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Album Reviews

Editors Choice: Top 10 Roots Reggae Albums Of All Times

todayDecember 3, 2023 104 10

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As someone who listens to music randomly and without any rules, skimming through artists as I feel, I felt compelled to compile my top ten favorite roots reggae albums. Each of these ten albums grounds and organizes me, and in those rare moments, I listen to music in order, without changing my opinion over the years.

The albums are an editor’s choice, and I did not include some greats like The Gladiators, Mighty Diamonds, The Abyssinians, Heptons, Black Slate, or Black Roots simply because I am a fan of a more obscure sound. And that’s just how it came to me.

This type of article is actually a reflection on what’s missing in the reggae scene today: values that have not survived the evolution of society. And I’m not sure if evolution is the right word because it doesn’t have a positive context in this case.

TOP 1

JAH WARRIORS - POOR MAN'S STORY

Recently, my wife asked me what I wanted for my thirty-sixth birthday, and I told her I had everything. I don’t. A “Poor Man’s Story” vinyl would be the best gift I’ve ever received.

This album is so good that emotions well up as I write about it.

“Jah Warriors” is a British roots reggae band from Ipswich. In 1982, they released their debut album “Can’t Take No More”/” If You Only Knew,” which reportedly survived the critique of the British reggae scene, but for some reason, it wasn’t commercialized. Somewhere in the eighties, they had a successful tour and then were invited to support the legendary Curtis Mayfield. That probably prevented them from continuing, and everyone went their separate ways by the end of the eighties.

The band consisted of: Lloyd Morgan (lead vocals), Ira Jones (vocals, lead guitar), Gordon Mulrain (bass guitar), Joseph White “Butch” (drums, vocals), Aubrey Mulrain (keyboards), Lloyd (Duppy) Clarke (saxophone, vocals), and Trevor Jones (trombone).

Now, I should be listing the production, music, lyrics, bass lines, harmonies, whatever, but there’s nothing to write about this; it’s a perfect album with a 10 out of 10 rating. It’s so good that it brings tears to my eyes, which usually happens when I’m nearing the end of a good book.

The album has a plethora of tracks that reflect social components, which is the album’s title, but since I am a big fan and an open lover of lovers rock, my favorite track is “Licquor.” But Lord, when “Jordan River” starts, my heart starts to beat. Every song has a special emotion, and I love the entire album without exception.

TOP 2

Ras Michael (Dadawah) - Peace And Love

Ras Michael, also known as Dadawah. The “Peace And Love” album was originally released in 1974 and is stylistically classified as roots reggae, containing elements of the Nyahbinghi style. The album consists of four thematically profound songs: “Run Come Rally,” “Seventy-Two Nations,” “Zion Land,” and “Know How You Stand.” Each song on the album evokes the biblical last days, with “Run Come Rally” calling the world’s righteous to prepare for the upcoming battle with evil. The song “Seventy-Two Nations” gathers brothers from different nations, while “Zion Land” celebrates the magnificence of Jah. The album ends with “Know How You Stand,” a call to freedom and the fulfillment of Jah’s plan.

There is no way to quench the thirst of listening to this wonder. But I must note that this same album was a debacle when it was released in 1974. Its listenership was very low. But Ras Michael, who still performs as “Dadawah,” didn’t pay much attention to it, coming from a Rastafarian family, and he is a Rastafari Elder, which is a prestigious title in the religious circles of Orthodox Rastafarians.

No famous musician looked at how commercially successful Ras Michael’s albums were, so Peter Tosh joined him on guitar, Robbie Shakespeare on bass, and another guitarist, Earl “Chinna” Smith, on some albums like “Rastafari,” who were literally the best musicians of that time.

“You got to have love; without love, you are nothing at all.” is the sentence with which “Run Come Rally” ends, and it echoes into eternity.

TOP 3

Carnastoan - Sweet Melody

This is the happiest album on this list. Period. And I must be honest that I owe this album to a bald guy from Kotež. I mean, I don’t really owe him, but let’s not go into that now.

Carnastoan saw the light of day from John Peel’s studio, of course, they had released their music or single “Sweet Melody” before visiting Bald John, but thanks to him, a few of us found out about this album.

The Birmingham band “Carnastoan” then included some future musicians of Steel Pulse like Conrad Kelly, while the guy with the silky voice and rhythm guitar was Everal “Bulba“ Brown.

What’s really interesting to me about this album is that the bass is like a uniform swing sound, while the keyboards are like organs, and then they dynamically change the music and rhythms. All this while Everal sings with that voice that’s like gauze on a soul wound. You can listen to him endlessly, buddy.

TOP 4

Midnite - Ras Mek Peace

The album “Ras Mek Peace” by the group Midnite, released in 1999, represents an exceptional part of their discography. Recorded at Mapleshades Studio in September 1999, the album reflects a raw and unprocessed sound, different from other contemporary reggae productions. Midnite, composed of the Benjamin brothers, Vaughn and Ron, applied an unconventional approach to recording this album. It was recorded live in one room, directly onto a two-channel analog tape, without the use of compression or corrective equalization. This method, avoiding mixing, filtering, compression, equalization, noise reduction, overdubbing, or layering, gave the album an extremely raw sound that resonates with authenticity and purity. This recording style choice reflects Midnite’s dedication to preserving the excitement of live music, as emphasized by the philosophy of engineer and studio owner Pierre Spray: “NO mixing, NO overdubs, NO noise reduction, NO compression, NO multitracking, NO reverb, NO equalization, NOTHING but the excitement of live music, UNCOMPROMISED MUSIC.”

I won’t waste words; Ras Mek Peace has been playing on our web radio station for several months before we set up the server. It is immortal in listening capabilities and contains lyrical diversity. I didn’t want to, but I still get goosebumps, and it throws me through time and emotions.

“Rasta Man Stand” is actually the famous Midnite rhythm, their signature, and you can tell it’s Ron’s work with your eyes closed. What Vaughn was for lyrics and vocals, Ron was for instruments and production.

TOP 5

Israel Vibration - The Same Old Song

“The Same Old Song” album is anything but just the same song.

The album “The Same Old Song” by the group Israel Vibration, released in 1978, is not just an ordinary reggae album; it is a story of resilience, unity, and deep musical expression. The members of the group, Lascelle “Wiss” Bulgin, Albert “Apple Gabriel” Craig, and Cecil “Skelly” Spence, all overcame polio as children and met in a rehabilitation center in Kingston, Jamaica. These shared experiences shaped their path and music, creating a unique synergy that permeates their songs.

Their musical career started from humble beginnings, singing on the streets of Kingston, making a living from the money earned through singing.

I love all the songs equally, but tears start flowing on “I’ll Go Through,” especially when you consider the health problems they had from the very beginning.

Album rating: 10/10.

TOP 6

Matumbi - Seven Seals

Now, here’s a nostalgic sound complemented by the British series “Empire Road.”

The phenomenal Dennis Bovel and Matumbi once performed as the opening act for the legendary Wailers. On that day, they gave an amazing concert, but Dennis Bovel felt bad afterward because he felt he had overshadowed the Wailers, who were their heroes. There’s nothing more to say about that, no discussion about quality or moral values.

I was torn between every Matumbi album; I love both “Point of View” and “Seven Seals.” However, I decided on “Seven Seals” because I didn’t skip any track on it. On the other hand, “Good Book” and “Living in A Dream” are my favorites from “Point of View.”

“Seven Seals” contains a series of songs that defined Matumbi’s sound, including “Guide Us Jah,” “Hook Deh,” “Hypocrite,” “Bluebeat & Ska,” “Empire Road,” “Music In The Air,” “All Over This World (Money),” and the epic “Rock” which lasts for 11 minutes and 25 seconds. Each of these songs provides a unique insight into the diversity and depth of reggae, with a special emphasis on the song “Empire Road,” which became known as the theme for the British television series “Empire Road,” broadcast from 1978 to 1979.

All the songs are enjoyable, but “Bluebeat & Ska,” “Empire Road,” and “Rock” are favorites.

TOP 7

Little Roy - Earth Tafari Uprising

Unlike “Poor Man’s Story,” I have “Tafari Earth Uprising” by Little Roy in my collection.

I have a slight fear of bringing Roy, who is in his later years, to a music festival, as I wouldn’t want to spoil my experience with this legendary artist. And I wouldn’t say I like that the peak of Little Roy’s career is actually a cover album of Nirvana alongside such a masterpiece.

“Earth Tafari Uprising” is a cheerful and harmonious album that touches on many themes, many of which are not so bright.

In fact, it is a compilation of Little Roy’s songs that he had accumulated over the years, with many of them released as singles in the 1970s, but it wasn’t until 1996 that “Earth Tafair Uprising” saw the light of day.

There’s another interesting anecdote about Little Roy. When he performed at a small festival in Greece, he agreed to perform for a small sum because the festival director told him that there was poor attendance. However, when Little Roy arrived and got on stage, he saw a large number of people who had come to hear him. He then got off the stage and, after a brief argument with the organizer, left Greece without performing.

Considering that there is no complete album on YouTube, I’ve created this PLAYLIST. Enjoy.

TOP 8

The Mighty Three's – Africa Shall Stretch Forth Her Hand

The Mighty Three’s are a must if you truly love roots reggae. This album is a true masterpiece and was released back in 1979. The trio in reggae was almost a standard in that period with male backing vocals (The Heptones, The Wailers…).

This album deserves a higher rank on my list, but there are no strict rules, honestly.

I almost shed tears several times while listening to “Sinking In The Mist.”

Represses of this album have been released several times, most recently by Makasound.

TOP 9

The Regulars (Reggae Regular) - Victim

Unlike “Poor Man’s Story,” I have “Victim” in my collection.

I had a little dilemma between “Victim” and “Ghetto Rock,” that came out of Mad Professor’s kitchen, but “Victim” is the album I listen to from end to start. My favorite tracks are “Black Star Liner,” which was released as a single under Greensleeves Records, and “Where is Jah?”

This band changed its name three times, from Reggae Regulars to “The Regulars” because the record label convinced them to change it under the pretext that reggae was not yet well-known in the world and that it was a big no-no. Then they changed it to The Regulars and finally to “Rebel Regulars.” What happened to this band was that they were compared to “Steel Pulse,” and record labels loved to meddle with their affairs.

As I list these albums, I realize that I am actually the biggest UK roots lover. And it mostly revolves around the 1980s.

The album is mostly written in a fast-paced rhythm or tempo, like the songs “Jah Jah Children” and “Fool’s Game,” but tears start flowing on “Where is Jah” and “Victim.” Mr. “Flea,” as George Clark was nicknamed, really touches the heart. There’s not much more to say; listen more than you read.

TOP 10

Prince Lincoln Thompson & The Royal Rasses - Ride With The Rasses

I have always been dissatisfied with the position of the legendary Prince Lincoln in music. I can’t understand why he gets so little attention.

It’s about fantastic compositions and a very distinctive voice that Prince Lincoln is known for, so I had to include him on this list.

“Kinky Money Game” is an unbeatable hit that makes your feet tap and your heartbeat.

And with this album, I’ll conclude the list.

The last album could have been the first, and vice versa, on this list.


Author: Jah Tooth

Written by: reggaeneracija

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