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Old 06-10-2009, 07:39 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Bulldog and Jackhammer Present: Your Introduction To Reggae

Given the worrying stat that the Bob Marley thread is pretty much dominating all things reggae on MusicBanter, Bulldog and myself came up with this little bombshell.

Anyway, throughout this thread we intend to give you a brief explanation to the different sounds of Reggae and a list of essential albums, starting with 10 roots reggae albums, 10 dancehall reggae albums, 10 dub albums and so on, along with a brief definition of each sub-genre, until we have one glorious whole of a thread! It'll start with me posting 2 albums, Bulldog posting 2, me posting another 3 and then likewise from Bulldog 'til we have a full list of 10 albums.

We will combine Dancehall Reggae with Lovers rock as they share a few familiar traits and whilst to purists and us alike we know that they have plenty of differences but for the sake of space and the small interest that it will generate, a combined top 10 would be the easiest thing to do.

So, I think that's just about everything I need say. Oh, credit to Comus, Anteater, Toretorden and Boo Boo for giving us this idea with their prog thread. I'll get started with the roots list now then...

10 Essential Roots Albums:

Prince Far I-Anthology
Third World-90 Degrees In The Shade
Steel Pulse-Handsworth Revolution
Burning Spear-Marcus Garvey
Abyssinians-Satta Masaganna
u-Roy-Dread In A Babylon
Peter Tosh-Legalize It
Black Uhuru-Sensimillia
Jacob Miller & Inner Circle- Forward Jah Jah Children.

10 track comp here:
Roots Reggae 10

10 Essential Lover's Rock/Dancehall Reggae Albums
Barrington Levy - Here I Come
Eek a Mouse - Wa-Do-Dem
Gregory Isaacs - Night Nurse
Seeed - Next!
Yellowman - King Yellowman
Beres Hammond - Soul Reggae
Richie Spice - Di Plane Land
Dennis Brown - Stagecoach Showcase
Turbulence - Do Good
Wayne Smith/Prince Jammy-Sleng Teng/Computerised Dub

10 Essential Dub Albums
King Tubby - Crucial Dub
Augustus Pablo - East Of the River Nile
Scientist - Scientist Rids the World Of the Curse Of the Vampires
Dubmatix - Champion Soundclash
Mad Professor - Beyond the Realms Of Dub
Keith Hudson - Pick a Dub

“A cynic by experience, a romantic by inclination and now a hero by necessity.”
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Old 06-10-2009, 07:40 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Please note that the following post was written by Bulldog

Roots Reggae

To give you a brief definition of what roots entails, this particular sub-genre of reggae concerns itself with the lives of the ghetto and rural sufferer, with lyrical themes concerning Rastafari, poverty, repatriation, resistance to government oppression, anti-apartheid sentiments and the resulting social commentary. In many respects, roots is the earliest of reggae sub-genres and probably the first to become popular with the US and UK music listeners. Its heyday is seen as being in the mid-to-late 70s, given the rise in popularity of such singers as the aforementioned Bob Marley, his fellow Wailers Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, Winston "Burning Spear" Rodney and Horace Andy, along with groups like Steel Pulse, Black Uhuru and the Abyssinians. Stylistically, it had its roots in 60s Jamaican ska and rocksteady, and the experimentation of producers like Lee "Scratch" Perry with it would give birth to dub.

We'll get to that later though. Here are 10 essentials of this most militant and politically-inclined form of reggae, starting with a couple from my own vaults.

Prince Far I - Heavy Manners (Anthology: 1977-83) (2003)

Alright, it's an anthology, but short of getting hold of the labyrinth of one of those Trojan box set compilations, this collection of Michael James Williams' work at the height of roots' popularity is just about as good an introduction to the genre as you can ask for. Over that instantly-recognisable reggae backdrop, Williams, aka Prince Far I (and the self-styled 'voice of thunder') takes us through something of a guided tour of what exactly roots is in its purest form. It's a great taste of exactly where he was coming from musically before his tragic death in 1983. It's also worth mentioning that Williams preferred to call himself 'a chanter', which basically means he had a very powerful form of vocal delivery, doing the message behind the music a whole world of good - the militant, weighty political subject matter is really brought to the front of the mix over an endless supply of delicious, bass-heavy reggae grooves. Basically, in his attitude towards singing and songwriting, he was a Rastafarian version of Mark E. Smith. This does make the whole thing fairly difficult to non-reggae lovers at first, and it does take a while to click (I'll admit I wasn't so fond of this sound at first), so it's by no means for the casual listener. If, however, you have two or three roots reggae albums to your name already and are wondering where you should go next, give this a try for Pete's sake. It may be a compilation, but it's vital listening all the same.

Aswad - Aswad (1976)

In the shape of Aswad's self-titled debut, long before they went down that nauseating pop-reggae road as they did in the 80s, comes another essential taste of roots. Coming at you with a mere 8 tracks to its name, it again ticks all the right boxes when it comes to roots, with songs like Back To Africa concerning repatriation, Ethiopian Rhapsody regarding fundamental Rastafarianism and so forth. Along with staying true to their roots (see what I there?), Aswad give proceedings that much more of an accessible edge, much like their contemporaries such as Steel Pulse and Peter Tosh were making a living out of doing. Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, this would lead to the release of some pretty horrible pop music in the 80s, but on this album least Aswad stay true to what makes reggae great, giving us all a very presentable, smooth and accessible roots album, and definitely one that non-reggae fans should look to as a start.


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Old 06-10-2009, 08:21 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I'm looking forward to seeing your picks!
There are two types of music: the first type is the blues and the second type is all the other stuff.
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Old 06-10-2009, 09:16 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Third World - 96 Degrees In the Shade (1978)

Next in line from my library is an album I gave a shout pretty early on in my top 100 thread, and couldn't really let it miss out on a spot here. This second album, featuring Third World's classic lineup, is the peak of their intriguing brand of roots, this being a kind of mixture of the said roots rhythmic backdrop with African atmospherics and soulful vocals. Despite songs like Tribal War, the frankly brilliant Human Marketplace (easily one of my favourite reggae songs of all time) and Jah Glory still having a kind of lyrical fire in their bellies, like the aforementioned Aswad album 96 Degrees In the Shade presents us with roots at its most easily accessible. Basically, it carries delicious bass rhythms and juicy guitar licks to give it more appeal to folk who don't exactly listen to a lot of reggae while staying true to the fundaments of the movement. To sum up, it's a lot like the Aswad album I mentioned before and the album I'll mention next, just with a lot more soul thrown into the mix. Another one of my all-time favs this - essential stuff.

Steel Pulse - Handsworth Revolution (1978)

Although Steel Pulse are one of those bands that boast a more notoriously polished sound than their contemporaries, as their debut Handsworth Revolution finds an interesting middle ground between the gritty, bare necessities approach to production of a lot of roots reggae and the cleaner, mass-oriented one. In their pursuit of mainstream success Steel Pulse would embrace a more chart-friendly sound, but that was some years down the line. With their debut, all that mattered was getting the message out there, which is exactly what this album does. Steel Pulse were (and who knows, maybe even still are) among the more politically militant of roots artists, coming from the same sort of place as Peter Tosh and Prince Far I. What makes this album an essential roots album though is that even if the music sounds a little too clean for some tastes, the songs underneath all that varnish are more than strong enough to stand up and be counted, with numbers such as Ku Klux Klan, Prediction and Soldiers boasting very strong messages to their name, made all the more blatant by singer David Hinds' wonderful voice. All in all, it's not my favourite by them, but giving you a list of essential roots albums and not including this is a bit like giving someone a lawnmower without the blades.

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Old 06-10-2009, 09:54 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Burning Spear-Marcus Garvey (1975)

Burning Spear (AKA Winston Rodney) distinctive vocal style along with his fellow vocalists in the band Delroy Hines, and Rupert Milligton coupled with political lyrics produced a pivotal album that was considerably heavier than what many of his contemporaries were producing at the time.

Whilst Reggae was gaining evermore international appeal and a glossy Pop music sheen, Burning Spear slowed the tempo back down, adding subtle horns and emphasis back onto the bass line and a keyboard/guitar syncopation that is a classic roots template.

Marcus Garvey was a Jamacian national hero and Rastafarians hold him in very high esteem so for Burning Spear to both celebrate him and keep the music as close to it's roots as possible gives us a superlative and definitive roots Reggae album. Major standouts are the lazy and deep sounding Invasion and the sublime Resting Place.

The Abyssinians-Satta Massagana (1976)

An album with a protracted history it was released 4 times after being originally recorded and released on a limited run in 1975. Since then it has been proclaimed as one of the quintessential Roots albums and even the title track has been adopted as a hymn by some Rastafarian communities.

The album is a much more gentle offering than Burning Spear with vocal harmonies, soulful singing and instruments such as the flute making an apppearance. This doesn't however lessen the music at all, although many of the songs have the same tempo which is something that can be a hindrance to non Reggae listeners. However the smooth vocals and classic anthems (title track and Forward Unto Zion) still ensure it's classic status and another piece of the Roots Reggae jigsaw.


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Old 06-10-2009, 10:52 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I've never been that big of a reggae fan, so I think this is a great start. I've read over what you guys have just posted and I already love it. A little history lesson is always good when being introduced to a genre. Thanks guys!
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Old 06-10-2009, 11:48 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Very nice J & B! Way to get right down to the duhtty. I like where this is going.
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Old 06-10-2009, 05:51 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Oh I'm so excited about this thread. Educate me!

You have already done some real beauties, and some I've put on my list to get. Love Third World, they are so refreshing. And ahhhhhh the Abyssinians, so good. Love their album artwork too.
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Old 06-11-2009, 10:00 AM   #9 (permalink)
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U Roy-Dread In A Babylon (1975)

Just take a look at that original album sleeve (it has since been replaced with a more PC cover) and you know that it's roots down! U-Roy is a little different than other artists in this top ten as his style is 'Toasting', which is ryhming, chanting and talking over the music which he was doing for years before too. The music is classic roots reggae but with hints of doo wop and R&B-tipping it's hat to the classic Reggae sound that came before. You can also sense a little improvisation in the music as a lot of the album was recorded live with very few overdubs so that U roy could flow and improvise over the tracks.

Hugely influential and not just in the Reggae world, U-Roy creates a fantastic vibe and his music works brilliantly dropped into a partys music mix.

Peter Tosh-Legalize it (1977)

Peter Tosh along with Bunny Livingstone and a certain Bob Marley formed the vocal trio 'The Wailers' in the 60's. By the time the mid 70's came Marley was doing his own thing so this album is essentially a Wailers album with Tosh at the forefront. Tosh was always an advocate of Marijuana use not just for recreation purposes but it's purported medical properties too and backed with Rita Marleys vocals you could easily imagine Bob all over the track. However Tosh was always that little more political and it shows all over the album along with his trademark choppy guitar skanks.

A textbook Roots album that's at once spiritual and oddly melancholic.


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Old 06-11-2009, 07:04 PM   #10 (permalink)
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You guys are making me all giddy.
Excellent commentary - can't wait for more.
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