The Baron (Timothy Watkins) is at the crossroads of the art form of Calypso. His music flows sweetly from Calypso to gilt-edged Soca in his latest production, The Golden Touch. A full-length offering from a consistent headline act in Trinidad and Tobago and its diaspora, The Golden Touch re-confirms Baron’s reputation as the pre-eminent Soca crooner, while extending his range musically in ways that fans of Tropical, Afro-pop and even Soul music are sure to enjoy. Perhaps the best way to describe Baron’s performances on this album is ‘skillfully evocative’. The listener is drawn to his ease in weaving signature melodies around well-orchestrated backing vocals, creative bass-lines and a driving calypso brass section. Watkins’ delivery matches with the facility of a Celia Cruz or a Juan Luis Guerra, and continues strong throughout, touching lightly on the varied stylings of fellow Soca legends such as Johnny King, Nelson and Blueboy/Superblue.
In the latter part of the album, Baron delves into Compas- and Bolero-flavoured songs, with a hint of traditional Trinidadian Bongo rhythms, and maintains the listener’s interest with vocal confidence and interesting bass and flute arrangements. The selection “Muddy Water” features his signature vocal improvisations, and also reveals the Baron’s social consciousness with a menacing (though honey-coated) message on poverty and inequality. In “Too Late” by Soca and Jamoo pioneer, Ras Shorty I, the menace in his voice softens to a fatherly Sparrow/Spoiler-styled exposé on female promiscuity, showing off artiste’s Calypso chops. However, most of Baron’s songs are akin to Haiti’s ‘Kompa Love’ sub-genre, exploring all aspects of marriage and romantic relationships, but with “good loving” high on the list of priorities.
There are some weaknesses in the production. For some strange reason, the printed order of the CD and the playing sequence do not match. The use of heavily synthesized sounds is sometimes off-putting, and in “Gim Meh D Water”, there are moments where Baron’s vocals are reduced to a whisper by the accompaniment. Baron knows his audience, however, and his flowing delivery carries the songs, engaging the orchestra and producing a mid-tempo, pan-Caribbean groove that is inviting to both the individual listener and the couple out for a night on the dance floor.