CD Review: Exponentially Entertaining

The acute, brilliant and compelling Machel Montano HD strikes again for 2008 with his fourteenth (14th) album, but one should note that this is his fifth solo album entitled 'Flame On'. Machel is well known for delivering exciting, and fast paced Soca music accompanied with the usual one or two "love-up" tunes which no doubts add to his repertoire and versatility. 'Flame On' is no different! He remains one of the most consistent Soca artistes from Trinidad and Tobago and his productions always do one of two things - relive Soca from the past when it was known as Calypso or project onto the masses a merge between Soca and any other genre of music.

From the very beginning of Mr. Montano's Soca/Calypso career he was never one to hide his talent or hide his intentions far less wear a mask to cover who he truly is and where he intends to take Soca/Calypso music. Nothing has changed on his recent album 'Flame On', released in January 2008, I would have to say is comparable to his previous album 'Book of Angels' (2007), if not better in my opinion, however it is not about which album is better, it is about the entertainment factors generated highly through the music and how it rests with the listeners.

The album's intro "Unconditional Love" which actually bleeds into the same title track which immediately from the track's title makes you think it is a slow tune about love and sappiness however, bursts into Mr. Montano expressing his deep hard core and insatiable love for the Carnival Season all over the Caribbean describing it as a "sweet affair". "Blazin' D Trail" follows immediately and has you already pumped, and psyched from the first three words "De Heat awwww". A tremendous contender for the Road March Title of 2008, it is fast paced and non-stop with no breaks for you to settle as Mr. Montano sings "... the trail hot ..." For the past three (3) years, Machel and Patrice Roberts have been collaborating and producing Soca songs for of the highest calibre and "Rollin" does not fail to deliver in categories of melody, production, drum-line as well as lyrical content. Definitely the best track amongst the Machel Montano and Patrice Roberts Trilogy in my opinion, despite their 1996 Road March title for "Band Of D Year (B.O.D.Y)".

Mr. Montano never fails to produce a love tune every year - it is a must - why else do the girls go crazy? "Make Love" satisfies the ears of the females; this year specifically asking the ladies "to forget the jumping, wining and texting and get to the next thing right way ... making sweet love". The enjoyable percussion in the background accompanied with the sounds of the steel pan sparks this track from start to finish and has couples grooving along with Machel's husky tone riddled over this production. He clearly was setting a mood now wasn't he?

The three best tunes on this album 'Flame On' comes from the two mind-blowing collaborations with David Rudder on "Oil and Music" as well as with the Mighty Sparrow on "Congo Man" and finally a complete grimey ragga Soca tune entitled "Jamishness" on the popular Lehgo Me Riddim. Lyrically, David Rudder and Mr. Machel delightfully explain to the foreigners where Trinidadians come from and what we have in our soul "we have it!!!" The production on this track is very impulsive and the album takes a serious turn into grooving. Smoothly running into "you wah me talk the truth ... laughs ...", The Mighty Sparrow delivers a rejuvenating performance of his original tune in 1965 and re-released in 1989 accompanied with Machel Montano's description of how the mannerisms of the Congo Man this song captures listeners from start to finish and lures any standing patrons anywhere to do exactly as he says .... "go down down duh down duh down". A Chart Topper for the dance floors as well as on the road. These two tracks focus heavily on drum lines and percussion and "Jamishness" does not differ also utilizing brass instruments and from the 2008 experience this track had the crowds moving.

Montano brought in two jamaican artistes to remix his songs and produced compulsive tunes with "Make Love" with Buju Banton and "Wining Season" with Shaggy whose lyrical contents on both songs merged dancehall with Soca smoothly and effectively.

Finally, the big bang bang finale for this album which really explains why it is exponentially entertaining. Mr. Montano merges Soca/Calypso with rap and reggaeton and collaborates with Lil' John and Pitbull, two international artistes, on the track entitled "Defense (The Anthem)". The original riddim was called Calabria however, Montano's style and exuberance to remix this track with two well known artistes left nothing to be desired. A solid production on all levels especially lyrics wonderfully merged with the melody on this technically spectacular beat. This track clearly was the anthem for the crowds and party-goers ensuring that no one was standing while listening to this heavily detailed or should I say purposefully produced production. I do not even have the words to describe the brilliance of this song - it is a must listen!!!

At the end of this album you are left wondering not whether Machel is really going to take Soca/Calypso internationally but rather how far he is really willing to use his varied lyrical talents, ability to create Soca in many different styles, energetic performances, eccentric ideas and constructive production to carry out that task. Montano is definitely the master of the Soca realm.

Amiel for Trini Jungle Juice
Always Forward, Never Backward


Flame On - Machel Montano HD
Release Date: Jan 25th 2008

Track Listings
01. Unconditional Love Prelude – Machel Montano
02. Unconditional – Machel Montano
03. Blazin D Trail – Machel Montano
04. Rollin – Patrice Roberts & Machel Montano
05. Wining Season – Machel Montano
06. Make Love – Machel Montano
07. Oil & Music – Machel Montano feat. David Rudder
08. Congo Man – Machel Montano feat. The Mighty Sparrow
09. Jamishness – Machel Montano
10. We Will Live - Machel Montano
11. Wining Season (Remix) – Machel Montano feat. Shaggy
12. Make Love (Remix) – Machel Montano feat. Buju Banton
13. Defense (The Anthem) – Lil Jon, Pitbull & Machel Montano