A few weeks ago I published a list with my top 50 reggae tunes 2012, and in the introduction I wrote that it has been a strong year for reggae music. This statement is also the case for reggae album releases and there have been very worthwhile efforts from veterans and newcomers from Europe, Jamaica and the U.S.
The list below collects 20 albums and four honourable mentions. It has been compiled by me together with United Reggae’s reviewing team. It’s unranked as before and there are no compilations and reissues included.
As 2012 was a great year for reggae, competition was fierce and many writers picks were voted out. If you’re curious about the sounds – check out my Spotify playlist with all but two albums. Download the playlist here. Enjoy!
Anthony B – Freedom Fighter
Playing to his strengths over crisp production by Austria’s Irie Vibrations made Anthony B’s Freedom Fighter one of both parties’ strongest sets in years.
Beres Hammond – One Love, One Life
After a long time away, veteran passionate crooner Beres Hammond indulged his fans with two albums in one – without over indulging himself.
Black Roots – On the Ground
The reggae soundtrack to Thatcher’s 80’s, Bristol’s Black Roots returned after 20 years with a biting critique of David Cameron’s 10’s – and lashings of their trademark heavy bass.
Busy Signal – Reggae Music Again
It’s too soon to say if Busy’s first straight reggae album will become an all time classic but it was certainly a prominent release in what turned out to be an eventful year.
Clinton Fearon – Heart and Soul
One of several 2012 acoustic albums – the veteran bass player and singer planted a real organic grower, giving his 70’s Gladiators recordings a new edge.
Glen Washington – Masterpiece
Produced by Zion I Kings, Washington’s soothing Rasta wisdom over mellow complex rhythms recalled Bunny Wailer’s classic album Blackheart Man.
Jimmy Cliff – Rebirth
After many eclectic outings, this unified project (produced by Rancid’s Tim Armstrong to salute the Leslie Kong era) was a pleasing late chapter in the Jimmy Cliff story.
Konshens – Mental Maintenance
Both classic and contemporary, Konshens’ eclectic moody official debut album used many producers but somehow all made sense.
Lloyd Brown – 30
The fiendishly consistent singer celebrated 30 years in the business with yet another superb set.
Mr Vegas – Sweet Jamaica
The inimitable Mr Vegas reworked classic reggae songs and rhythms on one side of his double opus, while sharing his dancehall hits on the other.
Prince Fatty – Hollie Cook in Dub
We could just as easily have gone for Prince Fatty Vs The Drunken Gambler, but opted for Mike Pelanconi’s shamelessly retro yet impressively skilled mixing of Hollie’s dreamy vocals.
Ras Batch – Know Thyself
For the VI singer’s seventh album he and Zion I Kings production collective created a rootsy but heartfelt statement.
Romain Virgo – The System
Difficult second album syndrome was no issue for Donovan Germain’s fast maturing golden voiced protégé.
Sahra Indio – The Tru I
The male dominated nature of this list was given a refreshing antidote by this outstanding distinctive sounding Hawaii based roots singer.
Singing Melody – They Call Me Mr. Melody
A mature and sophisticated album jam-packed with rich and confident singing, bright melodies and catchy hooks.
Skarra Mucci – Return of the Raggamuffin
Skarra Mucci is a rapper, a singer and a singjay in the same person, and on this high-energy album he shows all of his unique skills.
Solo Banton – Higher Levels
The late blooming chanter’s second album released by Kris Kemist is a worthy successor to his first.
Soothsayers – Human Nature
Soothsayers took their own vocals up front over their seamless mix of reggae, afrobeat, jazz, soul and pop, covering Jimmy Cliff and even Ralph McTell to splendid effect.
Tarrus Riley – Mecoustic
After the pomp and bombast of Contagious, reggae’s foremost flawless vocalist proved he could make his back catalogue sound subtle and fresh.
The Amharic – Stop & Search
Following Black Roots, another strong UK roots album that arrived so late in the year it nearly didn’t make the list!