Lion D – All In This Together

by Sep 2, 2022Artist, Reviews

Lion D - All In This Together

Release Info

Label
Bizzarri Records
Format
DR
Street date
July 2022
Contact
Facebook Artist

Tracklist
01. Boomerang
02. Stay Woke feat. Million Stylez & DanJah
03. Earning feat. Capleton
04. No Filter Needed
05. Born A Rebel
06. Strength Of A Champion
07. General feat. Jah Sun
08. Vision
09. Sheep Clothes
10. By The Cover feat. Bobby Hustle
11. Too Cold
12. Jah Is My Keeper
13. Fight And Win feat. Busy Signal
Amongst The Stars: A review of All In This Together by Lion D

Replay? I’d give myself a little credit in terms of being a dedicated fan but, truly, if I’d never started writing about Reggae music, chances are fairly high that I would never have encountered some of the tremendous talents that I have. I know this is likely the case for several reasons, not the smallest being the number of times someone who I know pays a good attention to things telling us how we’d made them aware of a particular artist who, hopefully, they’ll go on to become long time fans of. If that has happened a few times or so during the life of these pages, I’d be happy on that, alone, but… of course also getting to listen to all of this wonderful music has been pretty fun as well. Because of just how spread out Reggae has shockingly become (to go from a regional (and, really, a national-) artform to a global one in the time it has is remarkable) and the fact that it isn’t necessarily ‘mainstream’ on most levels, it can be damn difficult to not only stay current with what is going on locally, but in terms of the entire planet?? Well, that can be pretty impossible. Doing this, however, has forced me to do a ton of research throughout the years and I’ve been fortunate to have come across so many names who’re more than deserving of the greater attention of fans of the genre and, like I said, then make the attempt to pass them on to you wonderful people.

Although I do love the more ‘usual suspects’ and have happily written about their work for decade and will gladly continue to do so, a little bit of fresh blood on the scene is not only vital for the health of the music (because people are fragile and we die after awhile. We need someone else to continue the work!) but it also keeps things from… being boring as hell sometimes! So when I’ve stumbled upon genuine talents on routes which have been outside of the norm, I’ve REALLY enjoyed it and have gone on, in some cases, to remain a passionate fan, myself. EASILY one of the greatest examples of this would be an individual who takes us back a STUNNING thirteen years (no way has it been that long!) to an overstuffed album by the name of The Burnin Melody.

The best way for me to put that album into context is by saying that in a year which included outstanding releases from the likes of Sizzla Kalonji, Tarrus Riley, Queen Ifrica, Buju Banton, Lutan Fyah, Nereus Joseph [Real Rebels Can’t Die, named a Modern Classic] and others, it grabbed me enough late in the year to go onto be named our outright Best Album of 2009! Think about that for just a second: I hadn’t heard of its star, until maybe a few weeks ahead of the album’s release date and it would go onto become my favourite album from that year, again, given the competition at the time; and given his history and his current settings at the time, had I not been tuned in at the time, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that I wouldn’t have ran into the work of its star, one WICKED Lion D, at all.

If I recall and understand it correctly, one of the most remarkable aspects of Lion D’ s unusual rise to prominence is how he picked up Reggae music. He was born in the UK to parents of African and Italian origins, raised in Italy and, at some point during his early adulthood, he just kind of STARTED MAKING REGGAE MUSIC (because why not)! I’m sure you cannot possibly get more simple of a breakdown of Lion D’s bio (again, assuming that I’m accurate), but I can distinctly recall what it was that I heard, way back then, that drew me towards him and, looking back, it makes sense all these [very, very short] years later. Lion D was raw. He wasn’t very refined. He didn’t sound like he had been groomed by some of the finest producers in the world or had spent a lifetime growing up being taught the classics by a parent or anything like that. He sounded like someone who come into it late. HOWEVER, with that being said, for what he may’ve lacked in foundation or musical background, Lion D not only ‘made up for it’, he OVERWHELMED the lack of it with a talent — a natural gift — very rarely seen. Compound that with a clear passion for his music and what we had back then was a blowtorch of an artist putting his abilities on full and vibrant display through the nearly EIGHTY minutes worth of music on The Burnin Melody. For what it was, it was one of the best albums I’ve ever heard and, listening to it now, it’s also managed to age quite well.

And thankfully Lion D didn’t decide to call it a career and retire there. A couple of years on from The Burnin Melody, he came back with a very well done mixtape (coming from someone who never really liked mixtapes) (seeing them less and less in recent years), Reap What You Sow and, in 2013, the full followup, Bring Back The Vibes would come through [“Weh dem fah? A weh dem ah do yah?!”]. Just in case you were wondering (and maybe you were), Bring Back The Vibes would well demonstrate that the promise shown on The Burnin Melody was CLEARLY no fluke. That album, in some respects (and looking back now), had elements which were even stronger. Keeping on his every-other-year pace, Lion D would also return in 2015 with the stellar Heartical Soul and, again, prove himself to be amongst the genre’s most ‘curiously’ gifted practitioners. Heartical Soul (which I should definitely go back and review…. so I probably should save what I’m thinking here) was better than Bring Back The Vibes. It was exceptional and featured some of the finest work Lion D’s entire career to date, in my opinion. In late 2019, Lion D returned with the solid EP, Born In Captivity which, very much, sounded like they were getting things in order. They were working on a few different things to see what stuck and what did not. Now, although he may’ve missed his schedule (shit happens), Lion D returns with a brand new album that I was thinking was in the offering, All In This Together.

Like its three predecessors (as well as Born In Captivity), the new release comes courtesy of Italian imprint, Bizzarri Records. Out of all the European stops which have seemingly caught a severe case of Reggaemylitis, Italy is well included but probably doesn’t get the international recognition as other areas. With that being said, for our purposes, Bizzarri has always represented quite well and the union they’ve formed with their most consistent vocalist has been mightily fruitful, as we’ve examined. Lion D didn’t spend the seven years between Heartical Soul and All In This Together just sitting around and collecting dust and, recently (with the last eighteen months or so I want to say), I’ve not only noticed more new material coming from him but, specifically, more new material from Lion D with Bizzarri Records. That got me excited for what may be on its way and I came to the conclusion that an album was on the way and had it confirmed a few weeks or so ago in the form of a press release and I was DAMN HAPPY!

We took our hiatus and I missed out on writing so much but covering someone who we’ve followed from so early in such a top level, like Lion D, is something that fascinates me endlessly. On top of that…. yeah, it’s a new album from Lion D! History says it will be at least some form of excellent, so my expectations are through the proverbial roof. Furthermore, if he’s the artist that I think he is, I’m somewhat also expecting something different in All In This Together; not necessarily in terms of his style — he is what he is — we have seen full-on disasters occur when people suddenly try to become too far away from the strengths, but I go into the new album thinking that Lion D has the opportunity to give fans something they’ve not really experienced from him to date. He ends up fulfilling on both fronts as the artist quickly demonstrates on the new album that not only is he still exactly who we have known him to be in the past but, these days, he may be someone more as well.

Something that came to my attention while listening to All In This Together, especially during its latter stages, is that it doesn’t seem to have the same type of prevailing EDGE to it that marked much of Lion D’s earlier work. What he may have typically used a crowbar to convey, on this set, the artist opts for a feather and the results, unsurprisingly, are of the same lofty stature. The previous release, Heartical Soul was actually slightly toned back from its predecessors, but this one takes it even a step further which is a nice mix. Of course you’ll find no evidence of that at all on the splendid opener for All In This Together, the most impressive Boomerang. Given its title, I was damn interested in the direction of this one and Lion D THRILLS when Boomerang really gets going.
Life is a test, you know you must prove yourself
And you got to do your best
Know you weak and you soft and ah gwan like you tough
Everyday you claim seh you a di general
While you brag and show-off, nah stop treat people rough-
Bwoy you move like seh you a di clever one
Memba God is in charge
If you take people life, you might soon find yourself inna burial
And it no really matta how fast you run-
JUDGMENT COME AFTER YOU LIKE A PREDATOR!
Lion D deals with the basic ebbs and flows that we all experience in life [“NUFF A WI GROWING OLDER, ONLY FEW GROWING WISE”], but he does it a sparkling way, wrapped up in this package where we must give a MASSIVE credit to hornsmen, Riccardo Gibertini and Zaghi for the musical contribution they make in the scintillating composition carrying this tune. I heard Boomerang and was damn confident that, once again, I was in the presence of something potentially damn special from Lion D and Bizzarri. If I still wasn’t quite sure, however, next they enlist the help of Swedish veterans Million Stylez and Danjah on the lovely ‘awareness anthem’ Stay Woke. This tune actually popped up a couple of years ago now and it’s just as weighty and significant as it was back then. As I alluded to, what I took from this one is the idea of simply KNOWING WHERE YOU ARE and knowing who you around around. It isn’t a call for paranoia, but just a matter of identifying and retaining a most basic sense of self. I ended up taking this one in several directions as far as education and CONFIDENCE as well which, at least for me, are all parts of knowing who are and where you stand.
Throughout his career, Lion D has been very fortunate to have worked alongside some very talented and well known artists. Prior to All In This Together, he had voiced songs with the likes of Lutan Fyah (big new tune, Settle Down with Luciano, out now. Check it out), Mr. Vegas, Gappy Ranks, Ken Boothe, King Kong and others. The new album not only sees that trend continue, but he probably tops EVERYTHING he’s thus far. Along with Million Stylez and Danjah, there’s a teeny, tiny little tune here by the name of Warning featuring the legendary Capleton. If you want to get the message across and create a spark, what do you do? Well you call upon a looooooooooongtime pyro-master like The Prophet and, in doing so, produce a bona fide masterpiece such as Warning.
Yow wi get straight to di point, wi nuh dilly-dally
And wi com fi spread di message outernationally
Now di Prophet and di Lion gi dem heartically
No fraid fi tell babylon seh dem system folly
Nuh waan nuh coke inna mi cup, inna mi coffee-cally
And mi tell babylon seh dem fi stop di folly
Well a fyah man ah bun, yuh get it Africa-lly
And mi seh mi bun out babylon practically!
BOOM! I told you All In This Together was a bit more finesse than much of Lion D’s previous work, but don’t worry about that with Warning and enjoy it for the scalding masterpiece that it is. The final selection on the album, Fight and Win, is another big combination, this one done with the always interesting and unpredictable Busy Signal. In clear contrast to Warning, this one is definitely on the softer side, but that’s not a problem at all for these two. Though larely a fairly straight forward social commentary, Fight and Win does offer up a few surprises, not the least of which being Busy’s downright DAMAGING mid-tune verse [“Wi fighting di struggle like Marcus Garvey. Haffi read di books pon di Black Histroy. Praying fi a brighta day pon mi bended knee – cause one day wi haffi free”]. You’ve heard dozens of similarly vibed pieces, but I will ‘warn’ you to REALLY tune in here because you’ll quickly not only miss some brilliance, but you’ll also likely come away underrating this big drop.
There’s also the GORGEOUS General with Jah Sun [“NO BONES! NO BLOOD INNA WI KITCHENNNNNNN!”]. This isn’t the first time these two have linked musically — having previously worked together on the well solid Resistance from a few years back — but I would argue that the HEAVY General is an even stronger tune. Both Lion D and Jah Sun do indeed shine, but I’m going to have to pay a respect to Bizzarri for supplying that gorgeous riddim behind them. That thing is FLAMING and, if they have not already, I would DEFINITELY love to hear this one spread around to more vocalists. It is such a beautiful composition (check the beginning in particular. When you hear it, it makes it sound as if something of great importance is about to occur. That is accurate).
The US based Bobby Hustle gets in on All In This Together via the another very nice offering, the pensive By The Cover. Interestingly, the very first time (that I can tell) that these two vibed together, Roll With The Punches struck in on a similar vibes (and you’ll find that one credited to the Lion’s alias David Lion) in terms of the sound. In this case, By The Cover looks at the fact that human beings can be (and usually are) very complex creatures. Virtually NO ONE is exactly who they seem to be, even if you really know them quite well. I also like how its mentioned (especially by Hustle [“My experience is mines, alone”] how we tend to be products of our experiences and what we go through in life which is, OBVIOUSLY, unique to each and every individual. I don’t know if it will receive that level of acclaim but, honestly, By The Cover — which goes all kinds of interesting, musically, as it progresses; particularly during that final minute or so — is probably one of the best songs on this entire album. I will also mention Sheep Clothes here which features the Livity Band (which also guests, officially, on both General and Warning). This song, an excellent one, sort of echoes the theme behind By The Cover in many ways, with more of a focus on being sure to mind who is around you (and trying to be around you).
Gotta watch who you keep close
Cause some a wolf inna sheep clothes
Badmind and envious woulda walk inna mi shoes
Mi sight it from afar
Gotta watch who you keep close
Cause some a wolf inna sheep clothes
Badmind and envious woulda walk inna mi shoes
Mi sight it from afar

Jah Jah guide mi from my enemies, but mi haffi pree di one weh act friend
Dem seh dem a family, but mi know dem just pretending
Some ah smile wid mi, act nice to wi face-
But underneath dem ah envy
BUT THROUGH DI MOST HIGH SENT MI-
DEM CANNOT BREAK NOR BEND MI
It is good to be kind and gentle
But be a fool who you allow inna yuh circle
Cah more time you ah trust people, nuff a dem let you down and hurt you

Lion D completes his commentary with about a minute remaining in the song and he delightfully hands it off to the Livity Band to allow that SWEET riddim to play on. In every aspect, Sheep Clothes is extremely well done and one of the best moments on All In This Together.
The song just ahead of Sheep Clothes, Vision, is a potential sleeper’ of a hit for me. It’s very attractive sonically, registering in on a very nice and more laxed vibe and the Lion sinks his claws into it with another effort on personal awareness. Vision also has a wider-reaching social aspect to it [“Saw dem through mi third eye vision. Why do you fight a next man faith and religion?”], seemingly suggesting that, should we all become more aware, continuously, it would help to bridge all sorts of gaps and bring people closer together. And speaking of songs more on the calm and composed side, also check Too Cold, the album’s love[ish] song. Though not a favourite of mine on All In This Together, this one is well solid and excels musically (with another fine display by Gibertini and Zaghi, as well as backing singers, The Living Harmonies, Empress Elissa and Blacky Grace who serve that role splendidly throughout); a fact crystallized during the second half of the tune where it, basically, ascends into a gorgeous Dub/instrumental.
I’m also going to mention the excellent social commentary No Filter Needed in this line as also comes through on a more dialed back frequency which is also quite nice {note: I try to group the tunes together in some type of way apart from just where they are on the album because I often find myself going through them and having one remind me of another, which is exactly what just happened with No Filter Needed in respect to Too Cold. Two tunes not related in terms of direction at all, but the sound is in the same arena at least}. This one is definitely amongst the very best you’ll find here, particularly with it being one of the strongest lyrical displays you’ll find on All In This Together [“Mankind full of too much grudge and prejudice. We’re just one step from the edge of the precipice”]. Musically, this one reminds me of something that I cannot quite come up with — there’s this infectious, almost glowing BOUNCE to it that brings something to my mind, maybe something from Oneness Records — but whatever you’d like to call it, it’s also lovely on that front.

Things may go even higher courtesy of the dynamic Born A Rebel, following No Filter Needed. This one is actually quite clever to my ears (though I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t ultimately get credit for being so) as what it does, essentially, is to tell us all why, exactly, we know who Lion D is. The piece is almost autobiographical in telling us how he came into the music.

Just because I was born a rebel
Music mi use and put food pon mi table
Say again, I was born a rebel
Mi spread Jah love around and conquer evil
Say again, I was born a rebel
When mi walk past wicked heart, dem ah tremble
I was born a rebel
I was born a rebel

I smoke di herbs, I do it frequently
NOT ANYONE CAN VIBE PON MI FREQUENCY
I’D RATHER BE ALONE THAN IN BAD COMPANY-
CAUSE I DON’T WANT NO ONE TO STEAL MY ENERGY
I’M NOT A MONEY-MAN, LOVE IS MY CURRENCY
I PREFER PLANT A SEED AND WAIT PATIENTLY
If this world have no sense of decency-
I WON’T FOLLOW TREND
I MOVE DIFFERENTLY

BOOM! What came to me from Born A Rebel was that Lion D found himself in a position where he had things to say, something that he wanted to get off his chest and he chose the medium of music to let it go. As he goes forth (and he’s already done to date, clearly), we’re all better off because of that (the entire genre of Reggae music is better off because of that choice). Born A Rebel is outstanding and one of his finest pieces of work to date in my opinion, period!

Charged with [and succeeding at] keeping the vibes high is the sublime and easing (you listen to it, you’ll know precisely what I mean by “easing”) Strength Of A Champion. As kind of a complex praising selection, I must say that Strength Of A Champion does actually represent one of the very few missteps made on All In This Together as, by some sixteen seconds, it is the shortest tune present and it feels like it. They could have tacked another minute or so onto it (even if it were just instrumentals) and I would have felt better about it. Judging it by what it is, Strength Of A Champion is delightful as Lion D gives a big thanks to The Almighty for providing everything we need to strive in the world and, particularly, maintaining the course doing life’s most challenging times [“Fi mi, life neva sweet like cherry. Nah stop fight til mi dead and buried”].

Finally, though I rarely do this (I don’t know why I rarely do it, but I do), I have saved the best for last from the album. The single strongest tune here (not by a lot, though) is the all kinds of gorgeous Jah Is My Keeper. It isn’t alone in this on All In This Together, AT ALL, but the first thing that comes to mind here is that Jah Is My Keeper MAKES ME FEEL REALLY, REALLY GOOD! Given the direction of the sound as well as its sound, I would presume that Lion D and Bizzarri had that idea in mind especially for this tune (and if you are trying to get just about any message across, your audience is likely to be far more receptive if you do something for their senses as well, obviously). It says something, at least in my opinion, to the fullness of the EXPERIENCE of Jah Is My Keeper that this song is six minutes and twelve seconds long! They REALLY seem to have been under the impression that they had something special here…. and they were correct. Very occasionally I hear a tune that kind puts me into the vibes that what I’m hearing is, essentially, a live display of the music: Meaning that if I were to physically be in the area while it was being played, what I heard and FELT would not be much different than listening to the record. That happens for me with Jah Is My Keeper. Lion D registers a MAMMOTH praising tune in providing his latest release with its signature moment.
Overall, if you have not figured it out yet (I command you to go back to the beginning and read all this shit again!), I really, REALLY like All In This Together. I think I’ll refrain from attempting to rank it within the Lion’s catalogue — because I don’t feel like figuring it out — but what I will tell you is that, at the very least, what he has done here is to provide a contender for the best album of another year. This thing is excellent! As I said, the new aspect that I hear more prevalent here in contrast to his previous work, is that All In This Together comes through just a bit softer more consistently.

Having now analyzed it for the point of this review, I’m also going to say that, when it does go to the harsher side, it does so, PERHAPS, in a smoother way. As a whole, this album feels less rough around the proverbial edges than what I’m used to hearing from Lion D. Maybe that was by design or maybe the artist and Bizzarri Records just began making music and this is what came out of it. The set of circumstances behind its creation notwithstanding, All In This Together is spectacular. Whatever they were trying to do – it worked! While it lacks the surprise factor that he gave us thirteen years ago, Lion D effortlessly gives us heaps of something else to replace it: A level of consistency placing him in VERY select company.

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