I have been listening to reggae and dub the last few days. As much reggae, and its surrounding genres, as I own, there is an infinite amount more that I don’t. Sometimes when you first approach a kind of music it can be intimidating for the sheer amount of it that exists. Where do you start? I found this today. It provides a link to every reggae album rewarded five stars by allmusic.com. Hopefully this can thin the herd for you a little. No list is perfect, but this one can at least give you some ideas. Even if you know about some or even many of the records, it is fun to read the reviews, if you are into that sort of thing.
Jimmy Cliff is one of those artists that can lift the heart out of despair. Sometime ago I posted the other performance from Jimmy Cliff’s appearance on Jools Holland. Both performances are simply outstanding. This song is from his front to back killer Rebirth. This is a modern record that can stand with the all-time greats in this or any genre. If you don’t have it, get it.
I’m a really big fan of reggae and rocksteady music. One act that I was delighted to discover was a group known as The Heptones. The Heptones are a vocal trio that sang beautiful harmonies that almost have a Beach Boys in Jamaica quality to them. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but some of their stuff reminds me of Pet Sounds, but with reggae and rocksteady grooves. The above track is a great example of not only how beautiful their music could be, but also the liquid, imaginative arrangements that were often part of their early sound. The Heptones compliation Sweet Talking is a great place to start, as it is outstanding from beginning to end. Most of their songs are not as long as the one above, and adhere closer to pop song length. However, the song above is one of those musical pieces that creates its own universe to get lost in. It is a vivid kaleidoscope of sound. There is something mysterious and spiritual about this combination of harmony and rhythm. The compilation is as pretty as anything Jamaica ever produced, and that is saying something.
One of the best albums in recent years is Jimmy Cliff’s Rebirth. It is the full package with an artist at the top of their game. It is political, emotional, soulful, and absolutely fearless. The production by Tim Armstrong is note perfect. Somehow Jimmy Cliff can sing as powerfully now as he ever did. This live performance on Jools Holland is stunning. If you get the chance also check out the YouTube clip of him performing One More from this same performance in 2012.