RAS MIDAS: ROOTS ROCK REGGAE FOUNDATION ARTIST FROM JAMAICA
RAS MIDAS: ROOTS ROCK REGGAE FOUNDATION ARTIST FROM JAMAICA
THE TOUCH: "Fire Up" reviewed by Achis' Reggae Blogspot
If you want SIMPLE, but MIGHTY Reggae music, it is most likely found in the wonderful class of elders we’re so lucky to still have around recording and performing, such as Ras Midas.
Ras Midas’ name belongs to this group of artists who aren’t necessarily ANCIENT and aren’t exactly the biggest of names, but have risen through the years and have attained a very strong following and continue to be active. Others would be people like Don Carlos, The Twinkle Brothers, Pablo Moses and Clinton Fearon (and wouldn’t it be so LOVELY if I could add the great Peter Broggs to this list as well), who can be found touring some corner of the world on a monthly basis and still thrilling fans around the world with fantastic and CURRENT music (incidentally, Carlos, Moses and Fearon have released albums within the last year or so and, of course, The Twinkle Bros. release new albums every forty-five minutes). Thankfully, they remain in great demand in places like Europe and California in the States to the point where they can make good livings and continue to remain relevant and continue to have audiences who want to hear their classics as well and, ultimately (for my interests) release albums full of new works. Ras Midas, in particular, like a few of the artists that I’ve mentioned is the type of artist who I really wish that I knew more about. He apparently spent quite a bit of his time coming up in England, but for the most part (at least to my knowledge) his musical developmental years were largely spent in Jamaica, but for some reason or another he always seemed to be kind of ’off radar’ for my tastes. He is, however, giving me another shot to get things right in 2010 as he releases what I believe to be his first studio album in a few years, since 2006’s ”Reaching Out”, which was a decent, but fairly unspectacular album (and not the most consistent of efforts either in my opinion) from the Clarendon born (yes, another one) Midas, ”Fire Up”. I believe the album was completely recorded and produced in California, for Midas’ own JML imprint, as is most, if not all, of his for quite some time now. Clearly, this is a better album than the album that was ”Reaching Out”. The high points are a bit higher and the median quality level of the songs is noticeably higher as well (meaning the consistency is back) and that is the highlight of the album, as you might imagine, from someone who I’ve just detailed as being a very straight forward artist. I’ve really enjoyed the fact that I’ve seen this one getting a lot of mentions in the online community and apparently it’s doing quite well and amongst Ras Midas’ fans the response has been very supportive. Also, unsurprisingly, it seems as if ”Fire Up” has led Ras Midas out on tour yet again and has seemingly renewed and reinvigorated his interest in making the music (not that it ever waned) and that’s reflected in what happens here because the album turns out to be one which is absolutely befitting someone of Ras Midas’ experience with now nearly FORTY years in the business of making Reggae Music.
That is exactly what ”Fire Up” is - It is REGGAE MUSIC. There are no complicated mixes of styles and there isn’t much in the way of ‘loose’ moments, it is very straight forward and simple Reggae music. What should also be said, initially, is that just looking at the track lengths of the tunes, what you might notice is that, despite the fact that the album checks in at a somewhat (but too) low twelve tracks, there is only one of these songs which is less than five and a half minutes long, so you’re definitely going to get a very HEALTHY twelve dosages of Ras Midas’ brand new album, ”Fire Up”. The first prescription is also one of the most potent as Ras Midas tells us about the ‘Rasta Revolution’. Checking in at the longest song on the album at just shy of eight minutes long, the tune almost seems like two in one with Midas delivering both on the Morant Bay Rebellion and Bloody Sunday. Of course the most interesting portion of the tune is that he applies ‘himself’ to both situations by calling them Rastafarian causes but the connection, almost certainly, lies within the purpose and Midas’ perception of the purpose of Rastafari and His Imperial Majesty. To my overactive brain, it is genius and I’ve had so much fun from ever sense I got to really start vibing the tune dealing with the various directions in which it could be taken (not to mention the fact that its length helps it so much by providing a ‘mood’ for the tune). What a very nice start! Charged with and succeeding in keeping the vibes of ”Fire Up” nice and high is the next tune in, ‘Dread Feelings’. Ras Midas, vocally, is never going to be confused with Robert Nesta Marley, but the way this tune is written, I swear it could have come from Marley’s vault and no one would think it out of place at all. Certainly that should tell you about its qualities, but to just reinforce the point - Like I said ‘keep it simple’ - You don’t get more SIMPLE or more BEAUTIFUL (TEARS!) than this song. The title track runs next and, as always, you’re definitely going to be interested in exactly what the title song of any given album is about because it says so much, potentially, about the rest of the album as well. In this case, Ras Midas uses the refrain ‘fire up’ as in “fire up Jah loving”, to burn away the ills of the world. This is just a cool song, very relaxed and very matter of fact, Excellent start.
In my opinion, the title track sets very well the stage for the best tune on ”Fire Up”, ’Nuclear Graveyard’, which comes in just a couple of songs after. You want to talk about COOL? Ras Midas approaches the tune with all the intensity of a midday’s nap, but what he’s saying is quite potent as he jumps in with a SCATHING social commentary of what he feels the world is becoming. What REALLY caught my ear is just how subtly MIGHTY this song is, a quality, I might add, which is so prevalent when you deal with a very straight forward and simple method of music making. In the very later stages of the song, Ras Midas just begins to speak and leaves with me the single-most meaningful moment on the album when he says very plainly:
There’ll be no flesh left in babylon
It will be dry bones. Dry bones”
The man says this with SO MUCH quiet-confidence that should any of my wonderful readers get a chance to speak with Ras Midas, I’m going to need you to ask this man for a day as to when this will happen, because when he says “SOON!”, you KNOW he’s already seen it. HUGE tune!
Much like on that wonderful tune and most before it, through the album, Ras Midas seems to maintain this very comfortable mix of spirituality and social situations which is exactly what you’d expect him to do. He may, in fact, do this TOO well as, as you get further and further into ”Fire Up”, you certainly well get the idea that this one isn’t AT ALL going to appeal to many beyond the hardest of Reggae heads - Thankfully, you and I are such people so we won’t be complaining much, will we? ‘Rain & Fire’ begins a stretch of three somewhat similarly vibed tunes, which are also somewhat similar in quality as well. While a little less melodically gifted than several of the other selections here, this song makes up for it in its overall sound (it sounds very BIG) and Midas’ rather epic lyrical approach. And because something tugged my mind in this direction, I will jump ahead to the tune ‘400 Years’ (which you, just like I was, are already thinking is a remake of the Peter Tosh song, but it isn’t), which metaphorically speaks to the suffering of Afrikan sons and daughters and it is GORGEOUS! I mean, I’m easy to cry on a big tune, but this one had my eyes tearing with my head bowed because, it is just so powerful and it contains some lyrical similarities to the aforementioned ‘Rain & Fire’. I digress - The next tune in the strong stretch of three is ‘No Bread’ (and its frustratingly familiar sounding riddim), a very nice sufferer’s anthem. That song precedes the EXTREMELY interesting and similar ‘Hole In The Bucket’, on which Ras Midas takes the old saying and provides with such a sweet and befitting tune in its name. I drive these songs together, obviously, because I think that they’re actually two parts of an idea of expressing just how hard things are for many people.
“Hey Mr. Big stuff, it’s you I’m talking to
You give my brothers a six for a nine
Then you drunk them with the bad wine
Babylon, you drunk them with the bad wine”
What he’s saying, simply, is that something is WRONG! And that’s definitely the prevailing sentiment that comes these three (now four) powerful tunes.
You’ll find somewhat of a similar ideology behind ‘Trouble Town’, but this tune reaches more in the direction of violence in Jamaica and across the world and is speaking directly to those individuals still pursuing and thinking of pursuing that type of negative lifestyle. That is in stark contrast to the very ‘full’ sounding ‘Good Old Days’, which simply sets itself up as a call for the great days gone by. For me, this is the perfect cap for ”Fire Up” as what Midas has done is to paint a somewhat bleak picture on a few of the other tunes, but this one seems to give the direct alternative. I should also mention the nature of the vibes of this song because they’re very interesting. It’s not the type of ‘rah rah’ and ‘cheery’ song you might expect, it’s pretty near melancholy actually, but in that type of sound, you really get the idea that Ras Midas MISSES the days gone by (and his family and his old friends as well). By its end, it proves to be one of the best tunes on the album.
And lastly, I’ll mention the two changeups here. One is a love song, ‘Come Back Darling’ which is pretty near exceptional actually. Its riddim MIGHT just be the finest composition on the whole of the album, so even if you find it not your type of song (and you might not), you should definitely be able to appreciate its musical quality. Finally, there’s ‘Lean On Jah’ which is a remake of the classic song ‘Lean On Me’. This one, I don’t particularly like and I didn’t expect that I would after I figured out in what direction it was going. Ultimately, however, it is pretty much harmless and doesn’t, at all, detract from the album’s total quality.
Overall, I do want to make the mention of two things. First of all, in terms of writing - Ras Midas is in a fine form throughout “Fire Up” and I know that I built this review on the notion of being SIMPLE and while I am sticking to that (obviously, you’re reading it, aren’t you?), what I will say is that the man definitely uses quite a few very intelligent metaphors in his lyrics on the album, so while simple still, do pay attention. And secondly, something that I alluded to - The album SOUNDS superb. Reportedly Ras Midas recorded it with his own band and perhaps the chemistry between musicians and artists is what really makes the sonic appeal really high for this one (again, that is, if you really like Reggae music). Aside from that, it’s just what I said, “Fire Up” is a very good Reggae album. Nothing else. It doesn’t break new ground and I’m not even sure that Ras Midas was going for that, but what it does do is to reinforce just the notion of making good music. I’ll listen to and write about big names until I lose the sensation in my fingers from typing and go blind from the computer screen, but good music is something that will ALWAYS grip my attention. Ras Midas’ new album = ‘good music.‘
-Reviewed by Achis’ Reggae Blogspot
For over 40 years, Ras Midas's visionary and poignant messages of Love, Prosperity, Revolution, Prophecy, and Wisdom serve as concrete observation of past, present, and future. King's Music that is adored and cherished across the four corners of Creation. Certainly mystical, his broad catalog of message music is prophecy revealing and as pertinent today as when first recorded...
Ras Midas's consistency through the decades flows like a mighty river. From his debut, COVER ME (1974) to RAIN AND FIRE (1979) to the Grammy considered CONFIRMATION (2000) and his recent FIRE UP (2010), this humble Rastaman continually creates music with a sense of purpose delivered from the Highest regions.
The treasure you're holding is RASTAMAN IN EXILE. This is not a reissue but a new presentation and extension of this dynamic album. Originally released in 1980, this landmark album is important on many levels. Yes, it was heralded Reggae Album Of The Year (France, 1980). It includes Trop Longtemps Dans Le Vent, the first Reggae song delivered in French from a Jamaican Roots artiste, and is his best-selling album to date. Its absolute importance is because it fits into today's history and truly suits the times. Prophecy revealing? Yes, indeed!
The content on RASTAMAN IN EXILE perfectly describes today's turmoil and world cry. Songs like Rat And Cat World Power, Burning Revelation, and Plague And Armageddon are as relevant today as when first recorded. The earnestness of Lean On Jah injects hope to a hungry massive. Ras Midas explained "the cosmic laws of nature manifest the light into levity." The title track pertains to all people seeking a new living and seeking human rights. This situation is happening right now!
This Roots album has been expertly remixed, remastered, and re-realized to full effect. There is new crispness in the atmosphere while retaining the jazzy feel of the original. The timeless Let The People Go and Natty Dread Surprise are tracks not heard on the original, both remixed by Mabruku Extendedzz. Veteran engineer Dave Plummer (Cypress Recording Studio, Jacksonville Beach, Florida) remixed and remastered this masterpiece. The legendary Sylvan Morris (Harry J's Recording Studio, Kingston, Jamaica) was the original recording and mixing engineer, and he overdubbed this Roots affair. Ras Midas and Sylvan Morris started working together in the early 70s, and their Royal link and deep friendship continues today.
RASTAMAN IN EXILE is considered one of the most powerful albums in Reggae history. Put this musical disc into heavy stereo and let the Royal message flow. These are Zion sounds that will be embraced by true music lovers globally. Whether you're familiar with this wise man's message or hearing Ras Midas's sounds for the very first time, this is an album to be cherished from the first note to the very last drop.
- Robert "Higherman" Heilman, www.Reggae-Vibes.com
Lead Vocals: Ras Midas
Bass: Robbie Shakespeare, Bertram “Ranchie” McLean
Drums: Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace, Sly Dunbar, Mikey “Boo” Richards
Lead guitar: Noel "Sowell" Bailey, Andy Bassford
Rhythm guitar: Eric "Bingi Bunny" Lamont, Dwight Pickney, Andy Bassford
Piano: Gladstone “Gladdy” Anderson
Organ: Winston Wright
Keyboards: Earl “Wire” Lindo, Franklyn “Bubbler” Waul, Robbie Lynn, Ansel Collins
Horns: Dean Fraser, Ronald “Nambo” Robinson, Junior Chin, Glen DaCosta
Percussion: Noel “Scully” Simms, Herman “Bongo Herman” Davis, Sylvan Morris, Ras Midas
Harmonica: Jimmy Becker
Backing Singers: Marcia Griffiths, Annesa Banks, Keble Drummond
Engineered by Sylvan Morris, Harry J Studio, Kingston, Jamaica, W.I.
Recorded at Harry J Studio and Channel 1 Studio, Kingston, Jamaica, W.I.
Mixed by Sylvan Morris, Harry J Studio, Kingston, Jamaica, W.I.
Extended Mixes by Roy Romeijn, Mabruku Extendedzz, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Remixed & Remastered by Dave Plummer, Cypress Recording Studio, Jacksonville Beach, Florida, USA
Original artwork by Uhuru Akua
Artwork updated by Peter Livens
Graphic design by Johan Livens and Nan Lewis
Liner Notes by Roger Steffens and Robert “Higherman” Heilman
Produced and arranged by Ras Midas and Sylvan Morris for JML Records. Manufactured in the USA by CDBaby.
Rastaman In Exile was originally released on vinyl in 1980 on Disc AZ International (France).
The album you now hold, RASTAMAN IN EXILE, originally released in 1980 (Disc AZ International), won France's Reggae Album of the Year Award that year and achieved massive sales in the Francophone world of Africa, Europe and the Caribbean.
Long considered among the most important releases of its time, it has achieved the status of a classic recording among critics and fans alike. Speaking by phone recently from his base in Florida, Ras Midas explained the reasoning behind its rerelease 36 years later: “I've been thinking about this for the past five years. People in Europe and Africa have told me it still has a significant meaning, especially based on what's going on in the world today. We remixed it with some overdubbing and remastered it at Cypress Records Studio in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, with David Plummer, who is a longtime R&B, country, and jazz engineer. He has the only studio in this area with a 32 track analog recorder, the same type of machine we made the original recording on, at Harry J's legendary studio in Kingston.
”The title track Rastaman in Exile speaks of “seven walls that surround I. They represent,” says the singer, “the first seven European countries that started slavery and colonialism in Africa. They started the migration of African people to the Western world and the Caribbean as part of their slave trade. Rastaman in exile doesn't necessarily mean Rasta alone; it means all the people that live under colonialism. I get to realize that in today's world it is not only African people that have been hurt by the system. You have Europeans, Asians, South Americans and North Americans. It is a combination of all the different people of the world that have been exploited and brutalized by colonialism and slavery; lots of America's immigrants that the ruling system brought here as cheap labor – including some Caucasians.”
Rat and Cat World Power reveals that “We are living in a rat and cat world power right now because the Western capitalism represents the rat and Asian capitalism the cat, two political and economic philosophies. These two work closely together to exploit the world in the new global economy. The Western capitalists might be more aggressive, but the two of them are doing the same thing. Many Jamaicans think that the Chinese are there to help them out of their economic mess but they don't realize that the Chinese are part of the new global imperialist power.”
The French Trop Longtemps Dans Le Vent (“Too Long in the Wind”) appears here in two versions. It was among the very first reggae songs to be recorded in the French language. “It was my manager's idea to do it, Burt McKessey, and it was a huge hit. Burt said he could market this song successfully in French speaking countries. The lines about standing in the falling rain represent being too long in sufferation, too long in exploitation, too long in a world of war and a world without peace and a world without love. The answer is that we have to stand up and fight for our rights and justice, because peace and love is not going to come unless those who have a spiritual awareness get together.”
Ras Midas said that Burning Revelation represents “economic turmoil, worldwide financial crisis, waste and greed by the elite, and the continuation of unnecessary wars.
Zion Last Train is “a song of prediction regarding the new global revolution of all progressive people around the world which will be evolving out of the present system. The train is the works that all people have to do, collectively, to make these changes happen. Change cannot happen by one people alone; everyone must get on board this train and reach out to each other for positive change to happen.”
Another prophetic composition is Plague and Armageddon which Ras Midas explains as “the terrorism that is taking place right now from the Middle East to the Western world. We can look at it as a war between religions, cultures, and politricks. I wrote this song 36 years ago. Many people who know RASTAMAN IN EXILE have encouraged me to put the album out in CD and digital format because everything I sang back then has come to fulfillment. They said they would like the new reggae generation to also be able to hear these songs and lyrics.”
According to Ras Midas, Melchizedek “pays tribute to an ancient African philosopher and spiritual genius. Melchizedek taught about love, peace, forgiveness, and human compassion, a means to achieve higher spiritual consciousness. Melchizedek's vision foretold the coming of Haile Selassie I, who would fulfill the mystic revelation of Rastafari.”
Lean on Jah elucidates Ras Midas's feelings about Rastafari in today's world. “I see Jah as the cosmic creator. We must lean on Jah, and work together with a higher consciousness, to be part of the One Love Revolution. Let us build a human pyramid of unity and love, understanding and cooperation, respect and tolerance.”
The original recording of Let The People Go was intended for the 1980 release of RASTAMAN IN EXILE, but it was re-recorded and released on LOVING VIBRATION (1998, JML Records), Ras Midas's seventh album. “This is the original recording of this song,” says Ras Midas. “It is a song of prediction and protest against the three institutions that have power over the global economy: the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the five most powerful countries in the United Nations Security Council.”
Natty Dread Surprise is about “the Rastafarian adaptation of an ancient African culture, the Essenes, a people who represented rebellion against oppression by wearing dreadlocks. The surprise is Rastafarians are educating the world about the One Love Revolution through Reggae music.”
- Roger Steffens, American actor, author, lecturer, editor, reggae archivist, photographer and, producer – and
author of So Much Things to Say: The Oral History of Bob Marley, from W. W. Norton.
“My grandmother always said, 'the older the moon, the brighter it shines.' I am hoping that people will listen to this album and hear the messages. Perhaps my songs can help some achieve enlightenment and a higher consciousness.” –Ras Midas
PHOTO of Roger Steffens: Peter Simon
ROOTS WARRIOR: A refection, from Haji Mike
“I was once doing a gig in Santa Cruz, California, as part of The Power of Words Tour. It must have been 2007. The venue was huge, it was a weekday, and the event was badly promoted; the performance of the Dub Poet from the Mediterranean island of Cyprus (me) resulted in a handful of people passing through. It was one of those ‘many are called and (apparently) few are chosen’ nights.
After sound check a humble Rasta who had been waiting at the back of the room stepped forward to introduce himself by simply saying, ‘Greetings. I am Ras Midas’ - and everything seemed to fit perfectly, no matter the attendance - or lack of. Many things happen for a reason. (www.RasMidas.com)
As a youth living in England, I had been hearing and listening to Ras Midas’s tunes from the 1980s. His name kept coming up, time and time again. And all these years later, this Roots Warrior, Ras Midas, has continued to stand firm, right into this age of mediocre auto-tuned soulless products that just pile up, one on the other, in their sameness and shallow content.
Ras Midas has remained consistent. He makes music that is fundamentally timeless. What he sang about in the 1980s is just as relevant to the messed up world we are living in today as it was to the messed up world back then. Ras Midas is relentless; he has never deviated from the path of solid Roots Rasta Reggae Music. No dilution. No gimmicks. No ‘let’s try a dip in the mainstream and try a pop song.’ Just Roots.
Ras Midas is a humble spirit who will sit down and reason with any one, and that’s important. He listens, shares experiences and ideas, and as a seasoned artist, everyone has a lot to learn from him about music, culture, history and the world.
Big up Mi Bredren Ras Midas, every time the tireless Roots Warrior!”
-Haji Mike, www.HajiMike.com, Cypress 28 July 2016
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