Saturday, March 26, 2011

List: 10 Important Reggae Albums

Local music blog ‘Blog on the Tracks’ (on recently featured a post on the “ten most important” Reggae albums. It was part of a series where blogger Simon Sweetman selects a genre and then proceeds to list the most important albums of said genre. Or the “most important” as they relate to Simon’s journey and life as a music consumer. Not the ten best-sellers or the ten most acclaimed but the ten that have touched on a personal level.

I personally listen to a lot of Reggae (and/or Dub and a multitude of sub genres) so I thought I’d follow the blog’s lead and create my own list of ten for the genre. As with most lists of this nature, I suspect the contents would vary from one day to the next, depending on my whim, but the only prerequisite I’d insist upon for inclusion is that I own a copy of the album in some form or another – be it LP vinyl, CD, or a digital version … or in the case of one of the below (Signing Off), all three variations.

Here’s the list I submitted in response to the blog:

1. Third World – 96 Degrees in the Shade – combines Jamaican rhythms with funk to produce the perfect soundtrack for those long balmy summer nights.

2. Bob Marley & The Wailers – Kaya – won’t be the one for Bob purists but means so much to me on a personal level for reasons perhaps best not gone into here. Contains no filler.

3. Lee Scratch Perry & Dub Syndicate – Time Boom x De Devil Dead – Perry’s second coming masterfully produced by Adrian Sherwood. An important album in the evolution of Dub.

4. Peter Tosh – Equal Rights – Tosh’s most consistent solo effort just shading Legalise It. The title track is one of contemporary music’s all-time greatest protest songs.

5. Bob Marley & The Wailers – Exodus – prime period Bob. An important statement at a troublesome time for him personally.

6. Burning Spear – Marcus Garvey – Look no further for the true definition of ‘Roots’ in black plastic form.

7. Max Romeo – War Ina Babylon – Perry-produced set that raised the bar for all pretenders.

8. Jimmy Cliff/OST – The Harder They Come – not so much a Cliff solo set as a who’s who of Reggae as it morphed from its Ska and Rocksteady origins. My extended review of this soundtrack made the front page of the popular ‘Rate Your Music’ site … just sayin’.

9. UB40 – Signing Off – before they turned to mush, this Brummie collective had a lot to say. The opening quartet of tracks on this album ensured they said it with plenty of style and substance. The rest ain’t bad either.

10. Various – 15 Years in an Open Boat – showcases Adrian Sherwood’s On-U Sound label with 15 years worth of gems from a whole range of sources. A one-stop-shop/intro to an important label … but look out too for any one of the half dozen or so Pay It All Back compilations on On-U.

( … but ten is obviously all too finite as a number and there really is a batch of other albums that on any other given day I’d probably rate just as highly as some of the above. I’ll doubtlessly be looking to create a more definitive personal list at some point in the future …)

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