This is the final 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 2003-2012.
Over the last ten years reggae music has changed a lot and there’s partly a new power structure. Today – and for a couple of years – the Jamaican dominance in reggae music has been challenged by producers, artists and labels from the U.S. and Europe.
Million Stylez from Sweden, Gentleman from Germany and Gappy Ranks from the UK have all been very successful for a number of years. And do not forget the thriving reggae scene of the U.S. Virgin Islands, mainly fronted by the small island of St. Croix.
In Europe and the U.S. roots reggae is still the most popular genre, while Jamaica prefers contemporary dancehall, a genre heavily influenced by U.S. R&B and hip-hop along with catchy European house.
However, in the last year or so, there has been a roots resurgence in Jamaica and several live bands have also been formed and play around the island as well as abroad. It will be interesting to follow this trend in Jamaica. I truly hope it sticks.
As with the previous periods, 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.
Ras Mac Bean – Pack Up and Leave (2004)
Produced by French reggae heroes Irie Ites who hired UK’s finest riddim section Mafia & Fluxy to lay down the mighty heavy one drop riddims on this stunning debut album. Unfortunately Ras Mac Bean has so far only dropped this album, and it’s not often you hear an artist who is just as comfortable with both deejaying and singing.
Luciano – Serious Times (2004)
Luciano continues to sing his contemplative praises of love and unity over a solid one drop backings. Serious Times is mostly produced by veteran saxophonist Dean Fraser and includes a number of unexpected covers, such as a smoothly skanking take on Harry Nilsson’s Echoes of My Mind and a roots rocking version of José Feliciano’s Come Down Jesus.
Michael Rose – African Roots (2005)
Canadian dub master Ryan Moore – nowadays resident in Holland – of Twilight Circus Dub Sound System is responsible for this melancholic dub-infused roots reggae disc with Michael Rose at his best since Black Uhuru.
Tarrus Riley – Parables (2006)
Tarrus Riley – son of Jamaican singer Jimmy Riley – is one of the most consistent reggae singers in recent years, and his feel for infectious melodies, beautiful arrangements and lush choruses are apparent on an album like Parables.
Chezidek – Inna di Road (2007)
What Chezidek lacks in pitch control he gains in charm and energy. Over the years he has been able to work with some of the best producers around, such as Bobby Konders on this powerful set of songs. It contains the anthemic Call Pon Dem and Inna di Road, on an updated version of Yabby You’s Jah Love riddim.
Franz Job – Babylon is Dead (2009)
On Franz Job’s debut album Babylon is Dead he sings affectionate praises of his native island of Tobago to a sweet skanking back drop. Dougie Conscious mixed the album and put seven of the songs through a dub workout. The result is an organic and positive album, quite different from the usual semi-computerized digi-reggae style he is known for.
Nas & Damian Marley – Distant Relatives (2010)
An album that explores and intertwines roots reggae with hip-hop, dancehall with jazz and soul with African music. It contains plenty of effective samples, rough and tough beats and aggressive percussion work. An urban album made of an equal amount of Kingston, Bamako and New York.
Clinton Fearon – Mi Deh Ya (2010)
Clinton Fearon was responsible for some of the best material recorded by The Gladiators, where he played bass, sung back-up vocals and occasionally lead. He left the band in the 80’s and has in the past ten years recorded albums that are rural, bluesy and infectiously melodic. Just as this one.
Alpheus – From Creation (2011)
An album by a singer who is in love with 60’s ska and rocksteady and a producer who just doesn’t know the meaning of below par. From the Creation is carefully crafted and an exciting blend of heart, mind and soul. Listen to the haunting Far Away or the stomping We Are Strong. Timeless.
Curious about the albums? Check this Spotify playlist with nine of the albums.