Mr. Richard’s Reviews: Barrington Levy Too Experienced: The Best of Barrington Levy

Barrington Levy Too Experienced: The Best of Barrington Levy (executive produced by Chris Chin, “Dave Love” Sanguinetti, and Joel Chin and album producers include Jah Screw, Jah Life, Junjo Lawes, Morris Johnson, Whitfield Henry, Lee Jaffe, Sly Dunbar, and Robbie Shakespeare)

I just had to review this album for you, because Barrington Levy is my all-time favorite reggae artist. I actually wanted to purchase this album as soon as I saw it in the record store, but I had to call Frank’s daughter before pulling the trigger. Erica had told me that she ordered my birthday gifts coming from the internet and I had this overwhelming feeling that she had already picked this out for me. I probably mentioned finding Barrington Levy on vinyl a hundred times and to be honest, I’m still on the hunt. Obviously, this release is not an original pressing, but it was worth it. It’s the Bob Marley ‘Legend’ from a lesser known, underappreciated musician of the same island. He is currently working on an acoustic album set to be released soon. When I heard that, I cried a little in excitement.

Barrington Levy performs in a range of reggae styles that demonstrates his talent and unique identity amongst many others. Oddly, I have been a fan of Levy’s since 2004 unknowingly. I was in love with the ‘White People’ album by Handsome Boy Modeling School, Prince Paul (De La Soul) and Dan the Automator (Deltron 3030, Gorillaz, Dr. Octagon), unaware that Barrington collaborated with them on their single “The World’s Gone Mad” also featuring Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand and Del tha Funkee Homosapian. Having gone to underground reggae clubs in Vancouver, I was also well acquainted with his hit “Black Roses”. When I discovered Dutch Rebelle last summer with Erica, I was reminded of how much I loved that song with her group of fellow musicians known as The Black Roses. After listening to her discography, I discovered that Dutch Rebelle directly uses a sample of that song on her single “Anthem”. We both have so much love for her now and know Dutch and her family personally.

I’ve always known black roses to symbolize true, extreme and undying love. In the play Phantom of the Opera, it literally represents that concept. However upon a little digging, it seems that it also stands for anarchism. Apparently, Black Rose was the title of a respected journal of anarchist ideas published in the Boston area during the 1970s. It also was the name of an anarchist lecture series addressed by notable anarchists and libertarian socialists into the 90’s. This included Murray Bookchin and Noam Chomsky, whom I love and have seen orate once. Erica had reminded me of 2Pac’s poem The Rose That Grew From Concrete as well and how roses have been used in urban audience music for a while.

Of course, this album is a collection of hits and “Black Roses” is actually my second favorite track on this record. My personal favorite, chart topper is “Vice Versa Love” followed by “Living Dangerously ft. Bounty Killer”. It’s crazy to think how talented Barrington is that he can take four years off from recording and drop one single that becomes a classic almost overnight. For example, “Living Dangerously” climbed to number one in the United Kingdom and America in 1996. Levy’s music is so transcendent that he can always deliver a 90 minute set where everyone in the crowd sings along to the entire set list. His catalogue is so conscious and profound as well that I don’t know how they decided which songs to be included on this pressing.

Having his mellow voice at my disposal is the best, gifted record that I have ever received. If I did have to place him into a specific genre of reggae I would agree with others that Barring Levy is lover’s rock artist. His lyrics are appealing and not superficial, therefore timeless. Other musicians idolize him too. Two years after releasing the single, Levy released the album ‘Living Dangerously’ which included a collaboration with Snoop Dogg. He also recorded two songs with Long Beach Dub Allstars and played several shows with them in 1999. Not that I like them, but Slightly Stoopid also were able to work together with Levy on a couple of tracks. I think his best, but not most recent, collaboration was with Rascalz entitled “Top of the World”, also featuring my favorite Canadian rapper K-os. It will never be Drake.

Even though Barrington is only 50 years old, he has been recording and making music since 1977, as in 37 years! He released “My Black Girl” with his cousin Everton Dacres when he was only 13 years old. In his West St. Andrew’s community, people were talking about Levy as people in Kingston would talk about Bob Marley or Slim Smith. Records were not particularly important to Jamaicans at the time, so it was a gamble when Clancy Eccles booked Barrington for a Christmas morning concert in 1978, never having heard him sing a note. The Carib Cinema concert was a major event and nobody in the audience knew what to expect. As the story goes, only a few notes in with his epic voice he brought the crowd to their feet for the rest of his performance. He was virtually unknown and it was one of those make it or break chances. Fortunately, all of his original songs, no covers, were well liked instantly. It makes me a little envious that Levy’s art has been loved since he was just 14.

In conclusion, before I ramble on and on about my love and true respect for Barrington Levy, if you are unfamiliar with his music, then you need to acquaint yourself as soon as possible. Now I just need to convince my “Shine Eye Girl” that we absolutely must go to Jamaica and see Barrington Levy live in concert. We do have a potential wedding to go to, so maybe one of his show dates will conveniently fit into our vacation. I’d even settle seeing his son, Krishane, perform. Whatever happens, we are currently planning a trip to Washington, D.C. to see some music. If that does go through, then you can plan on a trip review from me! I adore Erica for everything that she gives to me, especially her love of music. Even though I can be a real turd, she always comes through with something special to cheer me up.

– Mr. Richard

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