Thursday, 30 March 2017

ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Chris Martin’s melodic debut Big Deal showcases his growth and maturity

STRONG SUIT: Martin delivers his signature blend of soulful reggae, lovers’ rock and R&B influences.

IT’S been 12 years since he burst onto the music scene, in the wake of topping the Digicel Rising Stars competition, and Christopher Martin continues to stake his claim as one of the industry’s most eligible singer-songwriters vying for Beres Hammond’s crown. In the intervening years, he’s built a highly commendable body of work that has earned him the respect of his peers and industry insiders. Now, he’s released his major-label debut album, Big Deal (VP Records), to solidify his place in the upper echelons of contemporary reggae-soul.

Packed with 15 tracks (and a digital bonus addition), Big Deal celebrates the Chris Martin fans have come to know and love. The multi-faceted crooner with the sweet treble and clean-cut image who can bring the party anthems (the bouncy “Steppin’”, on which Busy Signal makes a memorable cameo), the relationship drama with a dose of sly humour (chart-topper “Cheater’s Prayer”) and universally resonant tunes that speak to humanity and social consciousness, such as “One Life” (featuring Tanto Blacks), on which he hastens to remind us that “life ah the greatest asset.” All steeped in a rich blend of soulful reggae, lovers’ rock and R&B.

But, as his track record has proven, Martin is at his absolute best while crooning about finding love, losing it and wanting it back. Witness the sultry between-the-sheets smash “Magic,” on which he promises her a night she’ll never forget; “Under the Influence,” a sexy bedroom knocker on which “the lovin’ tun up”, and the Destiny Moriah-assisted “Long Distance Lover,” where he interrogates the meaning of true love, among other things.

Other highlights include the Spanish-inflected “My Love,” on which he woos a gorgeous mamacita, “Pirate of the Caribbean” (another ladies-only anthem), the sympathy-laden “Blind Girl” and “Lady of the Night,” about those bad chicks who “belong to the city.” 

While selections like “Distance” and “Easy Like Sunday Morning” are not as stirring as the rest, you’ll find yourself pressing repeat for smooth numbers like “Hide Away” and “Better than the Stars,” an appealing lover’s rock entry. Meanwhile, the infectiously energetic title track gives the album a sturdy opening. 

Overall, Big Deal (a winning blend of moods, messages and melodic charms) finds Martin in great shape vocally and lyrically, backed by sterling production work. A Grammy nod in December would be the icing on this tuneful cake, which vibrantly showcases a talented 30-year-old (and KFC brand ambassador!) reveling in his artistic growth and giving us the songs to share in the experience. Tyrone’s Verdict: A- 

BEST TRACKS: “Magic”, “Better than the Stars,” “I’m a Big Deal” and “Steppin’”

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