Brain Damage meets Big Youth ‘Beyond the Blue’ LP/CD (Jarring Effects) 5/5

Every release has a story to tell about those precious moments, behind the scenes, relating to the production process. We cherish those times as creators, they are the kinds of things that bind musicians together. There is nothing more precious in life than life itself.

The story behind ‘Beyond The Blue’, a collaboration between Big Youth, the Jamaican MC Legend and Brain Damage out of France, is both incredible and very sad at the same time. In March 2020 Producer Martin Nathan and his longtime friend Samuel Clayton Jr, went to Jamaica for a collaboration with foundation artist Big Youth. The context of a first and unprecedented world lockdown only left them very little time to record the takes with the famous DJ, before they both contracted the COVID-19 virus. Martin Nathan was lucky enough to be able to get back to France, although he had to remain confined and to take care of himself alone in his studio for five weeks upon his return. Samuel Clayton Jr, however, sadly, did not come back, struck down by the disease in Kingston, Jamaica. Therefore, this release is livicated in his memory, featuring snippets and samples of the producer and sound engineer on the deck.

Big Youth is in supreme shape on this his first full release for some time. Let’s face it, a scream is enough from this man on the mic to send me reminiscing back to 1975. Musically it is a perfect home for the elder’s vocal timbre and inventiveness, with a musical overhaul from Martin Nathan integrating diverse influences, like jazz, blues, ska, rock-steady. It fits perfectly for Big Youth, who let’s face it has been doing what people considered pioneering/outrageous since that far out there version of ‘Touch Me In The Morning’. The set starts with a deep meditative revisitation to ‘I Pray Thee’ exuding spoken word jazz of the highest chamber. ‘Wareika Hill’ has a natural spirituality. Originally by The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari an ensemble that featured Bro. Sam Clayton, Cedric “Im” Brooks, Delroy Putus Williams, Jah Bop, Oswald Williams, Ronald “Nambo” Robinson, Sam Williams and Samuel Clayton Jr. The chanting and spiritual guidance of this version with Jah Youth on the mic takes you there, to that communal place, where Rastas gathered. ‘There is a Jammin’, in Rockfort tonight… a place where you have to have skill… a Jammin in Wareika Hill’. Those lines sum up MCing in a nutshell. I could listen to Big Youth endlessly, reasoning and making sense of this still senseless world we live in. He can articulate history in a few stanzas, elaborate on the injustice of the system better than a thousand speeches by politicians. This is the gift Big Youth has had for decades. May he reign supreme on the mic for many more years to come. Big respect to Martin Nathan for producing the release of 2021 for me. I know it is only mid-May but I cannot see anything else this year coming anywhere near this for a sense of spirit, integrity, and completeness.

Haji Mike