Tanya Stephen's new Rebelution album is actually a double, as a DVD accompanies the 20-track audio CD. Having been dazzled by the lyricism, range of issues, brashness and openness of thought on the CD, I turned to the DVD with high expectations.
And I was not disappointed.
Apart from the 'It's a Pity' video, I don't think I have ever seen Tanya Stephens without glasses, as she is throughout Stripped Down, and I have never seen producer Barry O'Hare, whose work I have admired - from Burning Spear's Calling Rastafari and Daweh Congo's Militancy (1999) - before, so it was a double visual treat.
There is, of course, much more of Stephens than O'Hare, on Stripped Down. She not only delivers mainly songs from Rebelution and a couple from Gangster Blues to the music of guitarist Rick Sabo and guitarist Delroy Golding, but also speaks about herself and gives the background to some of the songs.
And that exposed face, as well
as her hands and body language,
coupled with a voice which goes high and nearly plaintive on "yu already have a wife" from It's a Pity say
so much more than the already
excellent album versions.
So while she starts out with hands double clasped on the knee of one leg, which is crossed over the other, by the closing These Streets, a clenched fist and pistonlike left arm rams home the lines "I woulda love it if you treat me like club/stay up inna me whole night just a bump 'n' grind and rub". The fingers of that same hand clench as she comes To the Rescue with "the man dem willing fi spend any amount a cash/fi get a quieter mouth and a tighter punash".
Gripping stuff indeed.
Then there are certain lines that just leap at you in this acoustic delivery, such as when she dismisses a man who is trying to 'come again' as Spilt Milk, saying "if you never spilled then you woulda gone sour anyway". And
all throughout there is that oh so expressive face, eyebrows arching, eyes rolling, a smile, a grimace, an introspective look coming where appropriate. Mostly smiles, though.
With a brief look into her childhood, start in music and highly competitive spirit to go with the songs, Stripped Down is a very good look and listen.
- Mel Cooke
Tanya Stephens performs at Reggae Sunsplash 2006. - Ian Allen/Staff Photographer
1. I Am Woman
2. Can't Breathe
3. It's a Pity
4. To the Rescue
5. Damn You
6. Cherry Brandy
7. Spilt Milk
8. Do You Still Care
9. These Streets