What are the all-time great reggae albums?
June 26, 2005 9:08 PM   Subscribe

What are the all-time great reggae albums? I just watched The Harder They Come, and put the soundtrack in my Amazon shopping cart. I already have Bob Marley - Rebel Music. What else should I look into?
posted by agropyron to Media & Arts (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The Congos - "Heart of the Congos"
Augustus Pablo - "King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown"
Trojan has released a number of affordable 3-CD sets: Rocksteady (for example), Ska, Dub, all kinds. These are great ways to learn about the music.
Also, I cannot recommend strongly enough the "100%/200%/300%/400%/500%/600% Dynamite" series on Soul Jazz (one of the greatest current record labels), which are just absolutely fucking flawless.
The Wailers - "Burnin'", "Kaya," "Rastaman Vibration"
Peter Tosh - "Legalize It"
The Upsetters - "Super Ape"

.. more to come ...
posted by Dr. Wu at 9:22 PM on June 26, 2005

You also need stuff by Desmond Dekker, The Skatalites, King Tubby, Jackie Mittoo (a personal favorite), and Lee "Scratch" Perry, who has had his work anthologized more times than I can count. Lotsa crappy Lee Perry out there, but stick to the compilations on Trojan and you'll do well.

Reggae does have its great albums, of course, but it's a genre much more concerned with singles than with full-length LPs. So for many of these artists, such as The Skatalites, King Tubby, and Desmond Dekker, greatest-hits or compilation albums are often your best bet. Seriously, the Trojan and Soul Jazz comps are absolutely excellent places to start.
posted by Dr. Wu at 9:27 PM on June 26, 2005

The Prime of Horace Andy is a great selection.

Also I suggest that Kaya and Uprising are the best Bob Marley albums to start with.
posted by nomis at 9:32 PM on June 26, 2005

Should put this above: Soul Jazz page with everything you need: tons of glorious reissues from Studio One, the most important reggae label.
(I do not work for Soul Jazz, honest. I just think they're doing fantastic work with these reissues.)
posted by Dr. Wu at 9:33 PM on June 26, 2005

There was a compilation released a little while ago called "Rough Guide to Dub" that's pretty sweet.
posted by Laugh_track at 9:44 PM on June 26, 2005

Some really good suggestions above (especially Desmond Dekker). Also check out Toots and the Maytals -- great stuff!
posted by scody at 9:49 PM on June 26, 2005

I just want to say that Dr. Wu's answer -- particularly the Trojan sets and the Soul Jazz comps -- is really right on. For the longest time, I though I couldn't stand reggae. Turns out I just wasn't much of a Bob Marley fan, and that's all I heard in college. There's great stuff out there.
posted by .kobayashi. at 9:50 PM on June 26, 2005

"East of the River Nile " Augustus Pablo .
Jeff Sarge's Reggae Schoolroom at wfmu posts mp3s for a few weeks after each show. really great stuff .
posted by hortense at 10:22 PM on June 26, 2005

Linton Kwesi Johnson - Bass Culture.
posted by DelusionsofGrandeur at 11:57 PM on June 26, 2005

Toots + the Maytals
Burning Spear - Live in Paris
posted by adamvasco at 12:00 AM on June 27, 2005

a long time ago I was fortunate enough to stumble upon this in a used records shop:

Burning Spear - Marcus Garvey/Garvey's Ghost

if you can find it, GET IT! the first half of the disc is the "Marcus Garvey" album and the second half is a dub remix of the first. the whole thing is so amazingly powerful that it will amaze even the unamazable.
posted by mcsweetie at 12:10 AM on June 27, 2005

Dr Alimantado: Best dressed chicken in town

one of the best
posted by derbs at 2:16 AM on June 27, 2005

In addition to the above, you really should check out Armageddon Time, by Willie Williams. Indispensable.
posted by samh23 at 2:16 AM on June 27, 2005

For just the best of sampling from Marley, Legend is a wonderful cross-section. I otherwise 3rd Toots & Maytals.
posted by peacay at 3:00 AM on June 27, 2005

Both soundtracks to The Hard They Come and Rockers.
posted by octothorpe at 3:54 AM on June 27, 2005

I consider the early Bob Marley studio 1 recordings classic, though they don't share his legacy sound. They have a special ska/spiritual blend, and show a connection to popular rock n roll music of the time, IMHO.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 4:19 AM on June 27, 2005

Steel Pulse - Earth Crisis
posted by realcountrymusic at 4:36 AM on June 27, 2005

Anything by toots and the maytals.
posted by adampsyche at 5:24 AM on June 27, 2005

two words: BIG YOUTH, Natty Universal dread is an awesome compilation of his stuff. i cant believe no one has mentioned him yet.
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 6:24 AM on June 27, 2005

"Tougher Than Tough: The Story Of Jamaican Music" is a great box set with tracks covering the range from Rocksteady to Dancehall. Highly recommended.

Two of my favorite artists are Prince Buster and The Techniques.
posted by Otis at 7:05 AM on June 27, 2005

Culture's "Two Sevens Clash" inspired a very influential punk band's name. Allmusic.com's entry for the album waxes effusive.

Your local library might hold The Story of Jamaican Music, as, on preview, I see Otis mentioned. This is a pretty good primer in the evolution of ska/rock steady/reggae/dub/dancehall, etc. Beyond its scope, of course, is the impact Jamaican music had on rock and roll, which perhaps someone may want to address. (For one thing, late 70s/early 80s England saw a lot of covers of 60s ska tunes as part of the Two-Tone label's rise to prominence. This 2nd generation of ska includes the Specials, the English Beat, the Selector, the Bodysnatchers, and others.)

There are other highlights from Trojan. Their Reggae Sisters set has a lot of reggae covers of American hits and other tunes (Phyllis Dillon's version of "Perfidia" is my favorite of that much covered tune). And their X-rated set has some, um, interesting items, such as "Birth Control."

Keep in mind, though, that Jamaican music has almost always been about singles rather than albums and that some artists have released self-covers of their biggest songs multiple times throughout their careers. Some singles you might want to check out: Harry J All-Stars' "Liquidator," the Maytals' "Pressure Drop," and "Monkey Spanner" and "Double Barrel" by Dave & Ansel Collins.

The iTunes Music Store carries a lot of this stuff if you're interested in checking out 30 second samples. Only one song by Prince Buster, though, dammit!
posted by kimota at 8:28 AM on June 27, 2005

One more vote for Trojan's Reggae Sisters box.
posted by realcountrymusic at 4:42 AM on June 28, 2005

The Trojan Boxed sets + Story of Jamaican Music + Best of Delroy Wilson
posted by destro at 9:26 AM on June 28, 2005

Bunny Wailer, for goodness' sake! Pick any of 'em, but start with Blackheart Man.
posted by punilux at 10:11 AM on June 28, 2005

It depends on what era and style of reggae yr lookin' for. There's 40 years of music to pick from!
At first, I started out with ska (actually two-tone) and made a determined effort to avoid Bob Marley (though I bought some of his records later) I dislike dancehall and I tend to dig ska, "rockers" era and dub the most.
Here are some of my favorites:

Steel Pulse - True Democracy
Various Artists - Rockers Soundtrack
Various Artists - The Harder They Come Soundtrack
Bob Marley - Exodus
Bob Marley - Kaya
Peter Tosh - Legalize It
Gregory Isaacs - The Best of Gregory Isaacs, Vol. 1-2
Desmond Dekker - Rockin' Steady: The Best of Desmond Dekker
Black Uhuru - Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?
King Tubby and Augustus Pablo - Inna Fire House
U-Roy - You Ace From Space
Burning Spear - Creation Rebel
Burning Spear - Marcus Garvey
The Upsetters - Return of Django
The Upsetters - Super Ape
The Melodians - Rivers of Babylon: The Best of the Melodians 1967-1973
The Congos - Heart of the Congos
The Abyssinians - Satta Massangana
Twilight Circus Dub Sound System - Horsie
Various Artists - Towering Dub Inferno

Pretty much anything by Dennis Brown!
posted by black8 at 11:41 PM on July 2, 2005

Since we can now post followups months later, why not? My top-rated list currently includes:
Augustus Pablo
Burning Spear
Desmond Dekker
Jackie Mittoo
Jimmy Cliff
Lee 'Scratch' Perry & the Upsetters
Peter Tosh
Steel Pulse
Toots & The Maytals
and various singles, especially Liquidator, Skinhead Moonstomp, and Double Barrel.

Thanks for the excellent recommendations everyone!
posted by agropyron at 11:43 AM on January 29, 2006

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