Albums

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Reggae - Released January 12, 1900 | Team Presi Money

Reggae - Released June 9, 1905 | King Jammys - VP Records

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Reggae - Released February 1, 1967 | RCA Victor - Legacy

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Prince Buster, a ghetto youth from the notorious Back-a-Wall neighborhood of Kingston, is credited by many with bringing ska music to the masses -- both as an upstart sound system operator and as a producer and singer. By the mid-'60s he had already had a string of local hits, but "Ten Commandments from Woman to Man" made a particularly big splash, due in part to its unapologetically sexist stance. This album was originally released in 1967 to capitalize on that song's success. Although Prince Buster's reputation for "slackness" (sexually explicit material) was already growing, Ten Commandments has no slack material; its 31 minutes are dedicated to galloping ska rave-ups like "Girl, Answer to Your Name" and the brilliant "I Won't Let You Cry," as well as the swinging "They Got to Come" and the calypso/summer-camp classic "Wings of a Dove." "Is Life Worth Living" is slower and anticipates the rocksteady sound that was beginning to emerge in late-'60s Kingston, and which would soon slow further and thicken into reggae -- this song also serves to remind you what a great pure singer Buster was at this point in his career. And the title track still shocks somewhat in its blatant sexism, though the sly humor underlying the song is underscored by the presence of "Ten Commandments from Woman to Man," a sharp musical retort sung by a young woman identified only as Princess Buster (other answer songs were recorded independently at the time by other local artists). There are lots of fine Prince Buster compilations out there, but this classic album is as good an introduction to his art as any. ~ Rick Anderson
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Reggae - Released August 21, 1967 | RCA Victor - Legacy

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Reggae - Released August 31, 1969 | Spirit of 69 Records

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Reggae - Released March 23, 2015 | Sanctuary Records

Reggae - Released January 1, 1973 | Island Records (The Island Def Jam Music Group / Universal Music)

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Reggae - Released December 5, 1975 | Tuff Gong

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Reggae - Released January 1, 1976 | One Up

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Reggae - Released January 1, 1976 | Island Records (The Island Def Jam Music Group / Universal Music)

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Reggae - Released January 1, 1977 | Island Records (The Island Def Jam Music Group / Universal Music)

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Reggae - Released June 3, 1977 | Tuff Gong

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Reggae - Released March 23, 1978 | Tuff Gong

The second half of the 1970s was a prolific era for Bob Marley, at the peak of his glory days, during which he was releasing an album a year. After Rastaman Vibration in 1976, Exodus in 1977, the Jamaican artist released this Kaya in 1978, with tracks originating from the same session as Exodus, recorded during the first few months of his exile in London, in early 1977. The album is widely considered as his lightest, no doubt because of its theme, as Kaya means marijuana in Jamaican slang. The album starts off with Easy Skanking’s “Excuse me while I light my spliff”, as if Marley was totally at ease with the B-side nature of these songs. But it would be a mistake to underestimate the hit machines that were the Wailers, as this album features two of their discography’s biggest successes, Is This Love and Satisfy My Soul – certified double platinum in France and gold disc in the USA. Bob Marley also used these sessions to revisit his Lee Perry period, first with the title song Kaya, for which he wrote a chiselled version without Scratch’s wacky flamenco guitar, like a symbol of Island’s influence – some would say to the detriment of romanticism… –, while Sun Is Shining, more ethereal than its original, rose to new heights and spiciness with Junior Marvin’s electric guitar. On the B-side at the time, one could find She’s Gone, a song about an ousted lover, Crisis, which sounds like a spin-off born out of a rehearsal for Is This Love, or the “rastaman chant” Time Will Tell, cadenced by Nyabinghi drumming. The album ends in a deadpan way with Smile Jamaica, a title composed for its namesake concert on December 5th, 1976 at the National Heroes Park in Kingston, Jamaica, in which Bob Marley took part two days after being shot… © Smaël Bouaici/Qobuz
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Reggae - Released March 23, 1978 | Tuff Gong

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The second half of the 1970s was a prolific era for Bob Marley, at the peak of his glory days, during which he was releasing an album a year. After Rastaman Vibration in 1976, Exodus in 1977, the Jamaican artist released this Kaya in 1978, with tracks originating from the same session as Exodus, recorded during the first few months of his exile in London, in early 1977. The album is widely considered as his lightest, no doubt because of its theme, as Kaya means marijuana in Jamaican slang. The album starts off with Easy Skanking’s “Excuse me while I light my spliff”, as if Marley was totally at ease with the B-side nature of these songs. But it would be a mistake to underestimate the hit machines that were the Wailers, as this album features two of their discography’s biggest successes, Is This Love and Satisfy My Soul – certified double platinum in France and gold disc in the USA. Bob Marley also used these sessions to revisit his Lee Perry period, first with the title song Kaya, for which he wrote a chiselled version without Scratch’s wacky flamenco guitar, like a symbol of Island’s influence – some would say to the detriment of romanticism… –, while Sun Is Shining, more ethereal than its original, rose to new heights and spiciness with Junior Marvin’s electric guitar. On the B-side at the time, one could find She’s Gone, a song about an ousted lover, Crisis, which sounds like a spin-off born out of a rehearsal for Is This Love, or the “rastaman chant” Time Will Tell, cadenced by Nyabinghi drumming. The album ends in a deadpan way with Smile Jamaica, a title composed for its namesake concert on December 5th, 1976 at the National Heroes Park in Kingston, Jamaica, in which Bob Marley took part two days after being shot… For its 40th anniversary, Kaya is released in a special edition with Stephen Marley remixing the original session recordings, like his brother Ziggy did with Exodus. © Smaël Bouaici/Qobuz

Reggae - Released January 1, 1979 | Tad's Record

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One of the most crucial albums by reggae singing legend Gregory Isaacs, Soon Forward features an all-star lineup that includes the quintessential Sly and Robbie rhythm section as well as Dennis Brown on backing vocals. With all but one track produced by Isaacs himself, the sticky subtleties of instrumental dub resonate with a trance-inducing effect. Known for the pained purity of his vocal tone, Isaacs graces the microphone with every passing phrase. As he covers romantic territory on classic songs such as "Lonely Girl" and "Soon Forward," the Cool Ruler also sets fire to cultural themes on songs such as "Universal Tribulation" and "Black Liberation Struggle." Originally released in 1979, Soon Forward stands casually at the crossroads of roots reggae, dub, and dancehall. While it might not have been widely recognized outside of Jamaica back then, it is the type of album to stand up to the test of time. ~ Robert Gabriel

Reggae - Released September 27, 1979 | Celluloid

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Reggae - Released January 1, 1980 | Virgin Records

So ubiquitous was UB40's grip on the pop-reggae market that it may have been difficult for younger fans to comprehend just how their arrival shook up the British musical scene. They appeared just as 2 Tone had peaked and was beginning its slide towards oblivion. Not that it mattered, as few would try to shoehorn the band into that suit. However, the group was no more comfortable within the U.K. reggae axis of Steel Pulse, Aswad, and Matumbi. Their rhythms may have been reggae-based, their music Jamaican-inspired, but UB40 had such an original take on the genre that all comparisons were moot. Even their attack on the singles chart was unusual, as they smacked three double-A-sided singles into the Top Ten in swift succession. By rights, the second 45 should have acted as a taster for their album (it didn't, coming several months too soon), while the third should have been a spinoff (it wasn't, boasting two new songs entirely). Regardless, both sides of their debut single -- the roots-rocking indictment of politicians' refusal to relieve famine on "Food for Thought" and the dreamy tribute to Martin Luther "King" -- were included, as well as their phenomenal cover of Randy Newman's "I Think It's Going to Rain Today" off their second single. The new material was equally strong. The moody roots-fired "Tyler," which kicks off the set, is a potent condemnation of the U.S. judicial system, while its stellar dub, "25%," appears later in the set. The smoky Far Eastern-flavored "Burden" explores the dual tugs of national pride and shame over Britain's oppressive past (and present). If that was a thoughtful number, "Little by Little" was a blatant call for class warfare. Of course, Ali Campbell never raised his voice -- he didn't need to. His words were his sword, and the creamier and sweeter his delivery, the deeper they cut. Their music was just as revolutionary, their sound unlike anything else on either island, from deep dubs shot through with jazzy sax to the bright and breezy instrumental "12 Bar," with its splendid loose groove transmuted later in the set to the jazzier and smokier "Adella." Meanwhile, "Food" slams into the dance clubs, and "King" floats to the heavens. It's hard to believe this is the same UB40 that later topped the U.K. charts with the likes of "Red Red Wine" and "I've Got You Babe." Their fire was dampened quickly, but on Signing Off it blazed high, still accessible to the pop market, but so edgy that even those who are sure there's nothing about the group to admire will change their tune instantly. ~ Jo-Ann Greene
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Reggae - Released January 1, 1980 | Virgin Records

Now this is what we want: most of UB40's debut album Signing Off, plus the 12" single that was included with initial copies of the set, coupled with their first three double A-sided singles. So far removed is the group's earliest work from their later sound that even the most culturally minded of reggae fans will want this record in their collection. UB40's later albums rarely equaled the strength of their singles, even as their later singles lost much of the bite and creativity of their predecessors. Thus, this set captures them at their most militant and experimental. The trio of singles -- "Food for Thought"/"King", "My Way of Thinking"/"I Think It's Going to Rain", and "The Earth Dies Screaming"/"Dream Is a Lie" -- reveal the inner workings of the group, as they play with styles, shifting back and forth from more Jamaica-fied sounds to almost breezy pop, winding into smokey jazz clubs, onto the dancefloor, and off into the dreamiest of milieus. On their full length, the band furthered their musical adventures with both vocal tracks and groove-filled instrumentals and dub. Thematically, the songs were even harder hitting than the singles, encompassing calls to class warfare to the defense of young Gary "Tyler", imprisoned for life in Louisiana. The horrors of the American south obviously haunted the band, and they return to its magnolia scented climes for "Strange Fruit", a terrifying expose of lynching. "Fruit" was one of the trio of songs on the aforementioned 12", along with the driving instrumental "Reefer Madness", and the epic "Madam Medusa", where the mythological Medusa stalks the roots-reggae groove across the 12+ minute track. If all you know of UB40 is their later hits or Labour of Love series, UB40 will come as a revelation, commercially accessible, but roaring with militant fire, awash in creativity and honed with their desire to bring reggae into a new musical world of their own invention. In all that they succeeded brilliantly. ~ Jo-Ann Greene
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Reggae - Released January 1, 1980 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

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Reggae - Released October 26, 1980 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.