One half of the production duo Diztroy, Producer Dale ‘Dizzle’ Virgo has worked with the likes of Rihanna, Chronixx, Alborosie, Versi, and Drake. Teaming up with various talents all over Jamaica, he released his 10 track EP “Upful”, worldwide on May 25, through his own label DZL Records. Intent on creating tracks with positive and uplifting messages, Virgo assembled artists such as Jah Vinci, Christopher Martin, Troy Anthony, D.A. Jay and more. Dale Virgo himself dropped some bars on the recording under the ANTOU moniker. When asked the reason for putting out his EP now, his response was, “I wanted to put out a project filled with uplifting messages as the world is dealing with crime and violence, and a lot of negativity in the media. I want my music to make a difference, and not be stuck in a box or chasing the next trend.”
There are albums from Jamaican extraction that are so well written, played, produced, mixed and conceived that it is hard to overlook them when browsing through the history of world music. Albums such as Bunny Wailer’s ‘Blackheart Man’, Burning Spears’s ‘Marcus Garvey’, and Bob Marley and The Wailer’s ‘Catch A Fire’.
One that is cruelly overlooked and certainly deserves the same recognition, is Third World’s ‘96 Degrees In The Shade’, which remains a treasure for many music fans to discover. Unlike many of their contemporaries, Third World infused different genres into their repertoire, allowing their music to cross cultural and genre barriers, sounding timeless to just about any music loving fan.
On first listening to Dale Virgo’s “Upful” EP, I as immediately struck by a similar cross cultural and timeless sound injected into each track. The whole recording is laced with a light and dreamy milieu that encapsulates the listener, whilst its content communicates rather more serious and important issues, as on, for example, “Freedom” (ft. Moses). Many songs have vocal harmonies that would not be out of place on many classic Soul or R&B recordings, while all offer a clear indication of the project’s musicality and tightness.
Another striking feature of this recording is how each track brings a different flavor of the Jamaican scene. And apart from the focused variety in the production choices, the selection of featured artists add a staggering amount of vocal dynamicity to the proceedings.
Each carries their prescribed melody in a unique direction which gives this EP enormous replay value. ANTOU brings an ethereal spoken-word vibe on the trap-infused title track “Upful”, while the second track “Blessings In The Storm” (ft. Troy Anthony) kicks right into an upbeat chugging reggae rhythm which makes your entire body move.
From there on out, it’s really hard to press the stop button on this project. “Don’t’ Stress” (ft. Senita) delivers a resonant baritone on top of a riding riddim, while “Reap What You Sow” (ft. D.A.Jay) showcases a gruff vocal immersed in a slower synth and percussion groove.
A strong stylistic switch occurs on the beautifully hypnotic and soul-infused “Music Alone” (ft. Akeem “Short Boss” Smith). This is a definite highlight in this collection. “Free” (ft Angele Smith) offers yet another stylistic curveball, and another superb vocal performance all wrapped inside a warm organic soundscape. You can mark this one as a highlight too.
By the time I hit play on “Mama” (ft Christopher Martin), I realize that I would need to label each track a highlight from here on out, which makes the label superfluous. The fact is, the entire second half of this EP is simply outstanding in every department – from the vocals to the instrumentation, and without a doubt the marvelous songwriting and arranging.
“Nah Stop Search” (ft. Jah Vinchi) takes us right back to that sweet reggae rhythm with its jangly swing and clockwork bass. And if it’s bass you want, then “Sanctified (ft. D.A.Jay) rumbles with its low subsonic sound.
All of which brings us to the EP closer, the aforementioned “Freedom” (ft. Moses), with its conscious lyrics and heartfelt vocals presenting an emotional listening experience. All-round the EP is infectious, and a total crowdpleaser.
The songs have a nice depth and the arrangements are rich and clever. “Upful” is polished and slick, while featuring essential gritty and dread elements. Dale ‘Dizzle’ Virgo comes off sounding like a virtuoso in his field. This is definitely a recording that should not be missed by music lovers, regardless of genre preference!