Saturday, August 22, 2009

Essential Reggae Albums

Those new to Reggae Music often say that they love it but they don't know what to buy. 'Where do I start?' is a common question. Many just assume that any Bob Marley album is a safe bet. (For the most part that's true.) However, there is much more to Reggae Music than Bob Marley. Bob is definitely the King. No question. But there are so many other Artists and Bands that have played a major role in contributing to and defining Reggae Music.
To help the casual or the new listener, I've decided to compile a list of Essential Reggae Albums. This is only a beginning. I could literally list hundreds of reggae albums that I would deem essential to a collection. I'll start with these. Mind you, they are in no particular order.

Peter Tosh 'Equal Rights' Columbia, 1977
Tosh's singing is angry and forceful and the music is intricate and distinctive. Tosh was always the most militant of the original Wailers and this album reflects that outlook. One of the best and most influential Reggae Albums ever recorded. Peter Tosh - Equal Rights

Tenor Saw 'Fever' Blue Mountain, 1985
Fever captures a moment in reggae history with a clean crisp singer who oversaw the massive changes that swept the genre with track after track of dancehall hits. Tenor Saw was a singer of incredible talent who honed his skills with the Youthman Promotion sound system and was able to transfer his energy in the sound clash directly to an album format. With all the skill of earlier dancehall stars like Barrington Levy, Saw used the updated digital versions of familiar riddims to become a dancehall phenomenon in a very short period of time. His hypnotic vocals floated over digital tracks, helping to deliver dancehall into the modern era. Tenor Saw - Fever

Steel Pulse 'True Democracy' Elektra, 1982
This is one of Steel Pulse's most satisfying and fully realized albums. Featuring the gorgeous 'Your House', arguably one of the greatest reggae love songs ever. This is an album that can be played from start to finish, over and over, and the listener will never get tired of it. Steel Pulse - True Democracy

Black Uhuru 'Red' Mango, 1981
Nothing matched the Michael Rose era of Black Uhuru. Backed by the tight and dancehall-era defining Sly & Robbie, the trio reels off eight high-quality reggae cuts here, including classics like 'Youth of Eglington', 'Utterance', and 'Sponji Reggae.' Filled with Rose's astute lyrics, the album provides an engaging blend of steppers rhythms and social commentary. Black Uhuru - Red

Shinehead 'Unity' Elektra, 1988
Shinehead's unique fusion of reggae and hip-hop might've had something to do with why it failed to make much of a dent in any of the Billboard charts. While reggae's influence upon hip-hop was made known at the time with MCs like KRS-One, no one was truly blending the two styles like Shinehead. This album is more reggae than anything and that's why I included it here. 'Unity' shows exactly why Shinehead is considered one of the most versatile reggae artists of the last 20 + years. It's fun and lighthearted. It's positive. It's a classic! Shinehead - Unity