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Reggaemani celebrates Jamaica’s 50th anniversary – 2003-2012

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.

Lukie D – Deliver Me (2006)
The passionate and soulful vocal talents of Lukie D have never sounded better than over these Frenchie-produced riddims. A blazingly soulful album from start to finish.

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 MarleyDistant 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.

AlpheusFrom 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.


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Reggaemani celebrates Jamaica’s 50th anniversary – 1993-2002

This is the fourth 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 1993-2002.

During the early 90’s ragga with mainly slack lyrics dominated the Jamaican dancehall and the airwaves with deejays such as Ninjaman and Cutty Ranks. At the same time a new breed of roots reggae singers started to come forward. This era is appropriately described in the indispensable book The Rough Guide to Reggae as “rasta renaissance”.

During this period a number of world-class performers entered the scene, and several of these are still very much active on the scene. I’m talking about Luciano, Sizzla, Capleton and Bushman.

But 1993-2002 is also the period when two new reggae superstars rise and completely rule the reggae charts as well as the more mainstream ones.

Shaggy scores two major hits with Bombastic in 1995 and It wasn’t Me five years later and Sean Paul drops several smash hits during the early 2000’s, including Gimme the Light, Like Glue and Get Busy.

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.

Luciano – Where There is Life (1995)
Luciano is a pivotal figure in the development of modern roots reggae, and several of his mid 90’s albums are essential. On this Phillip “Fatis” Burrell produced album he sings with confidence and coolness and lines up masterpiece after masterpiece, including Lord Give Me Strength and It’s Me Again Jah.

Buju Banton – ’Til Shiloh (1995)
In 1995 Buju Banton ventured into spirituality with the semi-acoustic lighter raising Untold Stories. His shift towards conscious and cultural themes is apparent on the deejay’s magnum opus ‘Til Shiloh, on which he with both power and emotion rages against Jamaican domestic violence, pays homage to Africa and praises Jah.

Anthony B – Real Revolutionary (1996)
Just as Sizzla, Anthony B belonged to a new generation of cultural deejays in the mid 90’s, and both were at the forefront with their messages of righteousness and equality. His delivery is fierce on this Richard “Bello” Bell produced set, a set that contains the controversial Fire pon Rome along with Repentance Time and an interpretation of Tracy Chapman’s Cold Feet.

Sizzla – Black Woman & Child (1997)
The prolific turban-clad righteous ranter Sizzla has had his ups and downs in album quality. But in the mid to late 90’s he reigned the conscious roots dancehall scene with several top-notch albums for Phillip “Fatis” Burrell and Bobby “Digital” Dixon. This Dixon-produced set includes both reworkings of reggae masterpieces and fresh originals, and Sizzla chants are both ferocious and catchy.

Tony Rebel – If Jah (1997)
One of the earliest righteous chanters of the modern roots reggae era in the 90’s, and on this set Tony Rebel rejects slackness with a more melodic approach compared to some of his contemporaries. Includes self-productions as well as collaborations with Donovan Germain, Bobby “Digital” Dixon, Richard “Bello” Bell among others, and notable tracks include his bestselling Jah is By My Side, Know Jah, on a relicked Swing Easy riddim, and the marvelous Marcia Griffiths duet Ready to Go, a version of her own Land of Love.

Bushman – Nyah Man Chant (1997)
Heavily influenced by Dennis Brown, Frankie Paul and Luciano, Bushman has a powerful and no-nonsense vocal approach and sings with attitude and confidence. This debut set is produced by Steely & Clevie and is filled sizzling beats, wicked grooves and thoughtful lyrics.

Jahmali – El Shaddai (1998)
The stunning debut album by this shamefully under recorded singer. Jahmali’s strong and expressive voice is easy to fall in love with, and on this set it’s matched by equally strong and expressive riddims produced by Donovan Germain.

Prezident Brown – To Jah Only (1999)
Prezident Brown has a rhythmic and melodic swinging flow in his chanting style, while his singing is a little rough around the edges. To Jah Only is a cultural album from start to finish and the styles range from modern roots reggae and nyabinghi to danchehall-tinged pop.

Capleton – More Fire (2000)
In the late 90’s the thunderous voiced fire raving Capleton was at the peak of his career. This album collects recordings from 1999 and early 2000 and is filled with brimstone and fire lyrics ready to mash up the world. Song titles such as Pure Sodom, Bun Dung Dreadie and Jah Jah City set the tone.

Ras Shiloh – From Rasta to You (2002)
Ras Shiloh has been described as the reincarnated voice of the late Garnett Silk, and the resemblance between the two singers are spooky. The similarities and differences become apparent on the opening track Complain, a duet where both singers ride the mighty Tempo riddim. The other 16 tracks are just as essential.

Curious about the albums? Check this Spotify playlist with nine of the albums.

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Reggaemani celebrates Jamaica’s 50th anniversary – 1983-1992

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.

As with 1962-1972 and 1973-1982 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.

The MeditationsNo 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.

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Reggaemani celebrates Jamaica’s 50th anniversary – 1962-1972

This is the first 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 the first ten albums and the period covering 1962-1972.

It all started back in the early 60’s when ska was born. The music itself was a mix of R&B, swing, mento and latin and the genre’s prime ambassadors was The Skatalites, a group of brilliant instrumentalists that backed most of the top singers of the day as well as recorded dazzling instrumentals.

And it’s only fair to kick-off the list with a top-notch ska album recorded for the Top Deck label. Ska changed after a few years and evolved into the smoother, glossier and more soul-influenced rocksteady.

The only straight rocksteady album on the list is The Paragons’ On the Beach.

The sound of rocksteady –just as ska – only lasted a few years, and around 1968 reggae took the island, and later the world, by storm.

 The rest of the list contains albums in the early reggae – sometimes labeled skinhead reggae – vein with albums put out between 1968 and 1972, even though some of the albums cover a period when rocksteady transmuted into reggae.

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.

The Skatalites – Ska Boo Da-Ba (1966)
The all-star ensemble of The Skatalites – with instrumentalists such as Tommy McCook, Don Drummond, Jackie Mittoo and Roland Alphonso – has released numerous of immortal ska tunes, and this set collects twelve instrumentals, including Lawless Street and Confucius.

The Paragons – On the Beach (1967)
Classic rocksteady album recorded at Treasure Isle with John Holt on lead vocals. Contains almost exclusively hit songs – Only a Smile, Happy Go Lucky and The Tide is High, later coved by U.S. pop/rock group Blondie with great success.

Prince Buster – Rough Rider (1968)
More or less a collection of singles issued on Bluebeat, but what great singles. Contains both fast-paced instrumentals and slower ballads. Highlights include the title track, the aptly titled Scorcher and Taxation, with its memorable brass.

Ken Boothe – A Man and His Hits (1968)
Ken Boothe started in the ska era with Stranger Cole as the duo Stranger & Ken. He reached solo success in the 70’s with his album and single Everything I Own. A Man and His Hits was recorded at Studio One in the rocksteady vein and is filled with his gritty singing style.

The Heptones – On Top (1968)
The trio’s second album, recorded at Studio One with Coxsone Dodd handling the production. Includes beautiful harmonizing and immortal and much versioned riddims – Pretty Looks isn’t All and I Hold the Handle can still be heard to this day.

The Pioneers – Long Shot (1969)
The late Leslie Kong is without a doubt one of the best Jamaican producers of all time. This early reggae album was produced by him and includes up-tempo scorchers such as the title track and the Jamaican hit Samfie Man.

The Ethiopians – Reggae Power (1969)
The much overlooked Jamaican producer J.J Johnson is responsible for this set in the early reggae vein. His productions have a very distinct sound with picking guitar in an almost country and western style, with Gun Man and Woman a Capture Man being two prime examples.

Desmond Dekker – This Is (1969)
Another set produced by the great Leslie Kong and with backing supplemented by the always consistent Beverly’s All Stars. Not a weak or boring moment, and you can’t go wrong with a collection that includes the monster hit 007 (Shanty Town) along with less known gems such as Beautiful & Dangerous and Hey Grandma.

Bob Andy – Song Book (1970)
A stunning collection of songs from this sometimes overlooked artist in the course of Jamaican singers. Bob Andy is a versatile and gifted song writer and arranger and had a smash hit a few years later with a cover of Nina Simone’s Young, Gifted & Black, made as a combination with Marcia Griffiths.

Junior Byles – Beat Down Babylon (1972)
The unique voice of Junior Byles contains a sublime mix of vulnerability and rebelliousness. This Lee Perry-produced set includes ten tracks with mostly social themes.

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