It’s been quite the week. I don’t normally share anything personal but the intensity of this week borders on insanity. Medical issues surrounded me but everything and everyone seems to be healing, thank goodness. Situations force you to put things in perspective on occasion but as the week rolls by you have the sound of reality bludgeoning your eardrums, asking you to please pay attention. My life is filled at times with movie quotes an song lyrics because sometimes they just make sense at the moment.
That seems to happen sometimes with Lando Chill whose new album The Boy Who Spoke To The Wind (Mello Music Group) seems to be the resulting product of a systematic problem many have faced throughout the years. While his debut For Mark, Your Son was tribute to his father, his sophomore release is a rallying cry. Where group’s like Public Enemy were at the forefront of establishing a formula of noisy elements filtered in its powerful music along with Chuck D’s clear and precise imagery of oppression and revolution, rapper/wordsmith Lando Chill takes a different approach. He wants you to take in his words, but he won’t force you to do what he says. That’s not his style. Chill wants you to comply but he’s not going to make you. “Break Them Shackles” is filled with metaphors that tells a story about an oppressed culture but he knows one thing though, and when he shouts, “We about to look good when we break them shackles one day” you know exactly what he’s referring to. It’s all set to straight-forward beat, driven by a few notes on a piano that’s infectious. “The King Of Salem” doesn’t stray far from the theme but when he mentions “…to Malcolm, Martin / and some voodoo from Wakanda / and still they call my tribe people savages…” he’s telling the story of intelligence and power that hasn’t been silenced. All this under a dark and spooky timbre of a backdrop which has a haunting bassline. Chill’s humor isn’t missed on “People Are Evil,” where he sings “All of my people are evil” and “Now why are we so evil? Why they killing all are people.” He uses this catchy laid back joint to draw on images of death because of misconception and perception. Possibly one of my favorite tracks on the album, that is until we get to “No Paz” (no peace) which has a bouncy beat that follows a Family Stone-type intro. It’s interesting how clearly his vision is expressed. It shows his anger without being angry. Lando Chill isn’t strictly about politicizing what he sees on a daily basis as “o sicario e o padre” he raps about struggle with his art and how “Everybody wants to ride that train to Basquiat / but they ain’t about that life / they ain’t never hit that rock bottom.” The gospel of Chill has been edited here where the struggle of the black man takes precedence on The Boy Who Spoke To The Wind but it doesn’t overshadow who Lando Chill is: a fierce artist who gets his point across through the imagery his words display. The album isn’t an easy listen, which it shouldn’t be. It should make you feel uncomfortable at times because as a society and as people, we’re all complex. This release holds 14 tracks; 14 powerful songs.
For some reason I find Terence Ryan to be quite the conundrum. Everything I’ve read about Ryan I probably would have pegged him as something different but the way this 20-something year old does leaves me confused is a good thing. Born to and raised by working class parents, this suburban kid didn’t grow up with anyone else who was musically inclined surrounding him. But that’s of no consequence because with his debut full-length Don’t Panic (3QTR/Kobalt Music Recordings), he’s on a clear path to domination. Ryan seems to have more soul in his blood than one would believe. From the moment this album begins it reveals nothing but sincerity, hope and strength. “Mean It,” comes across as pop wonder, with so many nods to an R&B culture that came before him. From beginning to end, even at its quieter moments there’s power within the song. When Ryan sings “I want to mean it/ Lord, give me meaning” he holds nothing back, never wavering. But the power of this one track doesn’t overshadow what follows with the remaining numbers on the album, not by a long shot. “Nothin'” trails off the path, much more laid back but brimming with so much swagger and beauty. But it isn’t as if Ryan is a one trick pony because his quieter moments are just as urging. “Just A Spark” begins with a ballad-esque feel but then morphs into a slower jam with a contained will to explode. He’s a fascinating character that switches thing up on more than one occasion, blistering through his acoustic guitar on “Agoura CA A Particular Time In Eternity.” This is where Ryan shows his range and it’s scary. When he hits those higher notes, images of Jeff Buckley haunt me. It will leave you paralyzingly awestruck. I want to say something negative about Don’t Panic because nothing should be so perfectly wound tight, but there’s nothing I can hold against Ryan. “Rock Bottom” showcases that same beautiful voice of his and musically there’s a play on dynamics here and songs like “To Live And Die In New England,” an ode to his home territory, shows how he can just do it all. I’m dumbfounded as to why Terence Ryan isn’t a huge star. He has the talent and the chops to take it all. The world just needs to catch up to him.
Rounding out the trifecta of releases this week is Precious Art (SideOne Dummy), the fourth release for Rozwell Kid. The album leaves the band on the precipice of its career. Some group’s have to wonder on occasion if they should regroup, press the eject button, or simply move forward and continue to write and release music. It’s a good thing the members decided to continue because the album is rife with clever pop songs with a hook at just about every turn, which is what the kids love. Throughout the years the West Virginia act has honed its skill and there’s no argument that all four members are tightly wound together, so much so where I’m sure they know where one’s instrument ends and the other begins. But one thing about Rozwell Kid though, I’m not sure if I’m completely sold on the band. Sure they write those clever pop songs but there isn’t something that makes me want to listen to them over and over again. I’m not discounting Precious Art because it does have happy, cheerful songs that you can dance to around in your bedroom but I can’t easily distinguish this band from any other groups if I heard their songs being played on the radio. In other words, Rozwell Kid isn’t identifiable. In a line-up, I probably wouldn’t know who they were but hey, it’s a well crafted album.