marley pursued, defending the rights of the people.
Plenty of love songs are included on the lost tracks, the tune Groove With Me invites the love interest to spend some “quality time”, with lush background vocals ushering in a classic flute solo and guitar vamp to close out the last 45 seconds of the piece. This tune segues to Thats Why I Love You which is a true rap/hip hop song, with lyrics first rapped and then sung in a bold style that encourages his subject ”shorty” to “be the person you are” no need to “drive a big fancy car or live in a big house….just be positive” and that’s why he loves you.
More charming love talk is found in Best Thing In My Life which is full of poetic lines such as, “I was like a broken chain until you came”. The rhythm is lush and soulful, trading tempos as a slow ballad shifts to traditional reggae. Sizzla sings in a high falsetto over a guitar-driven riddim on Fly High Fly Low that sounds like the inimitable Guild guitar stylings of Earl “Chinna” Smith.
One of the more militant message songs on Radical is the final tune, I Am No Better that asks plaintively, “why you look at me with such contempt”, as a cheerful groove bubbles in the background. That was the key essence of Fatis as Xterminator, to wash away any illusion with “all killer no filler”, to produce music that sells the message, makes it go down easier, while giving you the unfettered artist statement, you are also given the chance to sway to the riddim, and join the song’s session as it unfolds and blooms.
Sizzla - Radical
CD / DIGITAL RELEASE [VP Records]
Release date: 04/18/2014
01. Protect My Life
03. Whats Wrong With The Picture
04. Sad Mistake
05. Burn Dem Schism
07. Golden Rule
08. It's A Rocky Road
09. Everybody Has To Live
10. Groove With Me
11. That's Why I Love You
12. All Da Time
13. Best Thing In My Life
14. I'm A Winner
15. Fly High Fly Low
16. I Am No Better
Compilation of Sizzla songs recorded between 1992 and 2003. Includes rare and previously unreleased tracks.