Tag Archives: Lists

Dennis Brown’s best according to Blood and Fire board

The late Jamaican singer Dennis Brown has been one of my favorite singers ever since I started listening to reggae. He’s one of Jamaica’s most beloved and prolific artists, and has often been referred to as The Crown Prince of Reggae, following the lineage of Bob Marley, who is by far the most successful reggae artist to date.

During Dennis Brown’s far too short lifetime – he died only 42 years old following hard use of cocaine – he cut a myriad of romantic hits and rootsy masterpieces.

Like many other Jamaican singers and musicians he started his career at Studio One with producer Coxsone Dodd, with whom he cut his first hit song No Man is an Island in the late 60s, only eleven years old.

He later moved on and started a fruitful musical relationship with Winston “Niney” Holness, but during his 30 years in the business he also worked with a plethora of different producers, including Phil Pratt, Bunny Lee, Joe Gibbs, Sly & Robbie and Augustus “Gussie” Clarke. He also ventured into self-production and started his own label in the late 70s.

In his early 20s Dennis Brown was a legend with major tunes like Africa, Here I Come, Westbound Train and Money in My Pocket. He had a strong reputation in Jamaica and abroad and only lacked an international smash hit, and the deal with major label A&M in the early 80s might have been his ticket to Bob Marley-like stardom. Unfortunately his albums for the label didn’t match his earlier output. They were too slick and polished.

Dennis Brown was an extremely consistent singer equally at ease with both romantic and conscious material, and the list of powerful roots classics and silky ballads could go on and on and on.

He left behind a rich musical legacy, and at the Blood and Fire board there’s a discussion about the difficulties selecting only ten Dennis Brown favorites. Some have presented their ten, 12 or 20 favorites.

Reggaemani has taken the liberty to compile the selection into a Spotify playlist, including my own top ten, presented below. Not all of the tracks selected on the forum are available on Spotify, but the great majority is actually included, with respect to the fact that it could be the wrong version, since Dennis Brown – just as many other reggae artists – recorded a string of versions of one particular tune.

You can check the lists on the Blood and Fire board here and Reggaemani’s Spotify playlist can be downloaded and listened to here.

Reggaemani’s top ten Dennis Brown (in no particular order)

The Creator
Drifter (Live at Montreux Jazz Festival)
No More Will I Roam
Created by the Father
Milk and Honey
Ghetto Girl
Musical Heatwave
Deliverance Will Come
Words of Wisdom
Rasta Children

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Reggaemani celebrates Jamaica’s 50th anniversary

On August 6th 1962 the island nation of Jamaica attained full independence from Britain, and as a celebration of the 50th year of independence Reggaemani has put together a list of 50 favorite reggae albums, one for each decade.

This wide-ranging list doesn’t aim to provide a full picture of the country’s musical evolution, since it’s my personal favorites, which means the list leans towards the rootsier side of reggae.

I fell in love with reggae about 15 years ago, actually through punk rock and bands such as NOFX and Rancid. These bands incorporated ska in their music, and I loved the energy and intensity in both ska and punk.

I did some research, found The Skatalites and haven’t looked back since. I was immediately hooked and have travelled from ska and rocksteady via roots reggae and early dancehall to ragga and modern one drop. I guess you can say the ingenious sounds of Jamaica have made a lasting impression on me.

My 50 years of reggae music capture almost every sub-genre over the past five decades and the list includes game-changing albums, pivotal artists, crucial producers and massive anthems. It’s a journey through an innovative genre that has influenced popular culture, a genre that has made an undeniable mark on the global music map with its seminal sounds.

The 50 albums I have selected celebrate the momentous achievements in the past and I hope for an equally glorious future.

The list will be presented through five different articles, one for each decade. On Monday June 11 it’s 1962-1972, on Tuesday 1973-1982, on Wednesday 1983-1992, on Thursday 1993-2002 and on Friday 2003-2012.

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Favourite albums of 2011

Last year was a good year for reggae albums, especially for those in one drop mode. Single artist dancehall albums were rather absent as usual, even though Chino and Vybz Kartel dropped decent albums.

In late December I published lists covering the best tunes of 2011 and some general highlights. Now it’s time for the favourite albums of 2011 list. But rather than choose the titles all by myself I joined forces with my fellow United Reggae writer Angus Taylor.

Together we managed to agree on our 20 favourite albums from last year. Only those that showed up on both our private lists were selected for the final top 20. This list is unranked, and no reissues or compilations have been counted.

There were of course albums we couldn’t agree on. Therefore we made a separate section where these are listed. We’ve also compiled a list for free downloads at the end.

Looking into 2012 there are several highlights ahead. I’ve had a listen to Da Professor’s upcoming album The Laboratory for producer Don Corleon and it’s very promising.

Also worth keeping an eye out for is Mr. Vegas’ double album Sweet Jamaica Reggae/Sweet Jamaica DancehallSizzla’s The Chant, Konshens’ Mental Maintenance, I-Octane’s Crying to the Nation, Sean Paul’s Tomahawk Technique, Skarra Mucci’s Return of the Raggamuffin, Groundation’s Building an Ark and new titles from both Etana and Queen Ifrica.

Stephen Marley – Revelations Part One: The Root Of Life
The second half to this two part concept series never surfaced this year as initially promised. But part one was a beautifully crafted tribute to Stephen’s father’s era of music and his finest platter yet.

Sizzla – The Scriptures
Every culturally minded album by Sizzla is hailed as a return to form but this one actually was: a wobbly opus using digitally enhanced Jammys rhythms from his son John John. The tracks actually felt like they had been chosen for a reason while Sizzla’s controversial falsetto never sounded better on the Beach Boys/Animal Collective-like Jah Is My Shield.

Takana Zion – Rasta Government
The Guinean chanter’s longplayers have gone from strength to strength and this was his masterstroke. Lyrically simple (but hey, the man speaks multiple languages), the messages were manna to roots reggae fans worldwide.

Hollie Cook – Hollie Cook
Punk had a curious relationship with reggae in the 70s. But today the ethereal voiced daughter of sex pistol Paul Cook created a head swimmingly retro lovers rock debut with unstoppable engineer Prince Fatty that pleased purists and public alike.

Alpheus – From Creation
When British Studio One prodigy Alpheus said he would never sing another modern reggae song it sounded bizarre. But that was before he and producer Robert Sanchez unleashed this note-perfect recreation of the days of Coxsone and Phil Pratt in the ska and rocksteady era which took the critics of Europe by storm.

Earl Sixteen – The Fittest
Dubby Dutch double team JahSolidRock and Not Easy At All trumped this list with two releases last year. This time they kept their hand in with a full showcase effort from prolific roots internationalist Earl Sixteen.

Richie Spice – Book Of Job
The unmistakable voice of Richall Bonner over Penthouse and other rhythms was an early favourite from Jamaica in 2011. My Life, a remixed adaptation of Randy Crawford’s Street Life, was an instant modern classic, while Richie’s singing on the Raging Fyah production Black Woman had a distinctly West African vibe.

Protoje – The Seven Year Itch
Lorna Bennett’s talented singjay son’s eclectic radio-friendly introduction silenced the doom and gloom merchants who had been writing off Jamaican music. The last-minute removal of strongest track Our Time Come (due to clearance issues over its Burning Spear sample) was a disappointment but the rest still held its own.

I-Taweh – Overload
Again the naysayers were silenced when a St Ann’s parish roots reggae artist took the Richie B album chart number one spot. Veteran session musician I-Taweh Cunningham’s story – like his record – was one of the most inspirational of the year.

Perfect – Back For The First Time
Another St Ann’s man, the ever dependable Perfect, linked up with Californian rhythm team Lustre Kings for a record that hit his highest heights since 2008’s Born Dead With Life. More of a grower than that album it was a unanimous choice in our office nonetheless.

Joggo – Modern Rockers Vol. 1
Yet another strong rootsy album from the Netherlands. Clarence Seedorf’s brother Joggo’s direct and desperate tone along with several sing-along choruses made this a very memorable set.

Uprising Roots Band – Skyfiya
The debut album from one of the several bands that have surfaced in Jamaica in recent years. This is eerie roots reggae that pays homage to pioneering Jamaican groups such as Culture and The Gladiators.

Luciano – Rub a Dub Market
His third full-lengther in less than a year, and Luciano continues to work with producers outside Jamaica with great success. This one was produced by Vienna-based Irie Vibrations and holds many familiar Luciano ingredients – beautiful harmonies and grandiose choruses.

Sara Lugo – What About Love?
The little lady from outside Munich with the room-silencing voice decided not to make a straight reggae album for her debut. Even so, it was a prodigious statement that played on the close relationship between soul and reggae, and announced the rising of a new star.

I Wayne – Life Teachings
I Wayne’s Third Record for Loyal Soldiers caused a dilemma for liberal listeners. His proscriptive lyrics seemed preoccupied with sexual behaviour but the music was stronger than anything he had released before.

J Boog – Backyard Boogie
The Hawaii based singer’s cracked-voiced crooning seemed well at home on the more Jamaican sounding rhythms of his second disc. This versatile, hugely popular artist delivered one of the best slices of “island pop” this year.

Ziggi Recado – Ziggi Recado
Ziggi’s third album showed a brand new side to him. This was an adventurous blend of reggae, soul, hip-hop, funk and even rock. In some cases it would have sounded disunited, but it’s actually a cohesive whole.

Midnite – Kings Bell
On their fifth album in 2011, and about the 45th during their career, Midnite is more accessible than ever before. But it doesn’t mean that Kings Bell offers extravagant harmonies or na-na-na’s. It’s still the same Midnite, but – thanks to producer Andrew Bassie Campbell and his top Jamaican session musicians – with clearer melodies and more memorable hooks.

Raging Fyah – Judgement Time
Singer Ray Darwin’s former band mates have found a new singer, and on their promising opening set they play skanking, uplifting reggae as it was played in the 70’s.

Little Roy – Battle For Seattle
The reggae covers industry took a bold step beyond the safer choices of Easy Star Records. Little Roy’s second album in 2011 deservedly moved him into the mainstream as he highlighted the uplifting quality to Kurt Cobain’s songs across a series of Nirvana covers. It’s the second appearance on our list from producer/engineer Prince Fatty whose daring concept showed he is as interested in taking reggae forward as looking back.

Other essential albums that didn’t make the list (i.e. we couldn’t agree!)
Reggae Regulars – If Only
Tappa Zukie – X Is Wrong
Gappy Ranks – Thanks & Praise
Little Roy – Heat
Deadly Hunta – Speak My Mind
Etana – Free Expressions
Joey Fever – In A Fever
Ray Darwin – People’s Choice
Alborosie – Two Times Revolution
Warrior King – Tell Me How Me Sound

Free downloads
Collie Buddz – Playback EP
Kabaka Pyramid – Rebel Music EP
Mark Wonder and Zion Roots – The Dragonslayer
Mandinka Warrior and Mr Williamz – Dancehall Nice Again
Jahmali – Sounds with a Purpose

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Reggaemani’s best tunes 2011

December is one of my favorite months. Not because of the cold Swedish winter. Nor the short days and long nights up here in northern Europe. I like the Christmas holidays though. But that’s not why December is a great month.

The reason is the making of lists. I love structuring the year and go through all the music I have received during the past twelve months. And it’s a tough job sorting it all out.

This year Reggaemani will publish three lists – the best tunes in 2011, the best albums in 2011 and overall highlights in 2011.

As you might already have figured out this list is focusing on my favorite tunes this year.

The main criteria for making the list is of course being a great song. But I’ve also only picked tunes that have been released as singles or being part of a riddim compilation. No album tunes so to speak.

I’ve also tried to make the list as diverse as possible. I hope there is a little something for everyone – lovers rock, dancehall, roots reggae and hip-hop infused one drop.

One thing that became apparent when I made this list is that the year mainly belonged to one artist – Tarrus Riley. He has made a number of excellent tunes in 2011 and I could easily have done a top ten with just his output without feeling embarrassed.

The list includes 21 tunes. An odd number you might say. The reason is because when I had made the list I was exposed to a huge tune released in December. I didn’t want to change my initial list and decided to just add another title.

Apart from the list I’ve also added some space for the tunes that are bubbling and hanging out just outside the main list. It’s nothing wrong with these little creatures, so check them out as well.

Most of the tunes are easily available on digital platforms or streaming services. If you use Spotify you can download a list with most of the tunes here.

Artist – Title (Riddim)

1. Captain Sinbad – World Wide Rebellion (Skateland Killer)
Producer Frenchie’s longtime friend chats old school style over this lethal Star Daily News or Gleaner inspired one drop. The Eek A Mouse sample is pure genius.

2. Burro Banton & Joe Lickshot – Sound Exterminator (Sound Exterminata)
The man with the rockstone voice in a sound boy murder style.

3. Queen Ifrica – Pot Still Haffi Bubble (Pursue)
An infectious repetitive chorus alongside anthemic flag waving verses.

4. Romain Virgo – I’m Rich in Love
Uptempo modern lovers rock produced by Donovan Germain.

5. Jah Mason – Mr. Government (Sensimillionaire)
Jah Mason flows effortlessly over this pounding riddim.

6. Protoje & Don Corleone – Our Time Now
Didn’t make it onto Protoje’s debut album due to legal issues, but it leaked and made into this list.

7. Luciano – Identity (Fairground)
Luciano continues his conscious style lyrics and comments on skin bleaching and vanity.

 8. Fantan Mojah – Rasta Got Soul (Think Twice)
A James Brown styled Fantan Mojah sings and pays tribute to legendary reggae artists – “If me no call your name, please catch me inna di next song, cause the list a di name a to long.”

9. Carl Meeks – Jah is Alive (Speaker)
80’s singer Carl Meeks has a unique singing style that suits this bouncy riddim very well.

10. Tarrus Riley – Chaka Zulu Pickney (The Nyabinghi)
An always inspired Tarrus Riley sings about historical black leaders.

11. D Major – That’s What Love’s About (Heart and Soul)
The first one drop riddim from the Further Notice camp is all about smoothness and sweet harmonies.

12. Ward 21 – Take a Wif (Jah Army)
A relick of Black Uhuru’s General Penitentiary and just about every cut on this riddim is worth having, and this is particularly devastating.

13. Ky-Mani Marley – Brave Ones (Message)
Producer Don Corleone has a great feel for pop melodies, and this one is no exception.

14. Yami Bolo – Babylon System (Bellyfull)
Weeping and wailing waterhouse style from Yami Bolo. The hip-hop inspired relick of The Gladiator’s Bellyfull is a real gem, and the Albert Griffith’s vocal sample makes all the difference.

15. Chino & Denyque – Driving Me Insane
Chino & Denyque in a modern version of Shabba Ranks’ Mr. Loverman.

16. Jah Sun & Gentleman – Tear Drops (Alive)
Europe meets the U.S. in fine style.

17. Tarrus Riley – Lala Warriors (Gorilla)
Curtis Lynch has produced yet another hefty riddim with a contagious chorus.

18. I-Octane – Cyan Do Wi Nuttn
Raspy voiced I-Octane has had a successful 2011, and his best effort was this Russian-produced dancehall tune.

19. Assassin & Bounty Killer – Ghetto State of Mind (Ghetto State)
Both Assassin and Bounty Killer must have been bread on gravel and small stones. Their rockstone voices suit this hip-hop-tinged one drop scorcher very well.

20. Turbulence – Jah is Love (Royalty)
Xterminator made their return in 2011. And what a return. Turbulence sounds as good as he did in the early 2000’s.

21. Mavado – Final Destination (Summer Fling)
Can’t help myself on this one. It’s hard not to sing along in the beautiful chorus.

Just outside the list: Tarrus Riley – Rebel, Busy SignalWorldwide Love, Maxi Priest & Tippa IrieLike This, Ricardo Clarke – Only Got Love, Vybz Kartel – Summertime, Stylo GCall Me A Yardie and Sizzla – Murder Star.

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Best Swedish reggae albums

In December last year acclaimed Swedish reggae blog Svereggae (formerly Svenska Reggaebloggen) appointed – among its readers – the best Swedish reggae albums during the years 2000-2009.

The selection procedure was rather advanced and the whole list consists of 77 albums, all placed in order of precedence.

Popular singjay Kapten Röd’s debut album Stjärnorna finns här released in 2007 won by far and got way more votes than any other album.

If you interested in Swedish reggae, check out the ten best albums below. If you are interested in all 77 albums, you should check this article on Svereggae.

Artist – title

1. Kapten Röd – Stjärnorna finns här
2. Svenska Akademien – Tändstickor för mörkrädda
3. Kalle Baah – Bråda dagar
4. Helt Off – Helt Off
5. Kultiration – Döden föder
6. Kultiration – Om Gaia
7. Svenska Akademien – Resa sig opp
8. USCB Allstars – Class brutáls
9. Junior Eric – Raggamuffin på svenska
10. Governor Andy – Som Salomos sång

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