Albums

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Reggae - Released April 20, 2018 | A&M

Booklet
Sting and Shaggy: not such a surprising tandem! In 1979 Police’s leader released Reggatta de Blanc, a second album under the Jamaican influence that fed the reggae-punky wave at the time of the Clash, PIL, Ruts Madness, as well as Bob Marley himself. Gordon Summer, who has always been fascinated by Caribbean rhythms, never truly broke away from them. So when his manager Martin Kierszenbaum, who also works with Shaggy, let him listen to his next dancehall hit song, the bassist made the trip from his Malibu home to do a featuring. The understanding between the Jamaican artist and the ex-Police singer was stellar and the track became the single Don't Make Me Wait. And six months later, 44/876, the tandem album was complete. From Crooked Tree to Dreaming In The USA − which restored the US image −, the two companions gave us a most surprising album that blends reggae, dancehall and catchy pop, without falling into ridiculous clichés. “This is exactly the record the world needs right now”, according to Orville Richard Burrell a.k.a. Shaggy… © Charlotte Saintoin/Qobuz
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Reggae - Released April 20, 2018 | A&M

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Sting and Shaggy: not such a surprising tandem! In 1979 Police’s leader released Reggatta de Blanc, a second album under the Jamaican influence that fed the reggae-punky wave at the time of the Clash, PIL, Ruts Madness, as well as Bob Marley himself. Gordon Summer, who has always been fascinated by Caribbean rhythms, never truly broke away from them. So when his manager Martin Kierszenbaum, who also works with Shaggy, let him listen to his next dancehall hit song, the bassist made the trip from his Malibu home to do a featuring. The understanding between the Jamaican artist and the ex-Police singer was stellar and the track became the single Don't Make Me Wait. And six months later, 44/876, the tandem album was complete. From Crooked Tree to Dreaming In The USA − which restored the US image −, the two companions gave us a most surprising album that blends reggae, dancehall and catchy pop, without falling into ridiculous clichés. “This is exactly the record the world needs right now”, according to Orville Richard Burrell a.k.a. Shaggy… © Charlotte Saintoin/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
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Reggae - Released January 1, 2001 | Island Records (The Island Def Jam Music Group / Universal Music)

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
Uprising would be the final studio album featuring Bob Marley & the Wailers to be released during Marley's lifetime. Prophetically, it also contains some of the band's finest crafted material, as if they were cognizant that this would be their final outing. The album's blend of religious and secular themes likewise creates a very powerful and singular quest for spirituality in a material world. Although it is argued that an album's graphic design rarely captures the essence of the work inside, the powerful rebirthing image of a rock solid Marley emerging with his arms raised in triumph could not be a more accurate visual description of the musical jubilation within. Musically, the somewhat staid rhythms often synonymous with reggae have been completely turned around to include slinky and liquid syncopation. "Work," "Pimper's Paradise," and the lead-off track "Coming in From the Cold" are all significant variations on the lolloping Rasta beat. The major difference is the sonic textures that manipulate and fill those patterns. The inventive and unique guitar work of Al Anderson -- the only American member of the original Wailers -- once again redefines the role of the lead electric guitar outside of its standard rock & roll setting. "Zion Train" is awash in wah-wah-driven patterns creating an eerie, almost ethereal backdrop against Marley's lyrics, which recollect images from Peter Tosh's "Stop That Train" all the way back on Marley & the Wailers' international debut Catch a Fire. The final track on the original pressing of Uprising is "Redemption Song." Never has an artist unknowingly written such a beautiful and apropos living epitaph. The stark contrast from the decidedly electric and group-oriented album to this hauntingly beautiful solo acoustic composition is as dramatic as it is visionary. Less than a year after the release of Uprising, Marley would succumb to cancer. The 2001 "Definitive Remaster" version of Uprising contains the band version of "Redemption Song" and the 12" mix of "Could You Be Loved." ~ Lindsay Planer
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Reggae - Released March 10, 2017 | Wagram Music - Chapter Two Records

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Reggae - Released June 9, 2017 | Wagram Music - W Lab

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Reggae - Released June 29, 2018 | VP Records

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Dub - Released May 25, 2018 | Heavenly Sweetness

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Reggae - Released October 5, 2018 | Yotanka Records

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Reggae - Released January 1, 2001 | Island Records (The Island Def Jam Music Group / Universal Music)

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
Containing what is considered Marley's most defiant and politically charged statement to date, Survival concerns itself with the expressed solidarity of not only Africa, but of humanity at large. The album was controversial right down to the jacket, which contains a crude schematic of the stowage compartment of a typical transatlantic slave ship. Survival is intended as a wake-up call for everyman to resist and fight oppression in all of its insidious forms. From Tyrone Downie's opening synthesizer strains on "So Much Trouble in the World" to the keyboard accents emerging throughout "Zimbabwe," the sounds of Survival are notably modern. The overwhelming influence of contemporary African music is also cited with the incorporation of brass, á la Fela Kuti and his horn-driven Africa '70. While "Top Rankin'," "Ride Natty Ride," and "Wake Up and Live" are the most obvious to benefit from this influence, there are other and often more subtle inspirations scattered throughout. Survival could rightly be considered a concept album. Marley had rarely been so pointed and persistent in his content. The days of the musical parable are more or less replaced by direct and confrontational lyrics. From the subversive "Zimbabwe" -- which affirms the calls for the revolution and ultimate liberation of the South African country -- to the somewhat more introspective and optimistic "Africa Unite," the message of this album is clearly a call to arms for those wanting to abolish the subjugation and tyranny of not only Africans, but all humankind. Likewise, Survival reinforces the image of Marley as a folk hero to those suffering from oppression. ~ Lindsay Planer
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Reggae - Released July 6, 2018 | VP Records

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Reggae - Released December 5, 1975 | Tuff Gong

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Reggae - Released July 16, 2005 | Columbia - Legacy

The Essential Taj Mahal pulls together the bluesman's Columbia, Warner, Gramavision Private Music, and Hannibal labels' recordings, making it the first truly cross-licensed compilation of his work. Given the depth and breadth of this set (it covers four decades), the listener gets not only a cross-sectional view of the artist, but also his innovative and idiosyncratic journey through the blues: Mahal has not only kept the tradition alive, he's expanded it and deepened it, tracing its roots and developments through the course of American, Caribbean, and African cultures. While there is no unreleased material here, there doesn't need to be. The sheer adventure in these recordings reveals the wealth of the contribution Mahal has made not only to the blues, but to popular culture both present and past. This is a comp to own, to be moved by, and to ultimately enjoy. Columbia issued a three-CD set earlier, but there were things there that needed to be trimmed. This leaner and meaner version is superior. ~ Thom Jurek
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Reggae - Released January 24, 2019 | VP Records

Should you listen to your fans? The great artists have often done whatever they wanted, to the point of often wrong-footing their followers – which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Launched to the summit of world pop following her featuring with Kanye West on American Boy in 2008, the Brit Estelle knew her fans were waiting for a reggae album. "Since the release of ‘Come Over (feat. Sean Paul)’ from my first album, fans have consistently asked when I would make an entire reggae album. I’m happy to give the people what they have been asking for and I’m proud to share another piece of my life and art with the world", explained the singer, the daughter of a Senegalese mother and a Grenadian father. So Estelle went to explore her West Indian roots and her parents' love story, working with Jamaican producer Supa Dups in Miami, who has put his name to dancehall-infused hits for Drake and Rihanna, as well as Reefa (Lil Wayne), Jerry Wonda (Wyclef Jean) and Harmony Samuels (Jennifer Lopez, Ariana Grande). In fourteen tracks, Estelle makes a tour of the Caribbean, with soca on Meet Up (feat. Maleek Berry), reggaeton on Ain't Yo Bitch, zouk on the irresistible Really Want (with yardie idol Konshens), and she even allows herself a couple of interludes of R&B (the silky Better) and soul (Good for Us). As for reggae, she has some variety, from roots on  Karma (with HoodCelebrityy), or a cool 1980s digital reggae on Slow Down – for a fatal duel with the elastic Alicai Harley – and throughout, she displays all the variety of her extraordinary vocal palette. © Smaël Bouaici/Qobuz
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Ska & Rocksteady - Released February 1, 2019 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

In the midst of a punk explosion in the late ‘70s, the UK experienced a ska revival led by Madness and, most notably, The Specials. Originally from Coventry, the multicultural gang originally led by Jerry Dammers is now reviving the syncopated rhythms of Jamaican rocksteady and its derivative, ska. In the heart of a grey Thatcherian England, it seemed that their strict dress code (pork pie hats, black suits and chequered patterns) was mandatory to fully appreciate their singles A Message To You Rudy (a cover of Dandy Livingstone), Too Much Too Young or Gangsters, as well as their two albums, Specials in 1979 and More Specials in 1980. Going by the name of The Special AKA, they published the equally essential album In The Studio With in 1984, which topped the charts thanks to their hit song (Free) Nelson Mandela... In the middle of Winter 2019, the Specials broke their (very) long silence with Encore. However, Jerry Dammers – the author of their greatest songs - and Neville Staple are no longer in the group! Terry Hall, Lynval Golding and Horace Panter are certainly present but for purists, wouldn’t The Specials without Jerry Dammers be like... The Rolling Stones without Keith Richards? With the help of guitarist Steve Cradock (from Ocean Colour Scene), drummer Kenrick Rowe and pianist Nikolaj Torp Larsen, these 2019 Specials look great. Their ska style crosses soul with vintage disco (with a beautiful cover of Black Skinned Blue-Eyed Boys by The Equals) and they certainly don’t forget to comment on the socio-political climate just as they did at the start. As a bonus, we find eleven live tracks (with all the hits from the golden era!), recorded in Paris at the Bataclan on November 30, 2014, and in London at the Troxy on November 16, 2016. A rather successful comeback. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Reggae - Released March 2, 2018 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Only fans who follow UB40 closely will be aware that, as of 2013, there have been two different bands performing under the name UB40. The UB40 who perform with no caveats attached to their appellation are fronted by Duncan Campbell, the brother of Ali Campbell, who led the band through its peaks in the '80s and '90s. Ali acrimoniously left the group in 2008, soon followed by fellow vocalist Astro and keyboardist Mickey Virtue, leaving the remaining UB40 to be something of an upscale Reggae Sunsplash act, churning out reggae-fied covers of old pop and rock standards. All three former members reunited in 2014 for an album called Silhouette -- confusingly billed to Ali Campbell the Legendary Voice of UB40 Reunited with Astro & Mickey -- which helped establish these refugees as a distinct entity from the UB40 that kept performing under the household name, but the 2018 album A Real Labour of Love is where the trio make a stab for the crown they vacated. The three now call themselves UB40 featuring Ali, Astro & Mickey -- all the better to draw in unsuspecting punters -- and the project and its title are a swipe at the former colleagues who have drifted toward easy listening island sounds. The content of A Real Labour of Love is a call to arms, too. Where the first three Labour of Loves were records drawing upon a rich reggae legacy, A Real Labour of Love by and large concentrates on reggae songs originally released in the 1980s -- meaning, songs that were written and recorded when the group was an active concern. There's a Stevie Wonder song here, but it's "A Place in the Sun," a chestnut from 1966, not a good-time oldie, and that suits the vibe of a record that is designed to establish Ali, Astro & Mickey's UB40 as a genuine reggae band. That the trio succeed in this goal is something of a quiet triumph. While the group is clearly middle-aged -- taking things a little bit softer and slower, happy to ease into a groove instead of push it -- that is also the appeal of A Real Labour of Love. Not only do Ali, Astro & Mickey have the chops of veterans, they have the taste, so they know how to populate A Real Labour of Love with songs that signal their deep knowledge and love for their chosen genre, and then execute them with smooth, stylish flair. It's laid-back enough to be associated with the UB40 that had crossover hits in the '80s, but the content and approach pay respect to their roots, not the charts, and that means A Real Labour of Love draws a real division between this UB40 and the other eager-to-please outfit performing under an identical name. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Reggae - Released January 1, 2004 | Tuff Gong

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
The Wailers' fourth album overall, Burnin', was their second for Island Records, released only six months after its predecessor, Catch a Fire. Given that speed, it's not surprising that several tracks -- "Put It On," "Small Axe," and "Duppy Conqueror" -- are re-recordings of songs dating back a few years. But they fit in seamlessly with the newer material, matching its religious militancy and anthemic style. The confrontational nature of the group's message is apparent immediately in the opening track, "Get Up, Stand Up," as stirring a song as any that emerged from the American Civil Rights movement a decade before. The Wailers are explicit in their call to violence, a complete reversal from their own 1960s "Simmer Down" philosophy. Here, on "Burnin' and Lootin'," they take issue with fellow Jamaican Jimmy Cliff's song of the previous year, "Many Rivers to Cross," asking impatiently, "How many rivers do we have to cross/Before we can talk to the boss?" "I Shot the Sheriff," the album's most celebrated song, which became a number one hit in the hands of Eric Clapton in 1974, claims self-defense, admits consequences ("If I am guilty I will pay"), and emphasizes the isolated nature of the killing ("I didn't shoot no deputy"), but its central image is violent. Such songs illuminated the desperation of poor Jamaican life, but they also looked forward to religious salvation, their themes accentuated by the compelling rhythms and the alternating vocals of the three singers. Bob Marley was a first among equals, of course, and after this album his partners, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, quit the group, which thereafter was renamed Bob Marley and the Wailers. The three bonus tracks on the 2001 reissue are all by Tosh and Wailer, though recorded at the album's sessions, suggesting the source of their frustration. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Dub - Released October 6, 2017 | Big Scoop Records

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Reggae - Released July 21, 2017 | Tuff Gong - Republic

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Even though it took over a decade for Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley to follow up his breakthrough 2005 album, Welcome to Jamrock, he wasn't resting on his laurels. He kept up a steady pace of guest appearances on albums by people like Gwen Stefani and Jay-Z, recorded a single with Skrillex, and made an album with Nas, 2010's Distant Relatives. In between these activities and a full slate of live performances, Marley was also working on what became 2017's Stony Hill album. Largely eschewing the R&B and rap influences of Welcome to Jamrock, not to mention the high-profile guests, the album sees Marley digging deep into various aspects of modern reggae with only the help of his brother Stephen (and Bounty Killer's son Major Myjah on one track). The focus is directed on Jr. Gong and his voice shines like a diamond, whether he's toasting like he's using up his last breaths ("R.O.A.R."), rapping smooth as silk ("Grown & Sexy"), testifying like his father ("The Struggle Discontinues"), or grooving a little on a disco-reggae hybrid ("Living It Up"). He sounds best when he's pushing hard, coming off tough and ready on high-impact tracks like "Here We Go" and "Caution." Those are the moments when the album truly comes to life, though rootsy songs like "Everybody Wants to Be Somebody" have all the woody, heavy vibes of the best '70s reggae and Marley sings them exceedingly well. The songs where he dials the energy level way down and aims for a more relaxed mood don't fare quite as well; some of them, like the orchestral ballad "Autumn Leaves" and the acoustic guitar folk of "Speak Life," aren't the best vehicles for Marley's talents. Front-loading the album with the exciting tracks doesn't help either, and by the time one gets near the end, attention may begin to wander just a bit. That's not to say that Stony Hill isn't a solid album; cut a couple tracks here and there and it would be just as strong as Jamrock. And while "Medication" might not be the same booming hit that the song "Welcome to Jamrock" was, it has a very sticky hook and Marley's toasting is hypnotic and witty. It's hard to follow up the kind of record that comes once in a lifetime and Marley acquits himself well, turning in a strong modern reggae album that's informed by R&B and rap, but is very much its own thing. ~ Tim Sendra
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Dub - Released September 23, 2016 | Diversité

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