Higher Levels album cover

To top off a busy summer performing in Europe, it’s pleasing to see the highly anticipated release of Solo’s Banton’s new album ‘Higher Levels’. With 15-tracks by a variation of Europe’s leading producers this will surely be on replay all over the world.

Like his 2008 debut album ‘Walk Like Rasta’, Solo and Reality Shock Records producer Kris Kemist team up, and things are straight down to business, with Solo unloading his mind with ‘Mi No Know’ on the catchy Ba Ba Boom riddim. In an uninterrupted flow from verse to chorus and back again, he delivers the first of his cautionary messages with melodious ease.

The second and third tracks are smartly crafted and lure you deeper into the album. ‘Reggae Recipe’ starts off with a bubbly synth head-nodder of a riddim, on which Solo quickly opens up on, amping up his vocal tempos faster and faster through the track, delivering a tune I’m sure he is going to have a lot of fun with.

‘Make You Groove’ on the Big it Up Ska riddim sees Solo toast the digital reggae world, close friends, and his former tracks from ‘Walk Like Rasta’, as well as some of his heavyweight Jahtari releases. I can certainly see crowds at the big European festivals getting back on the bump and grind to this one next year.

From the fourth track onwards the album has a conscious message delivered pon a combination of digital and roots riddims. His first combination song, ‘Politician Knockout’ with YT, see the pair share analogy line for line, with a heavy riddim backing this political warning. The tunes ‘Wicked Man’ and ‘Are You Ready’ spotlight the oppressor and the system, before a series of tuff songs stacked with important messages, including ‘Open Your Eyes’ with Michael Prophet’.

The album winds up with Solo offering a solution, and his final four songs offer a positive light. ‘Brighter Side’ and ‘Bounce Back’, the latter with a heavy bass grinding below a melody of lyrical remedies, are inspirational and fun. ‘Rising Sun’, like the hit tune ‘I Want Go Home’ (from Solo’s first album), is a homage to Africa. Solo brings a smooth calm vocal performance, with female backing vocals from Sabrina Bell, soothing off the album nicely and freshening you up for the final instalment tune. This is ‘Rejoice’, with long-time bredren Deadly Hunta, on a slow rootsy riddim with backing from Soom T.

The thing that sticks about this album for me is its balance, both musically and in its message. It takes you on a journey, opening you up with the first three tunes, in which Solo displays his talent in a fun way, followed by the strong delivery of his message, done on a variation of riddims. It is original, entertaining, enlightening, and therefore for me, a very healthy album.

‘Higher Levels’ is available on CD and MP3 format through i-Tunes, Amazon MP3, Google Play, Emusic & Spotify.

 Michael Robins