Jah Mason

Princess Gone...The Saga Bed

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There were a handful of Jah Mason albums released before Princess Gone ...The Saga Bed, but none were released by a label as big as VP, an especially big reggae label in 2006 since the company is still benefiting from a Warner Bros. distribution deal, landing their authentic Jamaican music in malls across America and beyond. So for most of the world, Princess Gone might as well be Mason's debut and the singer couldn't ask for a better situation. Previous releases held plenty of promise but felt -- or actually were -- cobbled together in a hurry. Princess Gone is solid, and while a handful of the tracks were previously available as singles, the album flows perfectly. If making an approachable full-length -- one that would reach outside of rootsy reggae's core audience -- wasn't a conscious decision from the start, it's still the outcome. Imagine a Sizzla delivery over Anthony B.-styled music and you've got part of Mason's charm, but he can also croon sweetly and bounce between metaphors and straight documentary lyrics without ever sounding anything but sincere. The tear-jerking "My Princess Gone" is the huge Jamaican and sizable European hit, a Cocoa Tea-styled ballad that shows off Mason's versatile pipes, his singjay skills, and his ability to deliver from the heart. From the rousing anthem "Saga Bed" to the sexy grind of "Real Lioness" and right on through the humble uptempo "So Good," where Mason gleefully praises Jah for all his blessings, the singer stands behind every tune, persuading the listener that this is the best song written about whatever the subject. This accessible album is not without its bitter rebel music. Capleton-worthy tales of fire and ominous predictions are here, but delivered from a much more personal angle than usual. On the urgent "Stop It," Mason declares his love for the country during the serene chorus, but he lives in the modern world and the city always pulls him back in, its horrors represented by verses where the singer sounds as if he's in the devil's grip. "Plan Out" -- a reverb-drenched, bitter call for Babylon's destruction -- is nearly as good, although it's much bleaker and just about as nihilistic as a Rastafarian has ever come across. Any of these tracks on their own would draw attention to the singer, but put together with care they present an effortlessly agile artist able to communicate love, pathos, revolution, spirituality, and even sensuality on equal terms.

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