In-Form: A review of Bread & Butter by Anthony B
Bread & Butter, on Ineffable Records, is Anthony B’s very first album since 2020’s King In My Castle (which, for some reason, I sometimes remember as being not very good, but I think that’s because I always got it confused with another album which I did not like very much, due to a similar cover) (biggup Spragga Benz).At just about three years old now, King in My Castle has aged very well with standouts such as the HUGE Liberator, the title track, Great China Wall and Dubbing Tonight still ranking quite highly.
As for Ineffable Records, if you’ve been paying attention over the past couple of years or so, you have surely encountered their name quite a bit in pushing a variety of different works. I believe that the first time that I ran into them would have been a ridiculous two years (does not seem that long), when they did Turbulence’s most recent album, The Remedy (which Anthony B featured on), along with the same Neva Stop Booking who also works on Bread & Butter as well. Ineffable Records has done tons of things recently including some Soca, work from the Green Lion Crew, Collie Buddz. as well as both Melody and Red Reign, the most recent studio efforts from both Konshens and Demarco in 2021, respectively. So Ineffable Records have checked all of the proverbial boxes as a distributor – they know what they’re doing. That being said and no disrespect, however, but apart from something maybe ‘mainstream oriented’ (maybe), I do not know the label which could have diminished my excitement to get to hear a new album from Anthony B and, by its end, Bread & Butter proves to be precisely what I expected and what I wanted. Let’s talk about it!
Before we get into what you’re going to hear on Bread & Butter, let’s talk about what you see. I do not know the artiste of note here but, as I have said in the past, I do so enjoy when people draw artists and this is just a really cool cover. Of particular interest would be the logo for the aforementioned Born Fire Music, as well as the subtle but lovely tribute to the immortal Lee “Scratch” Perry. That cover is excellent and if I neither knew or gave a damn about who Anthony B was, it would grab my interest.
If I were then to go on and actually take a listen to the music, I’d also be impressed, but it would take a minute. Following the solid title track/intro is the very first tune on Bread & Butter and one which is sure to grab attention, Save Humanity alongside the captain of the Big Ship, Freddie McGregor. Unbeknownst to all of us (or at least to me, maybe you knew), much like the last album I reviewed — Queen Omega’s Freedom Legacy — before this album had been officially announced, they had been poured out a few singles and the House Of Riddim guided Save Humanity was one of them and, despite everything I just told you about Anthony B and the link… I do not like this song! It isn’t horrible, but it has this… almost overly somber lick to it and it just does not work for me with its kind of choir-ish vibe. It also doesn’t do much lyrically and never truly gets going for me, but I’m going to assume that I’m likely in the minority on that one.
Moving on, the real fun on Bread & Butter truly gets baking on its second full tune, the lovely Music Free My Soul. Again, you look at that title and you may be expecting something not entirely dissimilar from what we got with the opener, but that isn’t what happens here, Music Free My Soul is just a good time!
This music teach me to be calm and humble-
Cuz nuff people ah fall and stumble
So I got no time to sit down and ah grumble
Man haffi roar like di lion inna jungle
Music mek mi si life form a different angle
Mek mi mind get strong like Smaosn
Light it up like a Christmas candle
Sing it loud like di Banner, Star Spangled
It will not change lives anywhere, won’t even come close, but Music Free My Soul is a JOY to listen to.
Next up is another pre-album single, Chill Out. Coming through on the Cali Roots Riddim created by the aforementioned Cali Buddz [“So I can’t say another word. From I get the high grade from Cali Buddz. Every time I smoke, it travel through mi blood. Mek mi si more stars than up a Hollywood”], Chill Out, this one actually has a similar vibe to the tune which it traces on the album, making for one sublimely unexpected tribute to Reggae near the head of the release courtesy of a pair of its finest tracks and I have to mention how lovely the end of Chill Out is with its very brief, yet all kinds of delightful, moment of Dub.
Another recognizable drop, the HEAVY Weed Baby, is up and though it certainly sends us in another direction, the quality levels are not dipping in the slightest. This tune kind of got me into thinking more of specifics in that, we may not slot him in the same way that we do several of his other also very gifted peers, but you do not stick around in the way he has and have the impact that he has without having something to say and Anthony B is an incredible lyricist. He says small things during Weed Baby that come off SO effortlessly and organically that one would think it almost a remix of an older piece (and maybe he did write it years before we heard it, but there is a certain amount of comfort within Weed Baby which you do not expect on such a ‘chaotic’ sample.
Just as they did in the case of the first, House Of Riddim also helms the second combination from Bread & Butter, Everybody, featuring the great Busy Signal. The tune, somewhat surprisingly, has a not too different vibe from Save Humanity, but where Save Humanity is kind of slow and dragging at times, Everybody is bright. There’s a certain level of pleasantness within this unity driven track that is damn difficult not to like, even if you may not love it (you’re going to be singing along with it fairly soon – watch).
The middle of Bread & Butter really illustrates its diversity as the material you’ll find there is… all across the board. A strong example of that would be the fascinating [very] recent single Beautiful And Sexy which, at least to my ears (and probably only mine, but who cares), almost sounds like a Zouk song on the slightly more intense side. Beautiful And Sexy isn’t the strongest on any level (its chorus may just rank as the weakest on the album), but it has a quality and a hard-to-shakeness to it which made me see it as not a problem at all. Songs like it do have their place, particularly on albums, and it serves its purpose and not woefully.
Stronger and oddly subtle is Hot Spot that rolls through just ahead of Beautiful And Sexy. Should you just give it a cursory and casual listen, you’re probably going to miss something from Hot Spot and just style it as kind of a ‘party song’, I would imagine; but even a little digging beneath the surface will change that immediately. Though he speaks about some of the more flashy things in life and possessions, Anthony B is saying that you’ve worked hard to reach those things and:
You no haffi do nobody nothing fi dem no like you
And ah hate up
And ah fight you
There’re those amongst us who are hateful and jealous and blindly spiteful of people who have anything that they want and do not have. Despite its title and its fun sound, Hot Spot is a song whose message is pertinent as reaching often comes with an unexpected and strange burden as well.
S-Class Beats supplies the sonics for the relationship focused Heaven In Your Eyes (biggup Gappy Ranks) and.. whatever you call its genre (maybe R&B) (and also biggup the fine backing singer/s here as well. She/they do a fine job). There’s an infectious pounding in the riddim making it nice for my ears and what lies atop it, while not a highlight, is pretty decent actually.
Chronic Law joins in for Stand Firm and although this is another selection with a much different type of vibes to it, the duo manage to produce a more than memorable set founded on the idea of maintaining oneself and ones morals during tough times (you know right from wrong and you know it all the time). There is also a nice sense of a more broad form of motivation [“Never give up. Never lose faith, Jah Jah deh yah fi you”] which actually helps to bring the more specific themes full-circle (I am not only speaking to you, I’m talking to everyone who can hear me).
The absolute gem from the middle of Bread & Butter and one the biggest winners you’ll find anywhere here is definitely the Massive B produced Back To Normal from a couple of years back. This isn’t necessarily that triumphant winning moment celebrating any post-pandemic jubilation, this was right in the middle of that forlorn quarantined, socially-distanced type of mood and, apparently, like many people Anthony B was struggling and longing for a return of normalcy (you know, what Soca was for like two seasons). I kind of love this song, I admit. Its wrapped up in this very cool and glowing kind of vibes and it isn’t dramatic for the most part so you don’t get the feeling that the artist is on the brink of losing his mind, but is just reached the point where he’s thinking that enough is enough. Clearly times have changed for the most part these days and it’s just as apparent that he is making the most of it.
Lock down, mi nah si mi girl long time
Wi only talk pon Facetime
Every night, every day it time-
Long fi mi handtouch up her waistline
Heart it ah pain, caan find Panadol
Imagine toothache and caan find Cafenol
And everywhere wi turn is a next funeral
So I don’t care about teeth and tongue
I waan party and wheel and tun
Hol on pon mi woman like cheese and bun
NAH LET GO UNTIL JESUS COME
So mek mi tell you this mankind:
Memba blind caan lead blind
Mi tell you more than one time:
NOBODY CAN STOP DI SUNSHINE
The final lot of tracks from Bread & Butter actually carries what I consider to be its finest effort altogether as well as other very nice bites to round things out. Actually bookending the project is a pair of very solid combination tracks in Irie Love and Revolution; the former finds Robbyn Goode joining in while a stacked lineup adorns the latter as Lina Mulan comes along with both Bramma and Zamunda. Technically Revolution also brings in the legendary Dennis Emmanuel Brown as it’s a reworking of his classic of the same name and, as you might suspect, it is absolutely golden! The super-voiced Zamunda handles what would have been Brown’s portions in the original and when you add the other three — two of whom, Anthony B and Bramma, are well long proven talents, while Mulan also impresses greatly — you have some serious results as the quartet comes together to make their case that it is long time that things began to change.
Irie Love also sounds quite familiar as it seems to check in, at least partially, on a cut of a classic riddim and… I have to admit, I enjoy it even more than Revolution. You’ve heard sets like this one before as well: The girl meets someone and finds out she has ‘a thing’ for the Rastaman but this one is just adorable! It’s such a cool vibes with just a touch of spice to it that makes it work perfectly and the vocal link between Anthony B and Goode works perfectly. She has a certain ‘crispness’ [???] to her voice that I find hypnotic and if you have not heard her music before or have not heard much of it, now would probably be a very good time to become acquainted with one Robbyn Goode.
Fresh single, and another House Of Riddim production, Into The Dark also appears on Bread & Butter, unsurprisingly and there’s nothing wrong with that. I do not love this song, which is a a lover’s piece but, to its credit, its almost Country tinged chorus does have something to it which will ensure that it stays with you (perhaps even annoyingly) well after you’ve moved on to the next track…. Mankind Evil for the increasingly crucial Train Line Records.
The sound of Mankind Evil is a little odd because if you listen to what the chanter says, it’s pretty much a basic, straight-forward tune that you would hear regularly in Reggae and Anthony B has probably well made dozens of similarly situated songs, but it has almost a Hip-Hop sound to it which works very well in its case. I appreciated the ‘mature’ shift in vibes because you will not pick up on that if your antennae are not functioning properly.
Finally, I have saved the best for last (wasn’t by design, just kind of worked out like that) because although you will hear more pleasing pieces on this album and probably a few of them, you will not hear anywhere else here how Anthony B absolutely ruins a riddim as he does on the Mint Records sponsored Drop A Bomb. That riddim is decent, actually. It’s pretty basic and light, but it has kind of a spiraling sound to it which makes it stand out, but it does not stand a chance!
So it’s time to open a better door
Mi no waan fi si mi woman dem ah turn no whore
So politics, promises:
Wi no waan no more
Cah wi know things can be better than before
Because they’ve got no love for you, no way they got no love for mi
THEY DON’T LOVE DI EARTH, SO THEY DON’T PROVE TO LOVE NOBODY
There’s a message in my music, listen now, vocally
THEY DON’T WANT TO SI US LOVING EACH OTEHR SOCIALLY
TOTAL MIND-CONTROL OF YOUR SOUL, DEM WAAN GLOBALLY
SO RASTA NEVER STOP BUN DI FYAH
WI SEH “NO DADDY”
NAH FEAR NOBODY
CUZ THESE POLITICIANS ONLY LOVE MONEY
That part hits a point (right at “TOTAL MIND-CONTROL”) where it ascends and though he never really sounds mad, there is a whole heap of contempt and…. concern in Anthony B’s voice throughout this gem of a tune – the single greatest on this album in my opinion.
Overall, while I’ll likely best remember Bread & Butter as a sort of ‘means to an end’ (what happened when during one of those times when Anthony B was breathing fire all over everything he touched and needed to release something), it’s still a very good release regardless of what type of context it exists in for you, personally. Take away the entire backstory (that’s no fun!) and what you have is a set that is pretty diverse musically, but not so much that it runs any type of risk in alienating the vast majority of Anthony B’s fans – Reggae fans. Furthermore, if you do actually choose to look at it in the way that I do, Bread & Butter just…. makes sense! It appears to be in the process of garnering quite a bit of attention and, again, for the work that the man has been doing as of late, I hope that it turns out to be successful in the widest way possible. Bread & Butter and all the vast majority of his recent work demonstrates that, just in case you were wondering, Anthony B –after all these years — is more than capable of doing the amazing, as he continues to torch in 2023.