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Gavin B. 06-17-2009 08:23 AM

100 Songs from the Golden Age of Reggae
I'm not including any music by Bob Marley, Peter Tosh or Bunny Wailer because the purpose of my list is to give thanks and praise to some of the musicians beyond the nexus of the original Wailers whom most reggae fans are already aquainted with.

From around 1975 until 1985 I was an avid collector of roots reggae, dancehall, dub and other reggae sub-genres like ska, rock steady and bluebeat. During that period I hosted a reggae music radio show in Boston and made several trips to Jamaica in which I'd filled an empty duffel bag with the lastest reggae 12" singles to play on my radio show.

I lost interest in contemporary Jamaican music in the mid-Eighies for several reasons:
  • The rise of the slackness deejay style marked the decline of socially conscious reggae music. The phonomenal success of Yellowman's profane and sexualized content of his toasting had a big influence on hip-hop artists like KRS One, Tupac and Notorious Mr. B.I.G., but Yellow's misogynistic themes were hard to take for someone like me, who also listened to agit-prop post punk groups like Au Pairs, the Bush Tetras and the Gang of Four. The slackness style eclipsed the conscious toasters like U-Roy, Big Youth and I-Roy.
  • The gunned up sleng-teng riddims coming out of Jamician dancehalls were replacing the off tempo, one drop drumset style which was the innovation of Carlton Barrett who defined the reggae drum riddim in the Upsetters (Barrett also played several years with the Wailers).
  • The final straw for me was the introduction and subsequent overuse of the ubiquitous Casio synthesizer by reggae producers which made nearly every reggae tune sound like the latest Flock of Seagulls single. It spelled the end of the organic sound of roots reggae and since then reggae lost it's musical compass. Reggae music producers over the past 20 years, have used the pulverize cycle on the Cusinart blender to make reggae music sound like generic, pop oriented Worldbeat music.

I have a digital collection of nearly 10,000 reggae songs from the golden era of the Seventies and Eighties. Of those songs I rated about 700 songs (about 7%) as five star (*****) and over the next few weeks I'm going to post about a hundred of those songs. The songs I post will be in no order of importance or quality because they all have significance to me as great musical statements.

All of these songs are available on You Tube and if you have a You Tube Downloader you can easily convert the YouTube flash videos into MP3 files to listen to on your digital jukebox or portable digital music player. YouTube Downloader - Software to download and convert YouTube video


Gavin B. 06-17-2009 09:28 AM

Country Boy - the Heptones This is one of my favorite roots tunes in which the Heptones criticize a rude boy who grew up in bush country and moves to Trenchtown and gets himself in trouble by falling into the company of urban gunslingers and drug dealers. This is the original Channel One 1974 pressing of Country Boy is very hard to find and the most heartfelt version of the song that the Heptones recorded many times during their careeer.

African Blood - Congo Ashanti Roy I found this song on a 1994 collection of Bill Laswell produced reggae songs called On U-Sound Crash Mix. I don't know anything about the history of the song but Congo Ashanti Roy is half of the legendary Congos vocal duo along with Cedric Myton.

The Border - Gregory Isaacs Gregory is best known for his silky smooth renditions of lover's rock but throughout his careeer he wrote just as many sufferer's tales and roots conscious songs as love songs.

The Border is a sufferer's tale about a rastaman on the lam from the law. Gregory was writting from experience and he did more time in Jamaica's harsh General Penitentary than just about any other reggae singer.

This song was recorded sometime in the late Seventies and he's backed by the Revolutionaries a collection of various musicians that played as the Studio One house band, most notably Sly and Robbie. But Sly Dunbar isn't drumming on this cut... On the drum-kit for this session was Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace whose crisp, elegant, and riddimatically complex drumming makes him my favorite reggae drummer. The Tamlins are singing the sublime harmony parts on on the chorus of the song.

Dr_Rez 06-17-2009 01:26 PM

Great thread. Heptones are a fantastic band. When I have the time ill add some more to your list :)

The other day I got to see the Wailers perform an electric/accoustic set of Exodus! Also going to see 10 Ft Ganja Plant soon. Nothing better than a live show.

Gavin B. 06-18-2009 07:59 AM

Rub A Dub Sound - Sugar Minott The hypnotic groove of Rub A Dub rocked dancehalls from Kingston to Sav La Mar in 1980. The muscular drum and bass of Sly and Robbie drives the riddim of this Sugar Minott song

Under Mi Sensi - Barrington Levy Like Rub A Dub Sound, Under Mi Sensi is a riff driven song with a mezmerizing drum and bass line. Recorded in 1984, Under Mi Sensi is one of the most sampled songs in the history of reggae. It's a killer riddim.

Peace and Love in the Ghetto - U-Roy - This the first single by a reggae toaster I ever purchased and it's still my favorite. It came out in 1977 under the imprint of the newly founded Virgin Frontline label which was founded by British air travel tycoon Richard Branson. There's a lot of Studio One players on the song. Horsemouth Wallace's distinctive drumming drives the riddim and it's a version of the popular Dennis Brown song, the Man Next Door which is sung by Ken Boothe and Judy Mowatt. You can find this song and 8 other smokin' toasts by U-Roy on Jah Son of Africa, perhaps the greatest deejay album ever to come out of Jamaica.

Gavin B. 06-18-2009 11:21 AM

Hail Mi Idrin - Ina Kamoze - When I visited Jamaica in 1984 Ina Kamoze was being hailed as an inheritor of the roots conscious legacy of the the recently deceased Bob Marley. Ini recorded Hail Mi Idrin and about a dozen stellar tracks at Sonic Studios with Sly and Robbie. I love Kamoze's chilled out minimalist approach and the spacey dub sounds on the cut. Ini Kamoze never lived up to his early expectations but his first album the self titled Ina Kamoze is a reggae classic.

Dance In A Greenwich Farm- Cornell Campbell - Cornell Campbell was a big star in Jamaica but never broke through as an international star. His smooth falsetto voice reminds me a lot of Smokey Robinson. Dread In A Greenwich Farm is typical of of the the long string of hit records during his collaboration with producer Bunny Lee at King Tubby's studio in the Seventies. There about a two dozen Cornell Campbell songs from his Bunny Lee/King Tubby period that are seriously dread. You can hear those tracks and others on the 2 CD Natty Dread Anthology recently reissued on the indie label Sanctuary.

Gunman - Michael Prophet Gunman was Michael Prophet's commentary on the violence by gun and machete wielding possies who caused a great deal of violence leading into the 1980 Michael Manley vs. Edward Seaga presidential election. Michael Prophet wrote this song after a gang of gunmen rousted him out of bed one morning wanting to know who he was voting for in the presidential election. Most Rastafarians were supporters of Manley but as a group they steered away from the partisan fussing and fighting that dominated the Jamaican political world throughout the Seventies and early Eighties.

Gavin B. 06-18-2009 12:21 PM

Uptown Ranking - Athena and Donna This song by a pair of female vocalists blew my mind when I first heard it in 1978. The Joe Gibbs production on the single bubbles along while Athena and Donna throw down their seriously dread lyrics. It's an amazing cut. I love the lyrics which I posted below the video.

Lyrics to Uptown Ranking

See me in me heels and ting
Dem check sey we hip and ting
True them no know and ting
We have them going and ting
Nah pop no style, a strictly roots
Nah pop no style, a strictly roots

See me pon the road I hear you call out to me
True you see mi inna pants and ting
See mi in a 'alter back
Sey mi gi' you heart attack
Gimme likkle bass, make me wine up me waist
Uptown Top Ranking

See mi in mi Benz and ting
Drivin' through Constant Spring
Them check sey me come from cosmo spring
But a true dem no know and ting
Dem no know sey we top ranking
Uptown Top Ranking

Shoulda see me and the ranking dread
Check how we jamming and ting
Love is all I bring inna me khaki suit and ting
Nah pop no style, a strictly roots
Nah pop no style, a strictly roots

Watch how we chuck it and ting
Inna we khaki suit and ting
Love is all I bring inna me khaki suit and ting
Nah pop no style, a strictly roots
Nah pop no style, a strictly roots

Love inna you heart dis a bawl out fe me
When you see me inna pants and ting
See me inna 'alter back
Sey me gi' you heart attack
Gimme likkle bass, make me wine up me waist
Uptown Top Ranking

See mi pon the road and hear you call out to me
True you see me in me pants and ting
See me inna 'alter back
Sey me gi' you heart attack
Gimme likkle bass, make me wine up me waist
Gimme likkle bass, make me wine up me waist
Love is all I bring inna me khaki suit and ting
Nah pop no style, a strictly roots
Nah pop no style, a strictly roots

You shoulda see me and the ranking dread,
Check how we jamming and ting
Love is all I bring inna me khaki suit and ting
Nah pop no style, a strictly roots
Nah pop no style, a strictly roots
Make It Up - Junie Lodge Junie Lodge has been called the Diana Ross of Jamaica, but take my word for it, Junie is a whole lot better than Diana the diva. This song got a ton of dancehall play in 1980. Her winsome and elegant vocal on Make It Up established her as a major star in Jamaica in the Eighties.

Mi God Mi King - Papa Levi This is one of the fastest reggae toasts ever recorded. Shortly into the song Papa Levi starts rapping in double time and his blazing speed outclocks any rapper or toaster I've ever heard. It was recorded at Taxi Studios with Sly and Robbie in 1984. One day when I had nothing better to do I translated and wrote down the amazing lyrics to Mi God Mi King and they're provided below the embedded You Tube video below.

Lyrics to Mi God Mi King

yeah in smoking sensimelia,yuh gotta give thanks an praise unto di almighty LORD GOD JAHOVIA. do it JAH. murda.


mi GOD mi king him name JAHOVIA
JAH MAN mi GOD mi king him name JAHOVIA


HIM inspire mi to be a mic chantah
mi mass wid di mic rrroun di amplifiah
mi fling way di slackness cau now a culchah
di conscious lyrics yuh a go hear mi uttah
so if you are a adult or a teenagah
say everyday yuh wake yuh fi read a chaptah
beginning of wisdom is di fear of JAH
di bottomless pit mek wi trow lucifah
dem tek way wi gold JAH MAN dem tek wi silvah
dem heng mi puhpa an rrrape mi maddah
dem trick wi from di wondaful land a AFRICA
fi slave fi di plantation ownah
dem tek way wi name JAH MAN dem call wi niggah
di only word wi know "i is a coming mastah"
dem tell wi say wi ignorant an inferiah
an how dem intelligent an superiah
true di complexion of dem skin colah
but i as a yute bawn as a supah
mi badda dan di bite from a tarantulah
yuh hear fi mi voice a come tru di speakah
but it soun sweetah wid di echo chambah
say R fi di roots C fi di culchah
say S fi SELASSIE earth rightful rulah
say once as a lamb going to di slawtah
now di conquering lion a di tribe a JUDAH
yuh cann enta ZION wit a bushmastah
a m16 or a rrrevolvah
say tana babylon wid yuh ammunition
cau deh so a di ultamate destruction


puhpa levi pon di version
hail JAH MAN a levi pon di version
how mi stay

verse2: (speed rap this verse)

JAH MAN mi cool nuh stubbon like mule
mi walk pon di street nuh gwaan foo fool
arrive a di dance di mic a mi tool
eat off a table sit on a stool
nuh black mi brown,mi brown nuh black
mi ribs deh a mi chest,mi spine in mi back
trousiz have pocket an pocket have flap
well soul a rock but REGGAE mi chat
cap a nuh buck an di buck a nuh cap
an di bottom a bass an treble a top
wheh hot nuh cold,di cold nuh hot
electricity can gi yuh a shock
nuh fraid fi nuh mouse nuh fraid fi nuh rat
stawt from di bottom mi reach to di top
eat up di snack di crackle di pop
mi run in di toilet fi cut di crap
mi hungry again mi nuh eat a snack
an from mi a yute mi nuh scowa nuh pot
fi mi head dread mi head it nuh platt
nuh live inna house mi live inna flat
lawd if yuh hear wen dis ridim drop
yuh head yuh toe yuh body a rock
from mi pon di mic it's a lyric attack
put slackness a bottom an culchah pon top
AFRICAN land affi i an i spot
in time ah trouble JAH naw tunn him back
mi pray to JAH mi neva will stop
who worship satan a foolish idiot
JAH blow breath di devil cannot
who get a bullet nuh mista Sadat
afta reagan public fiyah shot
MALCOLM X dem kill pon di spot
up inna ZION di righteous a clap
dung inna hell di wicked a rot
di sweetest singa a sugah minott
di madess comedian a kenny everett
dracula tunn inna vampiah bat
but wen him si sun him caan tek dat
yuh eye dem dawk affi use contact
but a me pon di mic is levi a chat
not so long JAH walk pon di lan
di peaceful righteous RASTAMAN
trod wid di MACCA B inna him han
preaching love to man an woman
him crucify by di roman
dem nail him to di cross tru him foot an him han
rise again di resurrection
well a him create di earth an heaven
tek six day nuh tek seven
give riches to king SOLOMON
make him wisa dan all odda man
EVE couldn't mek wid out ADAM
living in babylon as a Blackman
well all mi face is racism
wen mi weak dem say dat mi strong
wen mi right dem say dat mi wrong
true mi nuh check fi politician
nuh care who win di election
pon di mic mi please everyone
flashing down style an fashion

then 1st verse to fade

Gavin B. 06-20-2009 10:07 AM

Ganja Smuggling - Eek-A-Mouse The charismatic Eek-A-Mouse has a completely unique singing and deejay voice. A lot of his singing sounds sounds influenced by Middle Eastern musical modalities of singing. Ganja Smuggling was released in 1982 and was produced by Henry Lawes and mixed by King Tubby and Prince Jammy at King Tubby's Firehouse. The Roots Radics lay down the riddim track and it's Eek's own epic saga of working as herbs smuggler.

Government Land Horace Andy Government Land is Horace Andy's musical demand for land reform in Jamaica. It was a big hit for him in 1977. It was produced at Harry J.'s has an all-star studio group consisting of Jah Malla, Horsemouth Wallace, Leroy Sibbles, Michael Taylor, Andy Bassford, Privy Dread, Augustus Pablo, Bobby Kalphat, Bernard Touter Harvey, Tommy McCook, Don D. Junior, Charles Bashford, Dirty Harry, Scully Sims, Horace Hinds, and Sylvan Morris.

Horace has acheived international noteriety as one of the vocalists for the crossover trip hop and dub group, Massive Attack. Horace sings lead such Massive Attacks songs as Spying Glass, Man Next Door, and One Love.

A Song- Pablo Moses A Song was recorded in Jamaica using the island's finest session players and then remixed in London in 1980. It comes from an album with the same title and it established a cult following for Pablo Moses in Europe, South American, Canada and the USA. He backed off the reggae scene for several years but he's begun to tour again in Europe, Africa and South America where he draws large crowds. Pablo maintains a frenquently updated page at My Space with great jukebox of his tunes.

This is not the original version of A Song but a "live-studio" version recorded a few years ago. I've never seen the album A Song either in compact disc or digital music file form, probably because the original master tapes are lost or destroyed. If you ever come across it let me know and I will pay you a hefty finder's fee for the entire album. My vinyl copy got worn out about 20 years ago.

Dr_Rez 06-20-2009 05:22 PM

Gavin B you are awesome. Keep it rollin.

Gavin B. 06-21-2009 07:12 AM

UK Ska Hits

Carry Go Bring Come - Justin Hines and the Dominoes Justin Hinds and the Domino's Jamaican smash Carry Go Bring Come mashed up sound systems in the UK way back in 1964 and may be the earliest song with a Rastafarian message. Hinds has recorded the song dozens of times and it is one of the foundation songs of ska.

Red Red Wine - Tony Tribe The original of Red Red Wine by Tony Tribe was played at a much faster tempo than the UB40 version. It was another UK ska hit that got a lot of play in UK dancehalls during the first wave of ska.

Pressure Drop - Toots and the Maytals Another early ska hit that folks in the UK are probably already familiar with. This version is a beautifully restored and resmatered version of the 1972 original single.

Gavin B. 06-21-2009 08:39 AM

Nancy Reagan - Blue Riddim Band The most unlikely success in the history of the Reggae Sunsplash was the appearance of the Blue Riddim Band 5:45 in the morning on August 8 1982. It was unlikely because Blue Riddim Band was an all-white band from Kansas singing a song about Nancy Reagan. I was operating the video camera that was doing the pan shots of the crowd in this video and I was stunned at the enthusiastic reaction of the mostly all Jamaican crowd. Look closely at the crowd shots and you'll see an estatic Winston Rodney (aka Burning Spear) skanking away to the music. He was good friends with the band and was larely responsible for getting BRB as performers at Sunsplash.

I have the original single and dub version of the song which really smokes. The former members of BRB won't allow me to file share Nancy Reagan, but I can email an MP3 copy of it to anyone on the Music Banter Forum upon request. It's a seriously dread song.

No Vacancy - Sugar Minott Sugar Minott's populist cry for jobs in Jamaica was a monster hit in the island in 1982. No Vacancy refers to no job vacancies and it's a suffer's tale about humiliating state of poverty that exists on the island.

The lyrics are in the militant stylee and Sugar lays down the line with these lyrics:


I man try and me nah try
But I just can't get reply
Applying to the factory
I-man's clothes are so shabby
Dem a people just a watch me

Everywhere you go it's no vacancy
They must fe waan me commit robbery
Everywhere you go it's no vacancy
Tell me how you gwan benefit me
No vacancy especially if you are natty

Slave Market - Gregory Isaacs Soon Forward is a crucial album in the history of reggae music. It's 1979 and reggae was standing at the crossroads of roots conscious, dub and dancehall styles and this album pulled it all together into a collection of songs that stand up to the test of time. Slave Market is a sufferer's tale from that album and Gregory sings it with a winesome but firery vocal. Sly and Robbie do drum and bass with most of the Roots Radics on other instruments. Note Horsemouth Wallace's brilliant off riddim Niahbingi tribal style hand drumming on this cut. It was recorded at the Taxi studio and released the Virgin owned Frontline label in the UK and the USA.

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