Tag Archives: Bob Marley

Top 50 reggae albums according to Mojo

mojo-logoMusic magazine Mojo has recently dived deep into reggae territory and selected their top 50 reggae albums.

The list collects contemporary CD compilations in favour of original, vintage vinyl releases and Mojo’s staff has tried to steer clear of multiple entries by reggae’s biggest names such as Bob Marley, Lee Perry and King Tubby. They almost nailed it.

The list contains a few surprises and also a number of odd albums, even though the magazine’s number one is something of a regular in lists like these. Most unexpected is a set released only a few months ago. An exceptional album, but kind of unorthodox to add such a recent release.

You can check the full list here, and Reggaemani has taken the liberty to make a Spotify playlist with a majority of the albums. Listen and download the playlist here.

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Getting acquainted with Jo Mersa

jomersa-comfortableJo Mersa is son of Stephen Marley. His grandfather is Bob Marley and his uncle is Damian Marley. One could say that the music industry has great expectations on him and his debut EP Comfortable, a six track set mainly produced by himself.

He was born in Jamaica, but has migrated to Miami, U.S., and made his musical debut last year with the track Comfortable, included on Ghetto Youths International’s – a label owned by Stephen, Damian and Julian Marley – compilation Set Up Shop Vol. 1. He has also toured extensively with his father.

Comfortable is a cross-over effort with an infectious and hook-filled mix of reggae, dancehall, pop, hip-hop and electronic dance music. Best of the bunch is hip-hop-influenced opener Rock and Swing, which borrows elements from the mighty Enter Into His Gates With Praise, and the catchy remix of Comfortable, on which Jo Mersa shares vocal duties with label mate Wayne Marshall.

Jo Mersa certainly has much to live up to, but manages to carry his family’s legacy forward into the 21st century.

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Bob Marley’s grandson Jo Mersa drops EP in June

Jo Mersa Marley is a third generation Marley. His father is the acclaimed and award-winning producer, singer and song-writer Stephen Marley, and his grandfather is Bob Marley.

He more or less grew up in a tour bus and has recently started a career of his own. Some of his earliest material can be found on the excellent compilation Set Up Shop Vol. 1, released in early 2013.

Now he’ll release an EP with his own material. Comfortable EP drops on June 10th and is described as a mix of love songs and dancehall tracks. The uplifting and smooth single Sunshine was recently put out and might give a hint of what to expect from this versatile reggae artist.

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Peter Tosh – a myth unveiled

untitledWhen you hear the name The Wailers, you’ll probably immediately think about Bob Marley. For many he’s the original Wailer and The Wailers are often recognized as his backing band.

But that’s wrong, of course. The original Wailers were a quartet and later a trio consisting of Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh. They split up in the early 70s and went their separate ways. Bob Marley became a superstar and a spokesman for all things reggae. Bunny Wailer kept a rather low profile and let his music do all the talking.

Peter Tosh was far from quiet, something that’s evident after you’ve read John Masouri’s Steppin’ Razor: The Life of Peter Tosh. This biography covers the life of a sometimes overlooked superstar.

Through his music and in interviews he gave the poor a voice. He often spoke passionately about equality and justice. He stirred up controversy with his outspoken lyrics and tunes like Oh Bumbo Klaat, Legalize It and the funky Buk-In-Hamm Palace.

But being the voice of the poor and criticizing the system and politicians can be dangerous, as Peter Tosh experienced firsthand. He was physically assaulted by the police in Jamaica and he was verbally abused by the media, particularly by rock critics in the UK.

But Peter Tosh was a rebel. He had his principles and would never go against them. He had his own game and his own set of rules. He played by them. Like it or not.

Peter Tosh also had a big ego, and over the years he lost faith in the music business and his Rolling Stones-owned label. He became disappointed in the lack of success and disillusioned by bureaucracy and the media that never fully understood him nor his music or mission.

Down the road things started to go wrong. Terribly wrong. His friends didn’t recognize him and his erratic behavior got increasingly worse. Whether this is due to an extreme amount of high grade ganja consumption, or Marlene Brown, a girlfriend described as something of a Yoko Ono for Peter Tosh, is unclear.

But according to several sources in the well-researched book she’s to blame for much that went wrong in the later parts of Peter Tosh’s life. She’s described as the reason for his demise and eventually his untimely death at the age of 42.

Peter Tosh was murdered in his home in Jamaica. Not by Marlene Brown. The motive behind the murder is blurry, but there are several theories of which one is about money.

He was an angry man and a highly complex individual with both a militant and a spiritual side. To this day and while he was still alive, he was in the constant shadow of Bob Marley; partly because his music was not as uplifting and direct as Bob Marley’s, but his lyrics were also darker and more controversial.

Peter Tosh struggled all his life, something that becomes apparent when reading the book. He was a charismatic protest singer of a kind that is rarely seen or heard today, and during his too short life he was on a mission. He was a musical outlaw that fought for freedom and promoted the herb. Not loved by all, and hated by some. Particularly the system, or shit-stem as Peter Tosh used to say.

But that was him. A man with a misson. A man on a mission. And a man that stood up for what he believed in, regardless who he would provoke.

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Unreleased material on new Lee Perry compilation

PSLP82 Litho AWV3.inddWhen UK reissue label Pressure Sounds announced a new Lee Perry compilation they wrote “we know what you are thinking, another Lee Perry album on Pressure Sounds.” Well, I could not have said it better myself. It was my first thought when I heard about the release.

The majority of the previous seven Lee Perry compilations issued on Pressure Sounds have been very strong, particularly some of the earliest ones. And Roaring Lion – as the latest eight set is titled – is no exception and definately not just another Lee Perry compilation.

The material on the album was mostly recorded or re-mixed in 1976 and it delivers 16 unreleased tracks, of which eleven come from a master tape that has been laying in storage for 30 years. The other five are made up of dub plates and alternate takes of previously released tracks. All in all the set includes no less than five previously unreleased tracks from Jah Lion, Augustus Pablo and The Upsetters.

The audio quality is surprisingly good and you have all of Lee Perry’s trademarks at the Black Ark put on wax – bouncing bass, creative arrangements and a dense and atmospheric soundscape filled with cultural currents and vocal snippets dropping in and out of the swirling mixes.

Fans of Bob Marley will probably be super excited, since the album collects an unreleased dub plate mix of Natural Mystic, one of the man’s most crucial tunes put out on Island Records.

Roaring Lion comes with excellent liner notes from Lee Perry enthusiast Jeremy Collingwood and in tandem with the album release Pressure Sounds has put out three Lee Perry produced 7”, two of which are not on the album.

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Joe Higgs’ Unity is Power is a grower

310Joe Higgs is one of reggae’s most influential forces, but at the same time one of the most overlooked artists. His voice is far from anonymous, but due to a number of circumstances he is today probably best known for teaching Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh the basic principles of singing – harmonies, breathing and structuring a song. He even took Bunny Wailer’s place on The Wailers’ first U.S. tour.

Among reggae heads he is probably also known for his 1960 hit song Oh Manny Oh, which reputedly sold more than 50,000 copies at the time.

But he also recorded a number of albums. In 1972 he dropped his debut set titled Life of Contradiction, reissued by Pressure Sounds some years ago. Now the same label has decided to reissue its follow-up – Unity is Power. It has not been reissued since its original release in 1979 and comes with two bonus cuts – his 1972 Festival Song Competition winner Invitation to Jamaica and its version.

Unity is Power was produced by Joe Higgs himself and he utilized some of the best musicians around at the time of its recording. It’s a mellow and mid-tempo reggae set that is much in the same vein as his debut. No hard roots or crazy dub mixing. This is soul, gospel, jazz and vintage R&B set to a reggae beat. It might not grab you instantly and it might need a few spins before its majestic character is revealed.

Joe Higgs’ rich, rural and emotive voice, with its melancholic and honest tone, is however easy to fall in love with and hard to let go.

The extensive and frank liner notes by noted reggae historian Roger Steffens tells a story of a man that managed to overcome a lot of hardship and difficulties during his lifetime. This pain and suffering is heard in his voice and in his music. Authentic sounds from one the many overlooked and forgotten heroes in reggae music.

Available now on LP, CD and digital download.

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Alborosie makes music with a message

3803683Here’s yet another rave review. This time’s it’s the multi-talented Italian turned Jamaican reggae artist Alborosie’s latest 16 track set Sound the System, on which he plays almost every instrument himself. He’s a do it yourself kind of guy that also writes most of his own material and produces himself.

Vocal duties are however shared with a number of other artists, including Ky-Mani Marley on a remake of Bob Marley’s Zion Train, Italian reggae star Nina Zilli on the jazzy ska flavored Goodbye, sweet singing Kemar on the beautiful There is a Place, Nature on the catchy Warrior and veteran vocal harmony trio The Abyssinians on Give Thanks, a track on which they provide harmonies sang in Amharic, the sacred language of Ethiopia.

Sound the System is Puppa Rosie’s fifth album and has a classic, yet contemporary, sound heavily influenced by early 80’s dancehall in a Sly & Robbie style and fashion. He uses live instruments and analogue recording techniques to achieve his vintage sound which carry plenty of references to eras when Bob Marley, Yellowman, Burning Spear and Barrington Levy ruled the charts.

Alborosie is a virtual virtuoso at writing bubbling and boisterous riddims, catchy melodies and hooks and righteous and rebellious lyrics, but without being preachy or moralizing. His more humorous side can be heard in soundsystem anthems and burial tunes like Who Run the Dance, Shut U Mouth and Rock the Dancehall.

Sound the System is a diverse and passionate reggae cocktail by an artist that knows how to create hit songs with a message.

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Romantic reggae relicks from Richie Stephens

hämtaIn the mood for some powerful singing, bedroom lyrics and contemporary relicks of classic Jamaican riddims? Then Richie Stephens’ latest album Real Reggae Music will make you drool.

Richie Stephens is a classically trained singer with a warm and passionate voice who over the years has done his fair share of cover versions, including pop and R&B gems from Teddy Pendergrass, Luther Vandross and Tom Jones. He has also worked for soul giant Motown Records and spent some time singing in Soul II Soul.

Real Reggae Music collects 14 tracks, of which most are previously unreleased, produced by Danny Brownie, Radiation Squad, Steelie & Clevie and Donovan Germain. If you have a decent reggae collection you’ll probably recognize most of the riddims, such as The Uniques’ rocksteady anthem My Conversation or Johnny Clarke’s dismal None Shall Escape the Judgement. The most recognizable track is however an up-tempo version of Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry.

It has been a while since Jamaican romantic crooners Sanchez, Singing Melody and Lukie D dropped albums, and while you wait for those you should give this mature set a spin.

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Jahcoustix has all the right frequencies for roots reggae

irie060_-_Jahcoustix_-_Frequency_300px_72dpiGerman reggae singer Jahcoustix spent his childhood in several different countries in many parts of the world – Mexico, Liberia, the U.S., Kenya, Germany and Egypt. And just like when he was growing up his previous albums have wandered in several different directions, while his latest effort Frequency is a cohesive set following Bob Marley’s roots reggae recipe.

Frequency is Jahcoustix sixth studio album and recorded with a different approach since it’s his first without his band. Instead he worked with Austrian label and producers Irievibrations Records along with a few other producers.

The idea was to get a more diverse sound, but I’d say it’s the opposite. Frequency is straight forward roots reggae with clean grooves, deep bass lines, pumping organ, kicking drums, sweet vocal harmonizing, conscious lyrics, breezy horns and memorable hooks and melodies.

Over the 17 tracks, of which one is a dub version of the excellent Apple Gabriel combination Controller and two are bonus cuts, he doesn’t stray into straight pop, balladeering, dancehall, dance music or hip-hop. Frequency is uplifting and uncompromising roots reggae. Just like it should be.

Available now on CD and digital platforms.

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Solid roots reggae grooves from Meta & The Cornerstones

pochette_cartonSenegalese singer Meta Dia started his music career rapping in the streets of Dakar. After a move to the U.S. and New York City in 2002 he fell in love with reggae and formed his band The Cornerstones and together they released their acclaimed debut album Forward Music in 2008.

Their second set Ancient Power – recorded in Jamaica with a number of notable musicians and produced by Meta Dia and Sidney Mills from Steel Pulse – arrived today after being delayed for almost a year.

I received a copy last year and instantly fell in love with the uplifting, warm sound, Meta Dia’s Bob Marley-tinged singing, his positive lyrics and approach and the soulful roaring groove. Unfortunately the track list on the almost flawless promo I received and the actual release differs a bit. Included now are at least three tracks that doesn’t belong there – the rock ballad Without Heart, its piano version and an odd live recording with poor audio quality.

Fortunately the rest of the album is dynamite and includes ten roots rocking minor masterpieces that would have made Bob Marley proud.

Ancient Power is solid and bright and manages to balance influences from the Caribbean, the U.S., the Middle East and Africa. Highlights include the upbeat Bound to Glory with a rocking slide guitar, the pumping Damian Marley combination My Beloved Africa and the mystic, nyabinghi-inspired title track, definitely one of the fiercest and greatest single tunes this year.

A great set that manages to excel the debut album. Available now on CD and digital platforms worldwide.

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