For some weird reason I listen to a lot of reggae when its freezing here in the northeast part of the states this time of year. I just re-visited Culture’s “Two Seven’'s Clash”. Israel Vibration and the Gladiator’s up next (what a live disc btw…). Made me get to thinking what are some of our favorite 60’s/70’s/80’s/early 90ish reggae albums? Also, a sucker for some deeper live cuts. Send anyway…
Heart Of The Congos by The Congos, innit? One of the greatest albums ever in any genre.
Also love a bit of Black Uhuru. Red is a banger
“International Herb” by Culture is good also.
They played at a pub (!) in Brixton not long ago, without the singer sadly.
RIP Joe Hill.
Id add yer man Peter Tosh “Legalize it”.
“Why must I cry” might be my fave reggae song ever, that or rivers of babylon
The best reggae isn’t always on albums as Jamaica didn’t really have much of an album market in the 70s. A lot of albums were a bit thrown together for the export market. Some of my favourite artists like Gregory Isaacs, Junior Marvin etc are not heard at their best on the albums they made for British labels but on their brilliant Jamaican singles. There are definitely some great albums though.
The Heart of the Congos has already been mentioned and it is a true classic - fantastic meeting of the purity and spirituality of the songs and vocals with the wildness and invention of Lee Perry’s production.
Other personal favourites would include:
Burning Spear - Marcus Garvey (especially with the dub version Garvey’s Ghost included on the CD. Spear’s albums are all very strong - Social Living and Hail H.I.M. are both classics too)
Hugh Mundell - Africa Must be Free by 1983 (amazing record by an artist who was 14-16 years old when he wrote and recorded the songs with brilliant production by Augustus Pablo. Tragically Mundell was shot dead when he was 21)
Augustus Pablo - King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown (Pablo and Tubby are amazing and this is the best of them in the album format)
Ranking Dread - Ranking Dread in Dub (a great dub album and Sly and Robbie at their peak)
Dennis Brown - Visions of Dennis Brown (again Dennis Brown’s best music is probably to be found on singles compilations but Visions is great)
The Mighty Diamonds - Right Time (I love Jamaican vocal trios like the Might Diamonds, The Gladiators, Culture, The Abyssinians, The Wailing Souls. This is the best album in that genre along with Culture’s Two Seven’s Clash mentioned above. Trenchtown Rock by The Gladiators is good too).
Bunny Wailer - Blackheart Man (wonderful, spiritual roots)
Horace Andy - Dancehall Style (an ep really, but fantastic)
Those are all Jamaican records, but we shouldn’t ignore British records. Misty in Roots Live at the Counter Eurovision is one of the greatest albums in any genre ever. Steel Pulse’s Handsworth Revolution is a classic and the first few Aswad albums are great too.
It’s cheating but the harder they come OST is basically perfect
Loads of great stuff there. I’d throw in a couple of deejay records as well, like Dr Alimantado’s Best Dressed Chicken In Town and Big Youth’s Screaming Target.
Two good ones - knew I’d forget loads! Version Galore by U Roy is another great DJ album
Love this album.
Have often promised myself a reggae deep dive… will work through a few on this list, cheers.
Culture and Mighty Diamonds records upthread are personal favourites.
I’d add Cedric Im Brooks & The Light Of Saba - The Magical Light Of Saba - didn’t realise this was a compilation until I looked it up. Really interesting horn parts and some more jazzy/funky tracks
Abyssinians - Satta Massagana - great roots stuff with lovely harmonies and overall deep vibe
Clint Eastwood and General Saint - Two Bad DJ - more of a dancehall kind of thing (though I never really know where the subgenres start and end in reggae). Fun and interesting songwriting with great production flourishes
Great post – some really good recs in here, particularly for anyone new to the genre. Some personal favourites that haven’t been mentioned yet. Have stuck to albums rather than comps, but as @bornin69x says, loads of the best reggae is on non-album singles, most released in Jamaica.
- Bob Marley and the Wailers – African Herbsman
Wailers produced by Lee Scratch Perry. Recommended to anyone whether they like usually like reggae or not. Some of the greatest music ever recorded. Obviously love his Island albums too, but this is always the best Marley for me.
- John Holt – Time Is The Master
Probably my favourite singer. Watched him at Glastonbury a few years back and was in tears throughout the entire set (I don’t normally do this btw, and had had a very heavy couple of days!). Produced by Harry Mudie who was known for exceedingly smooth production (there are strings overdubs and everything) which when paired with the smoothest voice in Jamaica could have meant a syrupy mess, but this is just perfect. Again, recommended to anyone, whether you like reggae usually or not.
- Dillinger – Talkin’ Blues (aka ‘Dillinger’ / aka ‘Superstar’)
From one extreme to the other. As hard as they come. Released out in ’77 at the height of reggae’s crossover success and made not a single concession to the Western market. No overdubs, no backing singers, nothing except Dillinger toasting over some of the Aggrovators’ hardest beats, followed by a Tubby’s version, all presented in a showcase style.
- Earth & Stone – Kool Roots
Best full length to come out of Channel One studios in my opinion, even better than ‘Right Time’ by the Mighty Diamonds (and that is really saying something). Did well in Jamaica, but no crossover success at all, which is pretty surprising. Perfect example of the mix of heavy rhythms and amazing singing that defined Channel One’s dominance during the mid 70s. Recently reissued by Pressure Sounds.
- Joe Higgs – Life of Contradiction
Beautiful early reggae album by Bob Marley’s mentor that was supposed to come out on Island Records in 1972, but for some unknown reason Chris Blackwood shelved it. Eventually came out in 1975 in Jamaica only, when the prevailing trends in reggae had changed massively, and sunk like a stone. Has subsequently enjoyed its belated place in the sun thanks to another Pressure Sounds reissue. Not a pure reggae album at all – there’s some jazz, rock and soul influences too – and the song writing is as good as you will hear anywhere.
- The Prophets [Yabby You] – Conquering Lion
The heaviest roots album ever made. Nothing else even comes close. Wouldn’t recommend it as a starting point for someone new to reggae, but if you’ve gone through the classics and liked what you’ve heard, this will blow you away. Listened to the title track while super stoned on the night my dog died and pretty much had a religious experience.
- Keith Hudson - Flesh of My Skin: Blood of My Blood
Impossible to pick just one Keith Hudson record, but this would be up there. Again, he’s probably not the best jumping in point for people new to reggae, but classic era Lee Scratch Perry and Bunny Lee aside, probably has the best discography in reggae. He’s got a really idiosyncratic take on the genre and great for anyone who thinks they’ve heard everything reggae has to offer.
- Sylford Walker - Lamb’s Bread
To give some shine to a hugely underrated singer and particularly producer, Glen Brown. Due to financial constraints he was only part time compared to other producers in reggae’s heyday, but he was also a total perfectionist, meaning everything he put out is solid gold. Think this is the only full length he ever did, but there are some great compilations of his singles out there which are buy on sight stuff. In particular, ‘Termination Dub’, a compilation of the version sides to his best singles, all mixed by King Tubby, is in my view the best dub album you can get.
Not heard that Prophets album although I know the (amazing) Yabby You song Conquering Lion from compilations. I’d love to hear it but it seems frustratingly elusive…
It’s reissued in its entirety on the first disc of the ‘Jesus Dread 1972-1977’ set that came out on Blood and Fire a few years back. The rest of the set is made up of dubs, DJ tracks, alternate vocals, instrumentals and Yabby’s production work for other singers from the same period. It’s pretty much all amazing. Blood and Fire have stopped trading now so it’s out of print, but you can pick up second hand copies fairly easily. 17 North Parade have also started to reissue some of the Blood and Fire reissues (!) as well, so hopefully this will get the treatment. Cannot recommend it highly enough
enjoying this a lot
I’ve always meant to buy that compilation and have now given into that urge. Not cheap, unfortunately! Cheaper than when I spent a fortune buying a copy of the then completely unavailable Hugh Mundell album (and having it professionally cleaned) just six months before Greensleves reissued it.
Amazing! Would be great to hear what you think… (Did you manage to find a new version? I know that mint copies of the Blood & Fire stuff sometimes go for $$$)
Second hand on Discogs from someone in Switzerland. Weird how hard to find reggae records on Discogs always seem to be in Switzerland, Norway or The Netherlands.
Norway is a new one on me, but Switzerland and particularly The Netherlands are big reggae collectors. Makes sense really…