Frankie Paul

Tidal Wave

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Before Prince Jammy turned the sound systems on their head with ragga, producer Henry "Junjo" Lawes reigned supreme, with only George Phang briefly threatening his crown. Famously, Phang's success was built on stellar Taxi riddims, provided by Sly Dunbar either in payment for a debt or a political favor, depending which legend one prefers. In any event, Dunbar might have later rued the exchange considering the run of hit singles and popular albums Phang notched up with the riddims in the mid-'80s. DJs and singers flocked to his side to cut numbers over them, including Frankie Paul, fresh from success with the mighty Lawes himself. Having recorded the Pass the Tu-Sheng-Peng album for Lawes in 1984, the next year, Paul linked with Phang for the follow-up, Tidal Wave. The title track broke over the dancehalls just like a tsunami, with a thumping version of the "Bobby Babylon" riddim. And it was the Taxi Gang's hefty, nigh earth-shattering, backings that gave this set their weight, alongside Paul's superb performances. Indeed the singer leaves one in little doubt that for him "Music Is the Staff of Life," and that he is the "King Champion," so self-confident he's willing to take on the government on "Beat Down the Fence," and Babylon itself on "Dem a Go Feel It." Of course, there's plenty of romance to be found here as well, from the pleading "Baby Come Home" to the gorgeous, rocksteady styled "Hold Me." Only 20, Paul already held the future in his hands, for this set and its predecessor cemented his stardom, and garnered considerable attention abroad. Many more fabulous recordings were to follow, but few artists had set the bar so high for themselves so early in their career.

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