Jamaica Gleaner 2008
A new year, new album, another tour. That's a typical schedule for many entertainers, but for roots-reggae singer Luciano his latest album Jah Is My Navigator may be a fork in the road.
The set was officially released in January by VP Records, almost two years after the same company shipped his previous effort, Child Of a King. During that interval, Luciano changed management and parted with some members of his long-time band.
In a recent interview with The Gleaner, Luciano said he was pleased with Jah Is My Navigator. However, he has one significant grouse.
"I thought the producer (Dean Fraser) brought in too many writers," he said bluntly. "I embrace them, but on the next project fans will see more of me."
Singers Tarrus Riley and Duane Stephenson and guitarist Mitchum 'Khan' Chin contributed songs to Jah Is My Navigator. Fraser produced Riley's popular Parables album and Stephenson's From August Town. Chin has been part of the Luciano camp for some time.
Lion's share of writing
Luciano co-wrote six of the 15 songs on Jah Is My Navigator, a huge contrast to previous albums where he did the lion's share of writing. There are two covers of Peter Tosh's I'm The Tuffest (with Tosh's son Andrew), and Marley's Jah Live.
Stephenson's Darkness and Hard Herbs (co-written with Luciano) are two of the album's strongest moments. Paradise Last (done with Rochelle Bradshaw), an acoustic ballad co-written by Chin, has the potential to win new fans. For I, the opening track, is a solid rocker which hears Luciano extolling his Rastafarian faith.
While peeved that his songwriting took a backseat, Luciano said he is satisfied that Jah Is My Navigator has maintained the standard fans have come to expect from him.
"The songs affirm my message," he said. "I have been strident in that message and I think that is what has sustained me."
Luciano has been pumping out hit songs since 1994 when he released One Way Ticket at the height of a Rasta renaissance in the dancehall. The following year saw the release of the much-touted album Where There Is Life for Island Jamaica Records.
It was a hit machine that contained songs like It's Me Again Jah, Lord Give Me Strength and Good God. Some of his follow-up albums such as Messenger and Sweep Over My Soul have received generally good reviews, but the singer feels some critics and fans are looking for another Where There Is Life.
"They still hold on to those songs, it's a kinda patriotic thing," he said.
Luciano started promotion for Jah Is My Navigator in February, making stops in California and Boston. It was the first jaunt that he made in some time without Copeland Forbes, an experienced tour man who has managed Tosh and Third World. The two had an amicable split, Luciano said.
"I felt the energy he should show for my career was not forthcoming, so I made some changes," he said.
Forbes came into the picture in 1999 after Luciano broke with Phillip 'Fattis' Burrell of Xterminator Records.
The new-look Luciano tour team is preparing for another round of overseas shows starting on March 27 in San Juan Capistrano, California, at The Coach House.