'Totally Tyrone' leads out Tuff Gong's Masters Vault Series

He may be known by many Jamaicans for one of his more popular songs, Cottage in Negril, but the catalogue of late reggae singer, Tyrone Taylor, is larger and more impressive than many realise.

I had the pleasure of listening to a few of his songs from the recently remastered album, Totally Tyrone, a compilation redone for Tuff Gong International's Masters Vault Series. I was left pleasantly surprised.

Don't get me wrong, I was not taken aback by the smoothness of his voice, or undeniable writing skills evident in his lyrics, because that's what I expected. What surprised me was the way he let his demons rest while he belted out those notes.

Taylor faced struggles while he was alive, but none is evident when you listen to his songs. It's almost like the Taylor, who had issues with drug addiction had died and was resurrected with music.

With sweet ballads chronicling the feelings of falling in love, to emotions that arise through jealousy, the compilation features some of Taylor's best work.

The first track, If You can Find Yourself, oozes inspiration. In the song, Taylor speaks of the search for self-actualisation and boldly declares that if one cannot find themselves, they will become dust on a shelf. Some may interpret the song as the singer giving advice to himself, probably encouraging himself to realise his wrongs and set his life straight.

It is a fitting opener to an album that serves as an exploration of Taylor as a singer, but, most important, as a human being.

The second track, Talking Blues, is a cover of a Bob Marley classic. It is no easy task to redo a song from the legend himself, but Taylor did the song justice. His vocals were on point. His rendition didn't leave Bob Marley turning in his grave.

Flight 1 is the next song on the album. If the title is anything to go by, listeners will be left soaring on that piece of information alone. The song is one of upliftment and pure motivation. The lyrics encourage black people to strive for upward social mobility. At the end of the song, one will be left so inspired that you will want to begin making moves to book your seat on Flight 1.

Love song

The next track, Rainy Sunset, is a follow-up to his most popular hit, Cottage in Negril. It is the first love song on the album and, once again, Negril serves as the setting for romance. His voice is so silky smooth, one is almost mesmerised.

While listening to the song, you can almost picture that which he sings about, having the love of his life near him in his little cottage on the north coast, curled up while the rain pours outside. Borrowing a few words from the song to describe it, the track is a 'splendid vibration'.

Rainy Sunset, reached number three on the New York Reggae charts in October 1994. That accomplishment was testament to the quality of the song.

Track 5, Jealous Kind, is another love song and is self-explanatory. It explores issues that arise in relationships when jealousy rears its ugly head. Must Be an Angel, is the next track. Not that we were growing weary of the slow ballads, but the upbeat tempo oozing from this track was a good break. Listeners will be glad to have a song they can get up and dance to.

Track 7, Concrete Jungle, is another Marley remake and, like the first, Taylor's version was a decent attempt at a Marley classic.

Tracks 8 and 9, Princess Lady and You Got Me, are love songs. Tyrone shows off his vocal ability. Rich in melody, his voice has a sort of hypnotic effect and will leave listeners pleased.

Track 10, Wounds, is a fitting end to a thrilling album. Despite the title, which may allude to hurt and pain, the song leaves you in a good mood. It speaks of issues one may encounter in a relationship, but focuses on good memories created in a union that lasts even after the relationship ends, memories that make you reminisce.

Cedella Marley is executive producer for the album. It was she who had signed Taylor to a three-album deal soon after becoming CEO of Tuff Gong in 1993.

Serving as executive producer, Marley brought in Clive Hunt to produce the album and he pulled together a team of musicians, songwriters and backing vocalists to work with him, including Sly and Robbie, Cat Coore, Wayne Armond, Pam Hall, Dean Fraser and Handel Tucker. Engineering was done by Errol Brown.

Totally Tyrone, is the first in a series of albums from the vast Tuff Gong catalogue of master tapes. Tuff Gong - Masters Vault, will feature re-mastered recordings that have never before been available digitally.

Tyrone Taylor succumbed to prostate cancer in December 2007.


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