Shoreworld: Ricky Persaud Jr. – Optimistic Bliss

Ricky is a singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer and arranger from Irvington, NJ whose music style is formed around reggae rock.

Ricky is part of the Berklee College of Music, Class of 2021. He received his first instrument for Christmas at the age of 1. At the tender age of 4 years old, Ricky started taking music classes at Music Together and dance lessons at Stories in Motion, both in South Orange, NJ.

Ricky was accepted by the Newark School of the Arts to study drums at the age of 4. When Ricky was 8 years old, he would go with his brother Nicholas, who was 5, to his weekly guitar lessons at Mark Murphy Music School in South Orange, NJ. Ricky studied Nicholas’ homework and taught himself how to play the guitar. By the age of 10, Ricky could perform Bob Marley’s songs on the guitar proficiently.

Along with drums, Ricky started taking bass lessons at the Newark School of the Arts at the age of 11. Still drawn to the guitar, Ricky decided to take guitar lessons at the age of 12, and at the age of 14, Ricky discovered Billy Joel. He taught himself how to play the harmonica and keyboards. Shortly after, Ricky started taking piano lessons in school and at the Newark School of the Arts. Upon the passing of his guitar and bass teacher, jazz guitarist, Hayes Johnson, Ricky put the guitar aside.

Ricky’s mom encouraged him to give guitar lessons another try. So, Ricky enrolled in the school that introduced him to the guitar, the Mark Murphy School of Music. Ricky studied voice, band and guitar there. Ricky studied drums at the Newark School of The Arts, and currently studies music production there. Ricky is a member of the New Jersey Performing Art (NJPAC)/Wells Fargo Jazz for Teens Ensemble and NJPAC’s George Wein Scholars Ensemble.

Ricky, along with his brother Nicholas, performs weekly on Inside with Valerie Persaud, the TV Show which airs on Comcast, Cablevision and Verizon Fios throughout the state of New Jersey. Ricky has recorded three albums. His first album was recorded when he was 14 years old. Ricky Jr. arranged the music and played all the instruments on the album. His second album was recorded when he was 15 years old, and again he played all the instruments on the album and performed the lead and background vocals. Ricky released his third album, Welcome To My World, in 2015. When it comes to this new album, Ricky wrote all the songs and again played all the instruments on the album and performed all the vocals. The album is sold on iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby just to name a few.

Ricky won a Silver Medal in Music Composition and a Gold Medal in Vocal Performance in the North at the Act-So Competition in 2016. Moreover, Ricky is the recipient of the 2016 Governor’s Award for Excellence in Music. His latest record, Optimistic Bliss, has been submitted for consideration for the 60th Grammy Awards as “Best Reggae Album.” The award ceremony will be held in New York City on Jan. 28, 2018.

His fourth album,  was produced and mixed along with Ricky Persaud Sr. and Ricky Persaud Jr. for Persaud Entertainment, LLC. It was mastered by Gar Francis for Bongo Boy Records and recorded at Crossroads Studios.

While I’m not a huge reggae fan, I must admit that Persaud’s record hits the mark with mojo to spare. As far as production, performence and playing are concerned, this is a record that anyone I know would be proud to call their own.

The first song on the disc is called “Let Me See,” and it runs a veritable gamut of musical delights. Written along with Valerie Persaud, “Let Me See” blends traditional reggae sounds with a funky R&B vibe that commands attention from the very beginning. Percussion, bass, and guitars chime perfectly as Persaud lays toned vocals over the top. Reverbed accents, strong backing vocals, and rhythms come together to present an extremely fluid piece of music. It reminds me of Michael Jackson in the ‘80s as it contains many pop sensibilities and melodic grooves. Tight and jam-packed with musical nuances of the genre and beyond, “Let Me See” is a perfect song to kick off with. I love the middle-eight lead break and rhythmic accompaniments, and the way the song climbs back into its central theme is utterly enthralling.

“Sound of a Hit” is up next. Another co-write with Valerie, Persaud demonstrates superior vocal technique and production moxy on this one. While this song follows a more traditional path of reggae, it also offers energetic charges of songwriting superiority. Persaud and company know how to write and “Sound of a Hit” is a perfect example of that. Keyboards whirl and twirl over the top of funk-inspired bass, drums and guitars as Persaud delivers pristine vocals and harmonies. Even his down-home ending is great as he closes out with a sigh and a statement, “That is good!”

Skipping around the disc, I came to a song called, “Girl Has the Essence.” Valerie and Ricky Jr. continue their winning streak with another poppy reggae-tinged tune that should do well for him. Persaud’s vocal attack is infectious and well planned, bringing the value of the song to a national level. Guitars upstroke as bass, drums, and horn arrangements tear through the middle of the tune like nobody’s business. Electric guitars scream and feedback where needed and then disappear back under the curtain of percussion and accent as Persaud sings his emotional journey.

Ricky penned “People of the World” on his own. Carrying a pocket-tight backbeat, Persaud lays down fat bass, drums, guitars, and keys underneath some otherworldly vocals. This song smacks from the get-go. Everything seems to fall into place the way it should with any good song. Persaud’s vocals are clean, bright and powerful as hell. The verses work perfectly into the bridge before hitting an addictive chorus. Ricky writes exceptionally catchy songs which will count towards getting greater recognition. Once again, the production sings. The Persaud’s know their craft, and the result is a bunch of fascinating songs that should draw in more than just reggae enthusiasts.

One more song I wanted to mention is the disc’s namesake. “Optimistic Bliss” is a fresh cross between The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blink 182 and some of Peter Tosh’s later work. Once again, Persaud is joined by Valerie Persaud to come up with a terrific tune. Verses, bridges, and choruses pop as Persaud croons to beat the band. Waves wash over the beginning of the song, adding another level to an already powerful piece. Backing vocals sing over the top of rhythmic wah-wahs and percussive hits as Persaud brings the song to a remarkably higher level. I love the guitar work here as well. Measured and supportive, they break free in the choruses and the middle-eight. Persaud’s lyrical content is personal in nature but readily understandable and concise in its delivery. This song features a mighty chorus, and I believe that Persaud will find great success with this song.

There are a total of 12 songs on Optimistic Bliss, and each song is as good or better than the next. I find it hard to believe that this outstanding songwriter hasn’t been snapped up by a significant tour yet, but give him time, he’s well on his way.

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