Album + Compilation
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Six years on from VP records' The Story Unfolds, the idiosyncratic and mercurial Bobo sing-jay Sizzla Kalonji is well overdue another retrospective. And this nicely-presented effort by VP's new acquisition, Greensleeves, including a bonus DVD, gives each chapter of the chronicle a fair hearing, even if the odd key verse has inevitably been missed out.
Sizzla's received a lot of flak for perceived changes to his voice. The reality is he's never stopped changing it. From aggressive shouting to wolf-like howls and high pitched feline wails, he's taken his now ravaged pipes in every possible direction, cutting astonishing tunes over some of Jamaica's most iconic rhythm tracks.
These range from the ruminative (Just One Of Those Days on Bobby Digital's relick of John Holt's Queen Majesty) to the uplifting (Good Ways using Digital's version of Alton Ellis' classic Studio 1 piece, Breaking Up) to the heavily prophetic (Africa Prepare on Frenchie's re-interpretation of Lee Perry's Blackboard Jungle). We also hear evidence of his more recent interest in hip hop and R&B; with Give Me A Try and Rise To The Occasion (for Donovan Bennett aka Don Corleon).
Of course, an overview of such an important artist is bound to solicit some grumbles, the most trenchant being that not enough time is devoted to Sizzla's early work, which set the standard for sing-jaying in the 90s. What's more, his mellower side predominates: for a taste of the shouty Sizzla check the raw, camera mic recorded footage on the DVD. However, it's understandable that a best of, aimed at a wide audience, would avoid anything too uncompromising on the ear, although the odd smattering of homophobia is on display.
There are a few glaring omissions, particularly Solid As A Rock – both the cut from his Da Real Thing album, or his equally worthy Damon Dash-produced remake - but all in all, this is a good summary of a career that has constantly flouted convention and expectation. The Journey is a sometimes jarring mix of reflection, belligerence, political incorrectness and religious fervour - just like Sizzla himself.