SUPA RANKS & HIS ROCK STONE HIGH POWER – The 4:20 Sessions, vol. 1
(2005 Surround Studios)
Reggae music is far more diverse than most casual listeners realize. While the positive vibrations of Bob Marley are responsible for introducing this country to the sound of reggae, it was tunes by Shabba Ranks, Yellowman and the original DJ flavor of King Tubby that fueled dancefloors throughout Caribbean and Latin American cultures. This “dancehall” sound, big, bombastic, and breathing with a subtle dub vibe, is the one that influences the performances and songwriting of Supa Ranks and his Rock Stone High Power.
This inaugural album opens big and builds its strength throughout, moving from the classic positivity of “Glorify” to the raspy and gritty “Young Youth” to the intricate rhythmic assault of “Pretty Girl,” finishing with the classic dancehall of “Want Di Gal Dem,” the closing track of this ambitious album. With disparate stylistic elements emerging in both the songwriting and the performances, many tracks on this disc stand out as unique contributions to a sonically emotive and disarmingly fresh take on classic reggae flavor.
The Costa Rican-born Supa Ranks melds a solid rhythmic control with a rough-hewn texture, creating a charismatic center to the band’s innovative beats and superb production. His voice swells and soars when he opens up and sings before bringing his toasts back down to the dancehall floor. The personality of this band results from Ranks’ style and substance, as they drive each tune deeper into untapped territory.
While Ranks’ vocals stream effortlessly and intoxicatingly, the band is supplying a dynamic, psychedelic foundation. Guitarist and production guru Fred “Wiz” Mosely delivers a hypnotic and heady mix of subdued flavor and ripping riffs. The keyboards that weave their way through the mix, also supplied by Mosley along with Ranks, add the spice that keeps things fresh.
But in true reggae style, it’s the rhythm section that provides the motion and flow from one tune to the next. Mikey “the Yid” Pollay furnishes those bass tones that rip into your speakers with a precision and presence that keeps even the beefiest subwoofers straining under the force of his tone. Drummer Peter “Ras Kikit” Johnston, of Natty Nation fame, is just plain sick, digging into the slick breaks and delivering his cadenced constructions in perfect union with Pollay’s omnipresent sub-bass sound. The resulting conglomeration of tone and texture offer a perfect framework against which Mosley’s and Ranks’ lead lines can explode with ferocious feeling and gritty charm.
With the addition of the Crest and Mr. Dubwise, who bring the soulful, urban edge to a few tunes on this disc, the production is fantastic. The bass hums, the vocals settle into the mix with conviction, and the tones weave into a trippy, stoney concoction of powerful dub-flavored reggae. Each track contributes to the exhilarating, addictive whole, resulting in one of the most exciting reggae discs to come out of the Midwest in a decade. And by the time you’ve had a chance to devour this first disc from this hot new band, the second volume should be hitting a store and stage near you.