I don't know how this happens, as yet another big time and big name artist seemingly 'bites the dust'. Every year, a particular label named Penitentiary manages to steer artists (or their produces) into releasing artists for the label, despite allllll the various warning signs not to. To date, just in my memory, the label has: Most heinously released a rather generic sounding Burning Fire album from Sizzla Kalonji which was a complete waste of time for fans as it contained 14 tracks which had previously been released on various albums (If I recall correctly it was from the Taking Over and Jah Knows Best Albums); of course they identified that problem and 'corrected' it by re-releasing the album a few months later, this time with 3-4 songs never available on any Sizzla album (just to my knowledge) but, again, the majority of the songs were from previous albums as well, and none were of the artist's best talent. Their next take at an album from the same artist, Jah Protect was another fumble, again, most of the tracks appeared on different albums and their most recent effort from Sizzla, Children of Jah was completely useless as it had the same problems as its two elder brothers. Combine that with the fact that they routinely manage to get the absolute worst albums from their various big name artists, hardly ever manage to get decent liner notes (if any at all) besides the tracklist and some lame album description (and ALWAYS attribute the publishing of the entire album to the generic 'copyright control') and generally don't get the tracklist itself right (see Anthony B's atrociously bad lineup for the nice Confused Times album) and you wonder exactly how the land these big names to record for them.
Besides an annual album from Sizzla and Anthony B, Penitentiary regularly releases material from some of Jamaica's top roots talent such as Luciano, Capleton and Junior Kelly and have actually even released a Dennis Brown album (2005's Timeless). Now, they have managed to lure in current big time hitmaker, the sublime Richie Spice and the release of his debut album for the label couldn't be anymore suspect. Besides the fact that its released just 6 weeks after the nice (and legitimate) VP Records debut of Spice, the similarly titled In the Streets to Africa (which actually contains a song named Motherland Calling, which is actually on this album under the title Everything), thus attaching Motherland Africa to the heavily promoted In the Streets to Africa by simply being there. Even on Amazon you can see the two being offered as a pair. Whether intentional or not (although I'm going to assume it was, as even the ultra laid back peace loving Luciano has previously complained on Penitentiary's release schedule), it seems as if the unknown heads at Penitentiary almost plan to use the promotion of one album to do the work for them (and it succeeds!), as the asking the question to a fan 'did you pick up Richie Spice's new album' suddenly becomes a double headed question.
Besides those problems, Motherland Africa also has a couple after you actually get it and open it. Inside in the album in the paragraph and a half long liner notes it says that Motherland Africa is full of brand new hits. . .
The opener on Motherland Africa is a song entitled, How. Any fan of the artist will immediately recognize the song as Blood Again, which was kind of old when it was released on Spice's Spice in Your Life album, originally in 2004. And while, by far, my greatest critique of the In the Streets to Africa album was that it was actually much more of a compilation due to the fact that much of the album had been previously released singles, that album has nothing on Motherland Africa, 100% of it is previously released singles! So, either the label just flat out lied or they just don't know their business very well, and due to the overwhelming amount of material they seem to release, I'm almost certain its the former and not the latter, unfortunately.
But, on top of all of that, what is most frustrating about Motherland Africa (as was the case with Anthony B.'s Confused Times), the album is quite solid. Yes, far much more of a compilation than an actual album, but a decent compilation of material 1-4 years old. It would be very very easy to ignore were it not for that fact (although, in the end, I'm STILL not recommending it). The album even has a flow to it, its a very laid back type of vibes, with a few change-ups here and there, and pretty much everything you've come to expect from the artist in a fine form.
Probably my favorite tune here is the track #12. . .
Let me try to clear up the tracklist for them! Track 12, which is called I Don't Need Your Loving on the album, is actually the bouncy and nice nice Just the Other Day which track 14 is called. Track 14 is probably Friday Face, and the track that is called Friday Face, #4 is actually, Glad I Got You over the Lava Splash riddim, Now Your Mine which is the title given for track #8 which is actually I Don't Need Your Loving which is track 12's given title and I'm back to where I started.
The overall point being, if I can sit here and listen to the track and say what it is, and I have absolutely no vested interest in how the album is presented, you would think someone who is actually spending money on it, might take a listen to it before releasing it. Apparently Penitentiary is run by 5 year olds who just really don't care what goes out of the door with their name on it.
As I was saying, I like track 12 the best, the first time I heard it was on the Toe to Toe Vol.9 album with Spice and Jah Cure, loved it ever since. Also check the aforementioned Everything (Motherland Africa here) on track 7 over the excellent (and now 3 year old) Maroon riddim. I like track 3 as well, Motherland Africa (which is actually Honey in Dem Face, really one of the most lovely tracks I've ever heard from Spice, and a very very nice vibes.
Unfortunately, from a music standpoint you can't fault the artist at all, actually if this album had come forth about a year to 18 months ago (from any other label) I'd probably be reserving a spot for it in the year end's 'Best of' list, instead, I'm far more interested in the series of just curiously bad decisions which led to its birth. In an industry which the top of the top class acts release several albums a year (speaking strictly in the roots arena now) and receive virtually no returns from albums, with pieces like this, it seems to be going back. Look at any cover from any Penitentiary release and it'll be some generic, picture as the case of Sizzla's Children of Jah of Confused Times, or, like Motherland Africa, a picture from an apparent concert, microphone still in hand. This rather archaic and 'bootleg' method of making albums (particularly for the reggae genre which needs all the help we can get) needs to end and unfortunately for the unsuspecting fan the allure of getting the 'new Richie Spice album' may overtake the proper decision.
Overall, were ou to just sit down and listen to this album tune for tune, you would most likely enjoy it. Its a very nicely done compilation of roots reggae music from one the genre's finest practitioners at the height of his respective powers, and how can you really go wrong there? Well, if there is a way to go wrong there Penitentiary has managed to find it. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU CONSIDER PICKING THIS ALBUM UP! NONE! Although it is 'the new Richie Spice album' spending money for such a piece can only mean that he'll have another one just like it next year, save it!