This is the third 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 1983-1992.
The years covered today includes a major shift in reggae music, a shift when the genre went digital with the game-changing anthem Under Mi Sleng Teng by Wayne Smith. And remarkable enough a Casio MT-40 home keyboard managed to change the music completely.
Suddenly live musicians weren’t in demand anymore and a new set of producers and artists stepped in. But some of the old crew also managed to get a slice of the cake by adapting to the new realties on the scene where the computerized sound now reigned.
This major shift in reggae music may not be fully justified by my list, since none of the albums selected are digital to the fullest. Some are semi-computerized though, such as the pumping productions by Sly & Robbie and the futuristic sounds of Augustus “Gussie” Clarke.
The Meditations – No More Friend (1983)
The roots harmonizing courtesy of Ansel Cridland, Danny Clarke and Winston Watson aka The Meditations were taken to a new level when they met up with singer and producer Linval Thompson, responsible for this early dancehall set. Together they managed to carry their sound into a new decade without losing their roots.
Charlie Chaplin – One of a Kind (1983)
Maybe not as well-known as his contemporary rivals Yellowman and Josey Wales, but equal, or above, their standard. Always conscious and always with a leisure melodic flow, and this set shows him in excellent form with gems such as the title track and Sturgav Special, a combination with the late Jim Kelly.
Ini Kamoze – Ini Kamoze (1984)
A strong debut album and an album with vocal cuts followed by a dub version. Ini Kamoze has yet to repeat this solid effort and if you listen to the album you’ll recognize World a Music as the riddim Damian Marley used for his smash hit Welcome to Jamrock two decades later.
Brigadier Jerry – Jamaica, Jamaica (1985)
The sadly very under recorded Brigadier Jerry – whose sister is the female deejay Sister Nancy – spent more time performing for the Jah Love sound system rather than hanging around the Kingston studios. This is his debut studio album and includes a mighty version of Bunny Wailer’s Armagideon.
Half pint – Greetings (1985)
The energetic singing style of Half Pint was very well-suited for these boisterous George Phang-produced riddims provided by Sly & Robbie. The anthemic title track stands out along with Brotherly Love and the bouncy Level the Vibes.
Dennis Brown – Brown Sugar (1986)
Includes seven vocal tracks followed by its dub version and Dennis Brown was at the time at the peak of his career. The set is produced by Sly & Robbie and the riddims are organic, powerful and fresh with Revolution and Sitting and Watching being particularly tasty.
Mighty Diamonds – The Real Enemy (1987)
Released just as the influential Jamaican producer Augustus “Gussie” Clarke had started to experiment with his intricate semi-computerized riddims. The Mighty Diamonds sound as eloquent as they did in the 70’s and their harmonizing is as gorgeous as ever.
Gregory Isaacs – Red Rose for Gregory (1988)
On this groundbreaking and ground shaking set Gregory Isaacs teamed up with producer Augustus “Gussie” Clarke for another album. The dark high-tech sound is innovative, and tunes like Rumours, Mind Yu Dis and Rough Neck sounds as fresh today as they did more than 20 years ago.
Garnett Silk – It’s Growing (1992)
When Garnett Silk arrived on the scene in the early 90’s his conscious lyrics and fresh gospel-tinged vocals were almost the antithesis to the gruff gun-praising deejays of the day. This is his first and only studio album, since he died in a gas accident only 28 years old. It’s Growing shows a great talent, a great performer and a great singer. And he was only warming up on this landmark in modern roots reggae.
Yami Bolo – Up Life Street (1992)
The waterhouse style was started by Michael Rose in the 70’s and has since been developed by singers such as Junior Reid and Yami Bolo, and Yami Bolo’s passionate crying vocals flows nicely over the hard riddims on his third album Up Life Street, produced by Trevor “Leggo” Douglas.
Curious about the albums? Check this Spotify playlist that includes eight of the albums above.