ALBUM reviews was one of the things I used to work on for Graphic Showbiz when I started writing for this paper. Back in the late 90s and early 2000s you would have to either buy a cassette or CD or get a demo copy from the artiste or producer/executive producer to do a review.
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Thanks to this beat I listened to a lot of songs from the artistes who were prominent in those days, across genres. Back then the main genres driving Ghanaian music were Highlife, Hiplife and Gospel and those primary were the genres from which songs were made and we reviewed. Obviously, it was before the madly hyped era of Dancehall.
I kid you not, this paper was the authority on music and entertainment and to get your song or album reviewed was a big deal. It also gave an opportunity to sample all the good music (as well as the bad ones) first hand and give an insight into what listeners should expect from their favourite artistes of the time.
Somehow, while the technology evolved and cassettes and CD became anachronistic, when music moved on to digital platforms and we were still finding our feet on which platform was the best to leverage, that part of the work we did took a nose dive. We looked at other areas too, including focusing more on previewing and reviewing radio and television programmes and stations.
However, the lessons from that period remains. Enjoy the music, but listen with a critical ear and that has informed how those of us with that background have always approached singles, EPs and albums released by artistes of succeeding periods.
So as you would have noted from the foregoing, in my time I have listened to many songs and albums of Ghanaian musicians actively and critically for more than two decades and I should say that during this period there have been some great albums from our musicians, both old and young.
During this period Kojo Antwi has released some of the greatest albums and so have Daddy Lumba and his protégé Ofori Amponsah, but the younger artistes like Okyeame Kwame and Obrafour and yet even younger ones like Sarkodie and Shatta Wale have had their own share of banging albums.
Hello, I am just making a point here and I am thus by no means saying these are the only musicians who have released great songs and albums during the last two decades. As they say on social media, “sua nyansa” and don’t interpret this in the shallowest manner possible.
During my long period of observing the scene I have also realised that some works set the artiste apart and either set them on the path to greatness or defines who they are. I mean, what else could Michael Jackson has done better than the career defining Thriller, the sixth studio album he released in 1982?
Now let me cut the long chase and come to the main crux of this write up. As the title of this column suggests, the piece today is about the recently released studio album by Ghanaian Dancehall artiste, Stonebwoy.
Let’s face it, Stonbwoy is one of the Ghanaian artistes who finds a lot of pleasure in putting a lot of effort into his craft and the works he eventually comes out with speak volumes about this dedication to quality work.
He comes across as someone who is very fastidious about how his final works would look and feel and this has been reflected in previous songs and albums and the young artiste has a big body of work to support this claim.
Right from his early days of releasing singles under the High Grade label to releasing his first album, Grade #1 all through his career till the last album, Epistles of Mama, Stonebwoy has shown that he is here for the seriousness and not to play with the craft.
Having followed his career and noted the trajectory of his work, I wasn’t too surprised with the work he did on his 2018 studio album, Epistles of Mama. Nonetheless, I thought that was a career defining album as song after song exuded hard work, creativity and brilliance in composition and performance.
Then I saw the subtle promotion of his latest album a few weeks ago. My simple question to myself was this: but can he top the work he did on Epistles of Mama? Obviously he had to pack a bigger punch to outdo his own work on that album.
Stonebwoy(left) and Keri Hilson who featured on 'Anloga Junction'
Then last Friday came. The promo for Anloga Junction, the title of the album, went into overdrive. All the subtleness was jettisoned as a proper promotional reveal was unfurled and the all social platforms, especially Twitter were awash with tweets, comments and hashtags about the album and some of the singles on it. The trends were dominated by same.
There were the radio and television interviews that Stonebwoy granted on that day as well. At about 3 p.m., I couldn’t stand the pressure anymore so I decided to finally go have a “taste” of Anloga Junction. Let me have a firsthand experience and decide if the quality meets the hype and if in reality, Stonebwoy could beat his own high standards set over the years and topped by Epistles of Mama.
That was how I inserted the Samsung Ear Buds in my ears, picked my phone and went on Deezer, typed Anloga Junction into the search bar and when it showed I clicked on play all and relaxed in my chair to soak the music.
Oh my God! First listen blew me away, literally. However, I wasn’t going to make a judgement based solely on first listening to all these songs so I listened again. This was something dope, something classic, something career defining! If I thought Epistles of Mama was heavy, this was heavier.
My first though after listening was to tweet about it and this was what I though encapsulated my impression of Stonebwoy and his new album: “@stonebwoyb plays with many rhythmic styles on the #AnlogaJuctionAlbum. I don't know exactly what this music genius wanted to achieve, but he has created a beautiful collection of eclectic genres. An awesomely good album it turned out to be and by jove, a music lover's dream!”
With that tweet shared, I could just end this piece here as it captures everything I felt and still feel after listening to the album a lot more times after Friday, but there are few more things I’ll have to say before I leave you to go have a “taste” of Anloga Junction, if you yet have not.
The 15-track album has been eulogised by many who have listened to it. There are only a few people who would listen to Anloga Junction and would have bad vibes about it. It’s an awesome piece of work even though I hesitate to stick my neck out as the album that would define his career, as Stonebwoy is a difficult talent to pin down creatively.
Over the years Stonebwoy has proven that an artiste can work with other artistes to create a good album or song. Over the years the years he has worked with some great artistes and on this album he featured some big names including Kojo Antwi, Keri Hilson, Nasty C and Diamond Platnumz.
That may be the one element that has worked magic for Anloga Junction, besides the creative ingenuity that the owner of the album brought to the table. So go out and get the album and listen, if you have not and still listen more if you have.
As I posted on Facebook last Friday: “Stonebwoy has given us something beautiful in #AnlogaJunction. 15 beautiful songs. I have four favourites though: Track 6. Bow Down ft. Nasty C, Track 8. Nominate ft Keri Hilson, Track 10. Understand ft Alicai Harley, Track 12. Black Madonna ft Diamond Platinumz.”
Which is your favourite song or songs on this epochal album Stonebowy has cooked?