Review: Radio Riddler – Purple Reggae

Review: Radio Riddler – Purple Reggae

Radio Riddler – Purple Reggae
Track Listing:
1.) Let’s Go Crazy (feat. Suggs)
2.) Take Me With U (feat. Deborah Bonham)
3.) The Beautiful Ones (feat. Hollie Cook & Frank Benbini)
4.) Computer Blue (feat. Naim Cortazzi)
5.) Darling Nikki (feat. Frank Benbini)
6.) When Doves Cry (feat. Citizen Cope)
7.) I Would Die 4 U (feat. Sinead O’Connor)
8.) Baby I’m A Star (feat. Beverly Knight)
9.) Purple Rain (feat. Ali Campbell)

The Pier Album Rating:

Release Date: October 28th, 2014
Record Label: MITA Records
Official Website: Radio Riddler Soundcloud

Artist Background:
Radio Riddler is Brian Fast Leiser and Frank Benbini from Fun Lovin’ Criminals. They are lovers of Reggae/Dub music. They began their musical journey by remixing many artists in a unique Reggae/Dub style. Purple Reggae is their debut full length album and is 5 years in the making. Purple Reggae is a Reggae/Dub cover album of Prince’s Purple Rain soundtrack in its entirety. The release is scheduled for last week of October, 2014 to coincide with the 30th anniversary of Purple Rain’s release.

The Radio Riddler live band consists of 6 performers:
Frank Benbini – Vocals, Guitar
Brian Fast Leiser – Keyboards, Trumpet, FX, Vocals
Naim Cortazzi – Guitar, Vocals
Darryl Reid – Drums, FX
Adrian Dubby – Bass Guitar
Jay Lindsey – Trombone

Album Review:
How the hell are you supposed to review a remake of Purple Rain? In most reviews, you have to weigh heavily on the quality of the original material & song writing, which are large parts of the equation, but in this case, Radio Riddler is paying tribute to one of the most Iconic albums of all time!

It is a massive undertaking to pay tribute to such an influential artist, such as Prince, especially when adapting the original work to another genre, but Radio Riddler, and the talent they brought along, really gave it the treatment. Overall I think Purple Reggae Is a well done tribute, from studio production to musicianship and singing, all the renditions hold their weight.

After listening, researching, thinking about the album for a while, I did notice one thing missing that left it hard for me to get really excited about the release – Danger. Prince was dangerous when he came out, he was wildly sexual and pushed the boundaries of what was considered socially acceptable in both his music, videos and live performances. While Radio Riddler does a good job in painting that 80’s nostalgia through the use of certain synth patches/pads, that edge and rawness was lacking for me in this album. Nonetheless, Purple Reggae is still a great release.

“Let’s Go Crazy” feat. Suggs, stays pretty close to the original with an incorporated bouncing baseline that keeps the upbeat party vibe in this song. “The Beautiful Ones” is a duet between Frank Benbini and UK Singer Hollie Cook, daughter of Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook, new singer for the reformed 70’s British post punk band the Slits and solo artist debuted in 2011 with her album with Prince Jammy.

“When Doves Cry” feat. Citizen Cope stands at the top of this record as one of the strongest adaptations. The traditional stepper beat and dub influenced effects tease back & forth with a ska upbeat, sneaking in, every so often. One of my favorite vocal performances is delivered by Frank Benbini on “Darling Nikki”. His raspy vocal style is perfect to deliver the story of the seductive sex fiend “Nikki”.

This project is not the first time Sinead O’Connor covered Prince, and she recently released a full length Reggae album called Throw Down Your Arms, covering some of Reggae’s biggest roots songs, so it only makes perfect sense for her to join the Riddlers on this record. Honestly, I was not really a fan of her voice in a Reggae context on her “Throw Down Your Arms” release, but she absolutely kills “I Would Die For You”.

Ali Campbell (UB40 front man) and one of the most recognizable voices in Reggae Music, having sold over 70 Million records worldwide, absolutely still has it! Ali delivers a soulful performance that shows why this UK singer is so regarded in the industry. The video version of this song ends at a quick 3:15, but the album version here stretches out to over 6 minutes with a majority of the second half of the song filled up by horn solos, and mostly trombone at that. For my ears, trombone is one of the hardest instruments to solo on and I really thought the song would have been better off without.

I mean what can you say? These are great songs and this is a very talented group of music veterans that took on the challenge of paying tribute to a legendary piece of art. The songs are well done and the vocal performances are wonderful, but I would have loved to hear more traditional sounds out of the keyboards and organ, further accentuating the bubble and skank.

As mentioned earlier, this may have been a way to throw more of an 80’s sound on the record, but for my taste, this took away from the pocket. Prince fans will appreciate this unique take on his music and fans of the Reggae collective Easy Star All-Stars will love it as well.

Written & Reviewed By: Tommy Dubs (of A Sunny Place For Shady People)

[Editors Note: All reviews are reflective of the album in it’s entirety, from start to finish. These reviews are the honest opinion of each writer/reviewer expressing their feedback as a genuine fan of the music. Each star rating reflects their review of the album, NOT the band. Music is subjective. Regardless of the review or star rating, we encourage you to listen to the music yourself & form your own opinion. Spread the awareness of all music in its art & contribution]

Watch: Radio Riddler – “Purple Rain”