Reggae: starting a collection - where to begin (other than Legend) ?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Dhreview16, Nov 7, 2015.

  1. Dhreview16

    Dhreview16 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    London UK
    There is a great thread started by Jackie P on "Crucial Reggae" that now has over 30,000 views and 1,000 replies. It's refreshing to see reggae getting so much interest on the Forum, and the knowledge of its contributors is amazing.

    It made me wonder where I would suggest starting a reggae collection to someone who wanted to go beyond Bob Marley's "Legend" greatest hits compilation, but didn't want to take the plunge into something like Heart of the Congos or Blackheart Man straight off. What is really good, but accessible too ?

    Here's a starter for five:

    The Harder They Come movie soundtrack. A compilation for the 1972 movie, this contains several tracks by Jimmy Cliff, the title track, You Can Get it if You Really Want, Sitting In Limbo, Many Rivers to Cross. Also features various other Jamaican singles from 67-72, including Desmond Dekker's 007, the Maytals, and the Melodians Rivers of Babylon. Some classics, great variety. RS Top 500.

    Night Nurse by Gregory Isaacs. Considered by some to be the best reggae vocalist, known as the "Cool Ruler" for his lovers rock style, Night Nurse is arguably Gregory's best known album, not least due to the success of the title track as a single, but it stands up strongly across the other tracks too.

    Exodus by Bob Marley and the Wailers. One of the group's later albums, it contains great tracks like Jamming, Waiting in Vain, Three Little Birds, and One Love. The long version of the title track is worth the admission money itself. Legend has all the hits, but this album contributes the most, and captures them at arguably their peak. Time magazine album of the 20th century, a critical (RS Top 500) and commercial success (gold in US and UK etc).

    Funky Kingston by Toots and the Maytals. Issued in the UK in 72, that version was considerably reworked for US release in 1975, replacing several of the UK original tracks with cuts from the follow up album, and including instead hits like Pressure Drop and Toots' version of John Denver's Country Roads. Highly regarded by various US critics (11th best album of 75 by Pazz and Jop, RS Top 500), the 1975 US version is probably held to be the best by most.

    Chill Out by Black Uhuru. They made a series of great reggae albums on Island from about 1980 to 83/84, Sinsemilla, Red, Chill Out, and Anthem, fronted by the Michael Rose, Duckie Simpson, and Puma Jones line up, and backed/produced by Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare. Dub/roots style. Anthem won the first Grammy for a reggae album in 85, and you could easily start with this instead, or Sinsemilla or Red, but I like Chill Out for consistency.

    Let me say straight off that I like reggae a fair bit but I'm not fanatical or even hugely knowledgeable about it. And I don't mean to cut across the other thread, or to suggest that selections on it aren't accessible. But maybe there are some colleagues who would like to get into reggae a bit more, and would like ideas on where to start. I remember asking the same question myself a few years back about African music and was delighted with ideas like Youssou N'Dour.

    Please take this in the helpful spirit in which it is intended. If colleagues have other or better suggestions on where to start, that's fine. (I own and enjoy stuff like Heart of the Congos also BTW...). I'm glad to learn too.
  2. Jim B.

    Jim B. Forum Resident

    Always my first recommendation is Heart of the Congos, it's just such a great album it transcends the genre. Should be regarded on the same level as A Love Supreme, Astral Weeks or Abbey Road IMO.
  3. Ellsworth

    Ellsworth Forum Resident

    I recently went on a reggae dive as I was in the same boat as the OP. All of the recommendations in the OP are good. I would also recommend trying Blackheart Man by Bunny Wailer.
  4. Arkay_East

    Arkay_East Forum Resident

    Abysinnians and Culture are the two from the "Crucial" thread that I learned about and now listen to most.

    I'd always recommend Burning Spear's Marcus Garvey. Been one of my faves for some time.
    willy, keef00, nsmith1002 and 2 others like this.
  5. Freedom Rider

    Freedom Rider Forum Resident

    Not a big reggae expert aside from Bob Marley and a couple of other names but I'd recommend Two Sevens Clash by Culture. I definitely liked that one.
  6. Linus Vendeen

    Linus Vendeen Forum Resident

    Hong Kong
    Good choice of five by the OP and limiting to 5 is hard. But to me although I love all those albums the choice feels a bit skewed as they miss the deep roots by focusing on some of the biggest international successes. So:

    I would second Marcus Garvey by Burning Spear
    Also a solid dub album like Garvey's Ghost, Super Ape or Rockers Uptown
    And my regular recommendation Mighty Diamonds - Right Time
    As we have to include Marley but want to get beyond Legend I would favour Catch a Fire (both mixes) or a compilation of his pre Island work
    With the Harder They Come to add some width.
    Man at C&A and Bobby Boogaloo like this.
  7. vamborules

    vamborules Forum Resident

    UB40 - Signing Off

    Really accessible and really, really good.
  8. Erik B.

    Erik B. Tighter than Mike Gordon’s jeans

    Don't forget to add a purchase of Colorado's finest. Turns most reggae from good to downright magical
  9. Rfreeman

    Rfreeman Forum Resident

    Lawrenceville, NJ
    A good Black Uhuru comp (I suggest the 2 cd Liberation, with lots of 12" mixes so it will not be a waste even if you later collect the individual cds) and Jimmy Cliff comp would be my first stops after Legend.

    On the Marley front, Live is essential
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2015
  10. Apart from Marley, Reggae has plenty to offer

    if you like Jazz = Augustus Pablo Meets Rockers Uptown
    if you like funk = Third World Journey To Addis or You've got the power or Rock the World
    soul = Toots & Maytals Funky Kingston

    check out the Frontline releases in the 2d part of the 70's
    my favorite are Gladiators Sweet so till, Proverbial Reggae, Trenchtown Mixup
    anything by Gregory Isaacs between 1974 and 1984 is a no-miss with my favorite being More Gregory, Lonely Lover and Night Nurse

    Sly & Robbie present Taxi is a must

    the list goes on
    CrazyCatz, Oggy and Bobby Boogaloo like this.
  11. SirNoseDVoid

    SirNoseDVoid Forum Resident

    Reggae isn't really an 'album' genre.. i'd suggest to pick up some good compilations... Trojan records, Greensleeves, Virgin Frontline, Wackies all have good comps.
  12. 99thfloor

    99thfloor Forum Resident

    Lots of good suggestions here already. I think Guillaume Bougard is onto something when comparing to other genres. If we are assuming that the subject for our recomendations is only familiar with Legend it would be interesting to know what other genres and eras of music he/she is into before making nay too specific suggestions. I think jumping into something like Heart of the Congos might be a little too left field for someone only used to Legend (it's a perennial favourite for suggestions though, but I think it has gotten just a little overrated in recent times), while something like Black Uhuru's Chill Out might turn someone off with it's 80's production (and I personally have a hard time with Black Uhuru, I never understood their huge crossover appeal). I would suggest, if the person is really curious about Reggae, to get something like this box set, which can be found very cheaply, to get a handle on the eras and styles:
    There are other even better box set overviews, like Tougher Than Tough - The Story Of Jamaican Music (Island) or The Reggae Box (Hip-O), which are both cross-licensed, but they are out of print and expensive.

    As was also noted above, Reggae of the JA variety (as opposed to that which was aimed primarily at the international market) was singles driven, so compilations (including especially various artists ones) are much more important than for your regular Pop (in it's widest meaning). Here are two recommended compilations by two giants, that for some reason often get passed over when Reggae is discussed here on the forum, Dennis Brown and Gregory Isaacs (though I'm glad to see that Gregory has been mentioned here already), these are again cheap, but very well selected and comprehensive:
    These two guys are as good as it gets, and the material ranges from roots & culture to love songs, its is accessible enough to be easy to get into, while it is still "real" as can be.
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2015
  13. The "UB40 File" is even better: "Signing Off" with all the non-album singles (including 12" versions)
    vamborules likes this.
  14. I don't know if anyone has mentioned him in the other threads but please do not neglect to listen to the great Augustus Pablo either!

    I can also highly recommend The Trojan box sets
  15. Crossfire#3

    Crossfire#3 Forum Resident

    Burlington Vermont
    Deluxe Edition of Burnin' illustrates how great The Wailers were
  16. Izozeles

    Izozeles Rock’roll Stalker

    Santiago de Chile
    If you really want a solid place to start get Thougher than Tough, The History of Jamaican Music. You'll only miss dub and only a few great names (Tosh, Alimantado) and you'll get a very comprehensive gateway to a whole new universe. I think this might be my favorite comp ever.
  17. Riccardo2

    Riccardo2 Forum Resident

    What is really good, but accessible too ? >> Steel Pulse - True Democracy
    JRM, Oggy, IanL and 1 other person like this.
  18. Black Uhuru was Sly & Robbie's musical brainchild and laboratory. Michael Rose knew Sly from childhood days. After producing several tracks like "No No No", "Aquarius", "Sun Is Shining" and "Let Him Go" (covers because back in the day, Sly didn't trust Michael's writing abilities enough yet and wanted him to practice more), S&R produced BU's first album. They had to go on tour with Peter Tosh and left the tapes to Jammy's to finish when they'd be back. Jammy instead released the album and claimed ownership. Jamaica...

    S&R then moved on and recorded 7 tracks or so in one night and that session became "Showcase / Guess Who's Coming To Dinner" (Keith Richards played guitars on a few tracks).

    They then produced "Sinsemilla" afterwards, refining the sound, making it heavier, but at the same time more sophisticated and better arranged. Robbie mixed in one swoosh in less than 24 hours with Bunny Tom Tom at Channel One as S&R had to leave the island for yet another tour. They played the record to Blackwell who immediately signed the group and released the album in Western countries. Island used the drum sound on "Sinsemilla" as the template for productions done at the Compass Point studio they were opening in Nassau.

    For each new album, S&R wanted to push forward and change the sound and atmosphere of each album rather than recreate the formula that had worked in the previous album. So "Red" was an evolution from "Sinsemilla", with a harder and angrier sound, "Chill Out" yet another evolution with a more dubby and electronic sound. Same thing with "Anthem" which received a Grammy.

    When BU disbanded due to internal strife caused by spouses and entourage, S&R were in disbelief that this project would collapse for such mediocre reasons, but rebounded with their Ini Kamoze trilogy of albums and their own albums which explored other dimensions of sound and rhythm.

    They reunited with Michael Rose in the 90's and I was privileged to release the sublime "X Uhuru". "X Uhuru" was a collection of tracks recorded in the early to mid 90's that had been released on a limited edition vinyl called "Taxi Sessions". "Taxi Sessions" had the Jamaican mixes by Bulby and Fatta while "X Uhuru" was mixed by Paul "Groucho" Smykle and has overdubs by Manu Dibango and Ray Lema.

    I keep thinking I should release X Uhuru on vinyl as I never did back in the day. Fukcing great album. I got 4 stars on Telerama magazine (hugely influential arts and culture weekly here in France) and sold nice quantities of it. It's one of the few I've put out that I listen to (along with "Dubrising" also mixed by Groucho).

    A few years ago, we tried to look for the multitrack tapes of "Sinsemilla" as I wanted to produce a dub album from those recordings. Nobody was able to find them in Jamaica (not surprising) and Island lost theirs when they moved their archives. They don't give a crap about maintaining proper archives of their Reggae catalog, it's a shame. We could re-record it note for note, but who wants to do that? (me!)
    Moko, willy, TerpStation and 8 others like this.
  19. 99thfloor

    99thfloor Forum Resident

    I didn't know this about Love Crisis, interesting, this thing sort of thing is not uncommon unfortunately... Who did the overdubbing for the later Black Sounds Of Freedom version of that album, was that done by Jammy?

    I knew I might possibly tickle you with my post. :)

    I do like Sly & Robbie's productions in general, and I even like stuff they did outside of Reggae, like Grace Jones, so it's not that. There is something about the vocals of Michael Rose that doesn't sit right with me, his slightly flat style of singing in combination with very monotonous and minimalistic tunes (that also often have very similar melodies between songs) gets on my nerves after a while. I know many like them though, and it's not that it is bad, I just don't quite get why they are so popular with the more casual Reggae listeners.

    Also what I was getting at was that for me for example, when I was getting into Reggae I was already a fan of 60's and 70's music, and even though (or maybe because ) I grew up in the 80's I didn't like the production values at that time, so something like the "electronic sound" of Chill Out would have turned me off if introduced to me at that point, while for example the more organic sound of say mid/late 70's Gregory Isaacs suited my tastes much better, or just going back to some earlier Black Uhuru for that matter, it all depends on what your general preferences are.

    I quite like their early stuff though, especially the Showcase album. That album is most commonly available in two later versions, there's the Black Uhuru album on Virgin and then there's Guess Who's Coming To Dinner on Heartbeat, I don't know which is closest to the original, they both add "Shine Eye Gal" to the track listing and have different versions of the tracks, they are all longer on the Hearbeat.

    That is sad... :cry:
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2015
    black sheriff likes this.
  20. Willowman

    Willowman Forum Resident

    London, UK
    philly67 and lschwart like this.
  21. Brother_Rael

    Brother_Rael Forum Resident

    Scottish Borders
    I'd add Steel Pulse "Handsworth Revolution". Culture/Dennis Bovell and some of the Reggae/Ska crossover stuff from Trojan.
    willy, Halfwit and Oggy like this.
  22. zphage

    zphage inappropriately touching the out of touch

    I 'd say the classic '75-'82 roots period is probably the most rock friendly. It was a period of great producers, roots vocal groups and individual singers, and classic rhythm sections.
  23. Holy Diver

    Holy Diver Forum Resident

  24. 99thfloor

    99thfloor Forum Resident

    That box set really is quite exceptional. It used to be that it was very expensive, since it was only made in a limited edition, so good to see that you are actually able to get it for a "normal" price. The Hip-O box I mentioned is not too shabby either, and it was made about ten years later so it takes the story up a little further, which might be a good or bad thing depending on your tastes. It doesn't seem to have an entry at Disocgs, but this is it:
    danasgoodstuff likes this.
  25. notesofachord

    notesofachord Cousin Caterpillar

Share This Page