Stunning instrumentals on ABC Rocksteady

a0416938415_16In December Japan’s Dub Store Records put out another scarce rocksteady gem. ABC Rocksteady was originally released in 1968 in Jamaica and the UK with different sleeves. This reissues comes with the Jamaican and slightly more colorful sleeve.

The set includes instrumental versions of some of producer Sonia Pottinger’s greatest rocksteady cuts and all features ex-Skatalite and saxophone maestro Roland Alphonso as arranger and musician.

Hip Hug Her is a slice of funky rocksteady while Wild and Free is almost like a big swing band playing. The flute on Narata adds brightness and the tracks like That’s Life and Sad Song feature killer organ work.

A must-have set for anyone interested in great music.

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Top 12 reggae album reissues in 2016

It has been a fantastic year for reggae album reissues. Killer, and sometimes unbelievably rare, albums have seen the day of light thanks to labels like Pressure Sounds, 17 North Parade and Soul Jazz Records.

But the biggest label in reissues circles is nowadays Japan’s Dub Store Records. Over the past 12 months they have put out a broad variety of albums ranging from digital reggae and vintage rocksteady to meditative and spiritual nyabinghi. I can only hope that Dub Store Records will continue in 2017 with a hefty release schedule.

The list below is presented in alphabetical order and if you’re curious about the albums – check out this Spotify playlist with nine of the albums. Enjoy!

Artist – album title
Bunny Wailer – Solomonic Singles Vol 1 & 2
Bunny Wailer has always been quietly ferocious with apocalyptic messages and a mystical and transcendental sonic landscape. And many of these marvelous songs – classics, long lost gems, dub versions and instrumentals – are now finally readily available.

Count Ossie & The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari – Grounation
A psychedelic, colorful and ethereal joyride and a milestone in the development of reggae music.

Derrick Harriott – Rock Steady Party
This is rock steady at its very finest. Close harmonies, sweet melodies and smooth grooves.

Errol Brown – Orthodox Dub
Tough roots scorchers dubbed with brimstone and fire mashing down the walls of Babylon.

Horace Andy & Winston Jarrett – Kingston Rock
Killer cuts from both Horace Andy and Winston Jarrett; two singers with radically different voices. Horace Andy is soft, while Winston Jarrett has a rougher and more rural style complemented by beautiful harmonies.

Lloyd Charmers – The Best of Lloyd Charmers
This crucial anthology is painfully long overdue and showcases a ingenious producer as well as an array of Jamaica’s finest artists.

Prince Alla – The Best of Prince Alla
Prince Alla has never been quite as prolific as many of his peers, but many of his recordings have proven to be landmarks in the history of reggae music. And some of these are included on this lethal set.

Yabby You – Beware
A key dub album that still sounds powerful.

Various – First Class Rocksteady
The title says it all.

Various – Money Maker
Collects primarily instrumentals played by Studio One in-house bands The Sound Dimension, The Soul Brothers and The Soul Vendors joined by Im & Dave, Ernest Ranglin, Jackie Mittoo, Lloyd Williams and The Boss himself, Clement “Coxsone” Dodd.

Various – Studio One Showcase
Brings together a mighty fine selection of tracks from the 70s and early 80s.

Various – Tape Rolling!
This is a fascinating album with lots of excitement – check Big Joe’s excellent take on Count Prince Miller’s Mule Train – and creativity – listen to I Roy’s mystic chant on Noisy Place, a version of The Paragons’ Man Next Door.

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Top 40 reggae songs in 2016

The second top list in 2016 collects best songs, and just as last year the second half of the year was way stronger than the first six months. And when I wrote the half-year report in July I had difficulties finding enough highlights. But from July and onwards it has been a stream of solid singles, remixes and one riddim compilation cuts. This means that some of the songs included in the half-year report were pushed out due to fierce competition.

As usual the list collects both rising hopefuls and veterans. Most are from Jamaica, but a few are from Europe and the U.S. And I’m delighted that singles from Damian Marley’s and Chronixx’ new albums have surfaced during the year. And all four singles are very promising.


You can also find a brand new collaboration between Iba Mahr and Notis aka Heavyweight Rockaz. Big Machine is a fiercely bouncy tune and a worthy follow-up to their hit Diamond Sox.

UK soul and reggae outfit Pama International is also back in fine form and Heatwave is a killer version of Martha Reeves & The Vandella’s 60s smash.

Also very happy that Jamaican falsetto singer Courtney John is back as a solo singer and his Strangers is a beautiful slice of mellow reggae. And those who have missed Earl “Chinna” Smith’s acoustic project Inna de Yard will be pleased to find two singles from the upcoming Inna de Yard album. The cuts from Ken Booth and Kush McAnuff are sublime.

The list is as presented in no particular order and the cuts included are only singles or tracks taken from compilations. If you are curious about the tunes you can download a Spotify playlist with all tracks. Download the Spotify playlist here and I hope you enjoy the music as much as I do.

Artist – song title (riddim)
Jesse Royal – Blowing in the Wind (Guidance & Protection)
Hempress Sativa – Rock It Inna Dance
Lukie D – Lukie Feeling (Tribute To Dennis Brown)
Perfect – Nobody Knows (World War III)
I-Octane – My Struggles
Dub Inc & Jah Sun – Open Up Your Eyes (They Want)
Sara Lugo & Jah9 – Rejoice
Randy Valentine – Hold On (Blueberry Haze)
Ronnie Davis – Now Generation
Flowering Inferno & U Roy & Alice Russell – A Life Worth Living
Clinton Fearon – Waiting
Christopher Martin & Busy Signal – Steppin’
Kazam Davis & Infinite – Free Yourself Up (No Stress)
Ady Suleiman – Runnin’ Away (Winta James remix)
Chronixx – Out Deh (Lion Paw)
Randy Valentine – Too Late
Soothsayers – Nothing Can Stop Us
Good Vibe Styla & Kazam Davis & Infinite & Exile Di Brave– Nothing More To Say
Damian Marley – Caution
Exco Levi – Siren (Maad Sick)
Kabaka Pyramid – No Guns Round Here (Condition)
Heavyweight Rockaz – Upful Movements
Damian Marley – Nail Pon Cross
Melloquence, Mykal Rose & Cutty Ranks – Hot Wata (Reelz)
Chino McGregor & Stephen McGregor – Zero Tolerance
Ikaya – Side Chick (XoXo)
Chronixx – Roots & Chalice
Jesse Royal – Black Woman (Mile High)
Sandy Smith – Crying Out (His Majesty)
Pama International – Heatwave
Courtney John – Strangers
Mortimer – Ganja Train
Soul Sugar & Leonardo Carmichael – Why Can’t We Live Together
Lutan Fyah – No Assistance (Resistance)
Randy Valentine – It Takes Time (Lifetime)
Iba Mahr – Big Machine
Morgan Heritage – Conscious Revolution (Royal Step)
Ken Boothe – Let the Water Run Dry
Brina – Warmongers by Name
Kush McAnuff – Black To I Roots


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Top 25 reggae albums in 2016

It’s December and that means holiday and lists. Lots of them. Reggaemani will present top lists featuring albums, songs and reissues. And I kick things off with 25 albums that rocked my world in the past year.

The list below is diverse with several different countries, styles and genres represented. Included are artists from Jamaica, the U.S., Spain, Madagascar, Germany, Italy and UK covering roots, dancehall, dub, ska and hip-hop.


This year’s list includes two compilations, which I usually try to avoid. But these two were too good to be put aside.

The list below is presented alphabetical order and if you’re curious about the albums make sure to check my Spotify playlist with all sets. Download the playlist here. Enjoy!

Artist – title
Alborosie – Freedom & Fyah
When Alborosie put out his debut album Soul Pirate in 2008 he presented a fresh take on roots reggae. He came in from another angle and created his own sound, and has developed it into perfection.

Assassin aka Agent Sasco – Theory of Reggaetivity
A stellar album and a landmark in Assassin’s career. It’s a reflective and conscious set painting a vivid portrait of reggae and its diverse set of sounds, styles and themes.

Biba – Massavana
Spanish producer Roberto Sánchez has given the set a feel of authenticity with vintage vibes and live instrumentation complete with beautiful harmonies – listen to Mr. Babylon – and dub versions to four of the cuts.

Clinton Fearon – This Morning
Quintessential Clinton Fearon. Sweetly skanking riddims, unpretentious arrangements and infectious melodies complete with emotional singing and personal reflections on life and current events, including police brutality and an unjust judicial system.

The Emeterians – The Journey
Marvelous set showcasing the versatility and breath of both The Emeterians and reggae as a genre.

Flowering Inferno – 1000 Watts
Producer and multi-instrumentalist Quantic has crafted a beautiful and mostly instrumental set with warm vintage grooves, summery vibes, dub wizardry and excellent musicianship.

The Frightnrs – Nothing More To Say
Painful and sweet. Just like real rocksteady should be.

General Roots – Walk Tall
An instant grabber with its infectious melodies and gentle, yet pulsating, vibes.

I Kong – Pass It On
If his previous album A Little Walk was a triumphant return for I Kong, this album certainly cements his arrival after almost ten years out of the spotlight.

Jah9 – 9
Jah9 continues to push musical and lyrical boundaries and it will be a journey to follow her future career.

Jahcoustix – Seriously Positive
A throw-back to vintage reggae and the organic sound owes quite a lot to rocksteady, especially the driving organ and the tight and beautiful harmonizing on several tracks, for example on a cut like the insanely catchy Old Tongue.

King Solomon – Ceasefire
Comes with a minimum amount of perfume and make-up. What was recorded in the studio is what you’ll get.

Max Romeo – Horror Zone
Max Romeo and Daniel Boyle have managed to create a strong album that pays respect to the original classic War ina Babylon, but without being too nostalgic.

Perfect – Reggae Farm Work
A striking and innovative album that drops like a bomb.

Raging Fyah – Everlasting
Everlasting has several irresistible moments – even though a few might be slightly too slick and polished – and passionate and expressive vocalist Kumar shines throughout this sonically sophisticated collection.

Raphael – Reggae Survival
Straight up contemporary and uplifting roots reggae with live instrumentation – including a brass section supervised by legendary Jamaican sax maestro Dean Fraser – and infectious melodies.

The Rockers Disciples & The Producers – Sounds From the Ark
A stellar 12 track album where wonderful instrumentals rub shoulders with killer vocal cuts and lethal dub versions.

Sara Lugo – Sara Lugo & Friends
A sultry and soulful album where Sara Lugo’s light, breezy and effortless singing is exquisitely matched with both riddims and collaborators. Stay close to the repeat button.

Silly Walks Discotheque – Smile Jamaica
An excellent compilation with a broad variety of riddims highlighting many of Jamaica’s emerging talents.

Soom T – Free as a Bird
Power, rhythm and melody all come together beautifully on this album. It’s a grower so you need to give it some time. But it’s well worth the time. A spot on album.

Taj Weekes & Adowa – Love, Herb & Reggae
Taj Weekes tackles difficult issues and calls for changes throughout the album. But it’s never dark or dismal. He sings with a smile. And it’s infectious.

Tippa Lee – Cultural Ambassador
A bona fide killer with its tasty and excellent relicks of a number of immortal riddims, including a murderous cut of the lethal Drum Song riddim.

Various – We Remember Dennis Brown
Dennis Brown’s greatness and relevance can’t be overstated, and even though 30 tracks make a hefty compilation, there’s much more to discover.

The Viceroys – Iroko Showcase Vol. 2: Memories
Heavy roots. Roots full of culture and consciousness. Just like in the 70s.

Zion I Kings – Dub in Style
Melodious and elegant dub of the highest caliber.


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Lots of fine dubs on One Fine Dub

sly-and-rob-cover-2One of my most anticipated albums in 2016 was former Aswad lead singer Brinsley Ford’s new album with Sly & Robbie. Unfortunately, it has been postponed until 2017, but the next best thing arrived the other day.

One Fine Dub is the dub counterpart to the yet to be released vocal version. This is an unorthodox and unusual approach, but very welcome.

The album is produced by Sly & Robbie along with Guillaume Bougard and mixed by Paul “Groucho” Smykle, a legendary engineer responsible for the innovative Dubrising released two years ago.

The set kicks off with the atmospheric Until Dub and the moody soundscape continues throughout the eight remaining cuts. Creation Dub, with its ethereal harmonica, is one fine example. One Fine Dub, with its militant drumming and apocalyptic synthesizers, is another.

This dub album certainly bodes well for the upcoming vocal version, a set that according to Guillaume Bougard needs to be hard and heavy with a Jamaican sound.


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The aesthetics of dancehall according to Wilfred Limonious

000-wilfred-limonious-in-fine-style-cover-angleThere are books about singers, groups, producers, music studios, music genres and technicians and engineers. But not much has over the years been written or published about the artists that are responsible for an integral part of the music business – the graphic designers.

The most well-known in reggae circuits is probably Tony McDermott who designed countless of classic sleeves for Greensleeves in the late 70s and early 80s. Then there is Neville Garrick who designed for Island Records, including immortal album jackets for Bob Marley and Ijahman Levi.


But there are of course others as well. And one of the most important is Wilfred Limonious, a Jamaican cartoonist that during the 80s became one of the key visual architects for dancehall album jackets and record-label logos. His outrageous humor and wit were perfect for this emerging new genre that challenged roots reggae with its more light-hearted and slacker sound and style.

His legacy has now been recorded in the massive and superb In Fine Style: The Dancehall Art of Wilfred Limonious. With this enlightning retrospective Christopher Bateman and Al “Fingers” Newman consolidate Wilfred Limonious’ role as one of the founding fathers of dancehall art.


Wilfred Limonious’ style is unique and sheds light on the primary aesthetics of Jamaican dancehall culture from the 80s. And what sets him apart from several other graphic designers of that era is his raw, scribbled and often stereotyped characters and hilarious and patois-filled social commentaries that can often be found in speech bubbles.

But the book tells a story beyond his graphic work for music producers. It also showcases other illustrations as well as his comic strips for Jamaican national newspapers. It’s an extensive and thorough reflection of a visual mastermind that skillfully interpret a cultural movement.


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Maxed out compilation from Maximum Sound

unnamedUK label Maximum Sound – run by producer Frenchie – has recently dropped a new compilation featuring a hefty 19 cuts originally released between 2014 and 2016. And it’s a no fillers, only killers, kind of compilation with an impressive line-up, including veterans a newcomers like Ninjaman, Samory-I, Morgan Heritage and Tarrus Riley.

Maximum Sound 2016 collects five different riddims along with a single and a few remixes. Best of the bunch is – with fierce competition – Ras Demo’s tongue twisting Sekkle Up the Score on the Armour riddim. Please don’t try this one at the local karaoke night.

Other highlights include Christopher Martin’s sweet London Queen on the Blueberry Haze riddim, Samory-I’s passionate Ride On on the recently released Royal Step riddim and Masicka’s furious The Youths on Clash of the Titans riddim.

As usual when it comes to Maximum Sound – everything is produced with care and affection. Give it a listen.

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Another fascinating album from Jstar

stand_to_orderInternationally renowned DJ, producer and remixer Jstar – hailing from London – has recently put out his debut album Stand To Order, a set following the compilation Licensed Plates, released three years ago.

Jstar is probably best-known for bold mash-ups and remixes, including a reggae version of Blackstreet’s global smash hit No Diggity. He has also collaborated with the likes of DJ Vadim, Major Lazer and Dub Pistols and has nowadays turned more and more to self-productions.

He has always stayed true to the reggae roots, but has never been afraid of breaking borders and experimenting with other bass-boosted sounds and genres.

This new set features a wealth of both well-known and lesser-known talents, including Brother Culture, Ranking Joe, Kinck, Blackout JA and Soom T. And they tackle Jstar’s forward-thinking beats and riddims delivering strong melodies and catchy hooks, as showcased particularly well on the infectious and bubbling title track with Soom T on the microphone, the silky My Truth and Jackie Verson & Spikey T’s pulsating Moving On.

Stand To Order also offers a slice of Cantonese reggae. MouseFX’s Baby Ya Fing is definitely something special.

Jstar’s productions have been praised, played and supported by the likes of David Rodigan and Huw Stephens. And when listening to this captivating and fascinating album it’s easy to understand why. Also – don’t forget to check its dub counterpart Dub To Order.

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Errol Brown’s killer Orthodox Dub reissued

a3243023335_16There are loads rare dub albums out there. Many were originally only pressed in a just a few hundred copies. One of those is Errol Brown’s Orthodox Dub. A set recorded and mixed at Treasure Isle studios in Kingston and released only in the U.S in the mid to late 70s.

This obscure and killer set has now been reissued by Dub Store Records. Errol Brown was resident engineer at Treasure Isle at the time when BB Seaton recorded the original vocal versions and then Errol Brown dubbed them with perfection.

This is not dubs of smooth rocksteady. These are tough roots scorchers dubbed with brimstone and fire mashing down the walls of Babylon. Not what one would expect from Errol Brown at Treasure Isle.

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Sweet harmonizing on new rocksteady compilation

various-artists-merritone-rock-steady-2-this-music-got-soul-1966-1967From Japan’s eminent Dub Store Records comes another epic rocksteady compilation and yet again it shines light on Jamaica’s Federal Records and producer Ken Khouri.

Merritone Rock Steady 2: This Music Got Soul 1966-1967 collects a hefty 21 cuts including novelties such as The Federal All Stars’ Merritone False Starts 2 and a rehearsal version of Lynn Taitt & The Jets’ version of the Batman theme.

But the real gems on this superb and sweet set are the vocal groups and their beautiful, yet sometimes a little rough around the edges, three-part harmonizing. Check for example The Tartans’ catchy Rolling Rolling, with its intense keys, or The Zodiacs’ Walk On By, with its lingering guitar and strong chorus.

60 minutes of early rocksteady. It’s the birth of reggae music.

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