Tag Archives: Reggae compilations

A jubilee selection worthy a Prime Minister

Musical tributes to Jamaica’s 50th year of independence continue to arrive, even three months after the island’s national day.

Reggae Golden Jubilee: Origins Of Jamaican Music – 50th Anniversary is a beautifully put together four disc and book box set partly selected by former Jamaican Prime Minister Edward Seaga (Jamaican Labor Party), whose interests in the music and folklore of Jamaica go as far back as its recording history being both a record producer and a label owner.

The 100 tracks showcase the origin and evolution of Jamaican music and include several significant milestones, taking its start with Theophilus Beckford’s Easy Snappin’ and closing with Mavado’s On the Rock. In between these two monster tunes there are many tracks marking the start of several reggae sub genres, including ska, rocksteady, dancehall and ragga, and most of the selected tunes are on the smoother side of things.

There’s however a lack of the sounds of nyabinghi and dub, and the shortage of the latter was explained by Edward Seaga himself at an event in New York City in late November, where he said “It is minimal performance in the recording, with too much space left; and that is why DJ music followed immediately-with toasting by artist like U-Roy- filling in the space.”

Apart from being instrumental in choosing the music, Edward Seaga has also contributed to the 64 page booklet text alongside John Masouri, Dermot Hussey and Christopher Chin as well as Daddy Lion Chandell, Donald Clive Davidson and Roy Black who have written the track-by-track text parts.

The booklet is really extraordinary and includes rare photographs and short essays on each music period.  Most of the 100 tracks have been on dozens on compilations and are easy available elsewhere, so the packaging and the booklet are the main driving forces for investing in this piece of musical history. Unless you’re completely new to reggae, then there’s plenty of amazing tunes to enjoy.

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An excellent overview of reggae’s main eras

For the last couple of months the market has been almost flooded with celebrations on Jamaica’s 50th year of independence, as Reggaemani has previously noted. There have been magazine articles, concerts and single and album releases. And some genuinely fine various artist compilations to showcase reggae music.

The four volumes of Bass Culture is one of the finest – if not the finest – yet. Each volume collects 40 tracks on two discs covering the 60’s ska and rocksteady era (This Town is Too Hot!), the early reggae era (Boss Sounds 1968-1972), roots, rockers, DJ’s and dub (When Reggae Was King 1970-1980) and the birth of dancehall (Mash You Down 1980-1985).

Compiler Jim Layne has dug deep in the record bins and has done an outstanding job selecting the tracks for each volume. There are almost no fillers and the ratio between unknown gems and smash hits are handled carefully, which makes the set interesting for hardcore collectors as well as the more casual reggae fan.

Almost all artists, groups, producers and labels that have had an impact on reggae are included, for example Coxsone Dodd, Niney, Bunny Lee, Linval Thompson, Prince Buster, Prince Jammy and Joe Gibbs, to name but a few.

Each volume comes with extensive and highly informative liner notes adapted from Lloyd Bradley’s comprehensive book Bass Culture. Each track also comes with information on producer and year of release.

Boss Sounds is an excellent overview of the four main eras of Jamaican spanning three decades, and is together with Trojan Records’ five disc anthology Freedom Sounds the best compilation to be put out in 2012 yet.

Now I just wish someone will take interest in Jamaica’s more contemporary sounds and compile a great anthology for the years 1985 to 2012. This period is treated unfavorably compared to the so-called golden era, and a showcase for these years is badly needed.

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True sounds of freedom

The legendary Trojan label has had a huge upswing over the last years with some sublime and interesting reissues, including classics and overlooked gems on both vinyl and CD.

The latest addition is the Freedom Sounds box set with music ranging from early shuffling Jamaican boogie to profound roots reggae and ragga. It comes with five discs collecting a total of 108 songs along with four post cards, a sticker and a 52 page booklet focusing on the history of Jamaica and its musical heritage written by Ian McCann, editor of Record Collector magazine.

Trojan has obviously put some thought and hard work into this compilation. All discs have their own direction – Freedom Sounds, Jamaican Hits, Pioneers, Innovators and Forgotten Treasures. Most of the 23 tracks on the hits disc are well-known, while many of the others are new to CD and have also not been issued outside Jamaica until now, including some crucial moments by Toots & The Maytals, The Carib Beats and The Planners.

The majority of the tracks were issued in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s and there’s no contemporary roots or dancehall included and almost no ragga.

But that’s not an issue, because this compilation is determined to successfully celebrate the leading performers, producers and studios that have shaped Jamaica’s national sound over 50 years.

And this is not just another compilation to celebrate Jamaica’s 50 years of independence nor is it just another reggae compilation with the standard list of hits from the usual suspects.

Freedom Sounds is one of the best compilations in recent years and a well-representative overview of Jamaica’s gift to the world of music, a gift that has influenced generations of music makers around the world for more than five decades.

These sounds lead the way and will certainly set your mind and body free. Get it now. It’s a no-brainer.

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Odd selection of one drop anthems

VP/Greensleeves’ The Biggest Reggae One-Drop Anthems compilation is back after a one year absence. This sixth edition is released in the same style as the 2009 version – a single CD with no bonus DVD or extra treat. You get 17 tunes from both well-known artists and lesser-known ones.

But this release differs from the previous versions in one particular respect – I can’t seem to find any smash hits. And I can’t figure out the selection criteria. There are several important tunes missing – Let’s Do it Again by J Boog (or any cut on the Major riddim), Tarrus Riley’s Never Leave I, Sizzla’s Ghetto Youth’s Rise or Times Like These by Queen Ifrica being just four examples.

Nevertheless, there is some great music included. Romain Virgo is in fine shape on the majestic I Am Rich in Love, and so is the late J.O.E on Rasta Chant. The most familiar tune is probably Put the Stereo On by Gappy Ranks, a tune also included on his debut album.

There is also some U.S. reggae represented. Midnite with their How to Answa and Alone from The Green. VP/Greensleeves have also put in Gentleman’s Changes, a tune released in 2009. The reason is probably that this German singjay is about to move into the U.S. market.

Despite several odd picks The Biggest Reggae One-Drop Anthems 2011 is a fairly good introduction to the one drop scene 2010-2011.

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New compilation spotlights the crown prince of reggae

The record market is flooded with compilations and it’s sometimes hard to distinct the good ones from the poorer.

One artist that has been subject for a number of compilations is the late and great Dennis Brown. During his prolific career he recorded several wicked albums and singles.

Last year saw the release of Dennis Brown & The DJs – Joe Gibbs 12” Selection. This was a nice eleven track compilation of hard to find duets where Dennis Brown had teamed up with deejays such as Big Youth, U Brown and Welton Irie.

Now it’s time for another supposedly good compilation of Dennis Brown material. This time it’s put out by 17 North Parade – a subsidiary of VP Records.

The Crown Prince of Reggae – Singles (1972 – 1985) is a three-disc compilation of many of his hit singles. Two of the discs collect 40 tunes, both anthems such as Revolution and Created by the Father and lesser known works like Praise Without Raise.

The third disc is what makes this release stand out. It’s a DVD from a Dennis Brown concert in Montreux in 1979. This concert has been available on vinyl, CD and DVD before, but is now part of a great package. The live version of The Drifter is one of the best performances I’ve ever seen and is highly recommended.

In 2003 Trojan Records released an album titled The Crown Prince of Reggae collecting 20 tracks. Even though a number of tunes are represented on both albums, this new one seems to be a good investment.

The Crown Prince of Reggae – Singles (1972 – 1985) is due on November 16.

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