This is the second of a five part list compiled as a celebration of Jamaica’s 50 years of independence. The list contains 50 albums – ten for each decade. Today it’s time for 1973-1982.
The journey begins in 1976 with two rootsy vocal harmony trios – The Gladiators and Mighty Diamonds. And roots reggae truly dominates the list with righteous messages and minor chords.
The period 1973-1982 also includes the transition from reggae to rub-a-dub and early dancehall, a period when master producer Henry “Junjo” Lawes dominated the dancehall with his sparse sounds mainly built at Channel One with Roots Radics handling the riddims and Scientist behind the mixing desk.
Many of the albums selected are today regarded as classics and have certainly won the battle against time.
When you browse through the list you’ll realize that one group and three individual artists are missing. Why? For two reasons.
Firstly, their albums are already intensively recognized and heavily written about.
Secondly, and more importantly, I believe there are artists better than Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer and groups that exceed The Wailers as well as albums that outshine Catch a Fire, Soul Rebels or Burnin’.
The list doesn’t contain any compilations, but as always with Jamaican albums, some albums are more or less made-up of several previously released singles.
The Gladiators – Trench Town Mix Up (1976)
Includes several updated versions of their earlier Studio One recordings along with a few Bob Marley covers, but also new material, such as Know Yourself Mankind. This is rural and up-in-the-hills reggae at its best.
Mighty Diamonds – Right Time aka I Need a Roof (1976)
A stunning debut album with excellent harmonies on top of updated Studio One riddims supplemented by the Revolutionaries, who became the in-house studio band at the Hookim brothers Channel One studio.
Culture – Two Seven’s Clash (1977)
One of several albums in the later part of the 70’s that established Joe Gibbs and Errol Thompson aka the Mighty Two as a major force in reggae music. This apocalyptic set brought forward the much talented Joseph Hill and includes several very memorable moments, among them the title track, See Them a Come and Black Starliner Must Come.
Dennis Brown – Visions (1978)
When this album was released the late Dennis Brown was only 21 years old, but already a veteran with about eight albums already put out. On Vision he was on the verge of international stardom and it must have given him a push forward. It’s a pity that he was never fully recognized outside Jamaica, since this album shows an extraordinary singer, equally at ease with cultural and lovers themes.
Gregory Isaacs – Soon Forward (1979)
One of Gregory Isaacs’ many immortal albums in the late 70’s, and produced by the singer himself along with Sly & Robbie, who were responsible for the brilliant title track.
Black Uhuru – Showcase (1979)
The group’s first album together with U.S. female singer Puma Jones and also their first with Sly & Robbie handling production, and it was the beginning of a very fruitful partnership. Includes six vocal tracks – among them a new version of Michael Rose’s own Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner – followed by its dub version.
Wailing Souls – Wild Suspense (1979)
A self-produced triumph from start to end. Minor key roots harmonizing at its best with outstanding material, including Bredda Gravalicious, Feel the Spirit and Slow Coach.
Johnny Osbourne – Truths & Rights (1979)
His second album and released nine years after his debut set. Truths & Rights reuses several fantastic vintage Studio One riddims, and includes masterpieces such as the title track, We Need Love and Sing Jah Stylee.
Toyan – How the West Was Won (1981)
One of several great deejay albums produced by Henry “Junjo” Lawes in the early 80’s. Toyan – sometimes with the prefix Ranking – was in his prime and chats over tough riddims provided by the always reliable and relentless Roots Radics. Highlights include treats such as Children Children, over Johnny Osbourne’s Ice Cream Love, the title track, which uses the Gunman riddim.
Lone Ranger – Hi-Yo, Silver Away! (1982)
Maybe best known for his ribbits, oinks and biddly-biddly bims, but the masked ranger is more than a mere novelty act. On this album – partly self-produced – Lone Ranger mixes social commentary with amusing nonsense lyrics on top of well-crafted Sly & Robbie riddims.
Curious on how the albums sound? Check this Spotify playlist that includes nine of the albums.