The opposite end of the musical spectrum to air guitar metal and rock! But I love it just as much. Like most kids of my generation, it was Bob Marley who first drew me into reggae – the “Live!” album of 1975, with “No Woman No Cry” as the lead single was crucial. But even more it was the affinity between punk and reggae. My favourite punk band was the Clash and they really did have a feeling for reggae. See my “Have You Heard – Clash Reggae” on the subject – check the sidebar.
Like all these tens, it’s almost impossible to narrow down. I could easily do a fifty. I’ve been strict and only allowed one track per artist. Otherwise Bob Marley could swamp the whole thing. Or Sugar Minott in his rub-a-dub style.
Hear any of this out of some massive speakers and if you don’t want to dance I’d be so surprised. The bass will probably hit you hard in the rib cage and your feet won’t be able to stop moving.
You can hear all of the following tunes on my Spotify playlist TFW510 – Reggae Music
10. Zungguzungguzungguzeng – Yellowman
Just trying to remember how to write the title makes my brain hurt! This is just one of those pure feelgood reggae records. It’s veering towards the dancehall sound. Yellowman is an Albino Jamaican and a bit of a lad, as the lyrics suggest…
9. MPLA Dub – Tapper Zukie
The MPLA were the freedom fighters/ terrorists (depending on your perspective) in Angola in the 70s, as the Portuguese influence was shaken off. This track has no lyrics – it’s just a mighty piece of dub, that makes you want to stride that bit harder as you walk along the street. So the MPLA connection is non-existent really. But was a good title at the time, the late 70s. I have this record on a wonderful collection complied by Don Letts, called “Dread Meets Punk Rockers Uptown”, a celebration of the reggae music that the punks were into. A double hit!
8. Man In The Hills – Burning Spear
Burning Spear is the sound of rural Jamaica. Spiritual music. “Man In The Hills” epitomises that sound.
7. Max Romeo – Chase The Devil
I remember popping into a record shop in Ealing with my kids when they were little and this song came on over the PA. All three of them started rocking… and rolling. I think the whole shop was skanking! The rhythm is so infectious. The Prodigy sampled this song for their early track “Out Of Space”.
6. Augustus Pablo – King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown
There well may be a consensus amongst afficionados that this is the signature dub record. The inspiration for many others. I have a couple of dubby tracks even higher on my list, but I accept that this is the template.
5. Althia and Donna – Uptown Top Ranking
This was a number one single in the UK in 1978. It has such a wonderful rhythm, slightly off-tune musical backdrop and lyrics: See me in me ‘alterback, see me gi’ heart attack!
4. Talkin’ Blues – Bob Marley and The Wailers
Bob Marley is one of the absolute greats. When I do my top ten of his music I must remember to put this number one! Or maybe I won’t because there are so many songs I love that I don’t know where to start. He, along with Michael Jackson, must be the most truly international artist. (Oh yeah, the Beatles too). Find yourself in a beach bar anywhere in the world and I’ll bet there is Bob Marley playing. This is a song from his album “Natty Dread”. Just before he hit the big time. Maybe his best?
3. Sugar Minott – Inna Dance Hall Style
In the UK Sugar Minott would be best known for his lovers reggae hit “Good Thing Going”. He has the sweetest soulful voice. The Smokey Robinson of reggae. But like most reggae artists, he churned out loads of music in all sorts of styles in the Jamaican studios. In the eighties, I bought loads of reggae albums, hoping to find the absolute classics. One such was “Slice Of The Cake”by Sugar Minott. It had this track on it. The most wonderful dubwise tune. Like all great dub it’s all about the space and echo.
2. Mi God Mi King – Papa Levi
Eleven minutes, including the dub version, on a white label twelve inch single. Which I bought from Virgin records, so it wasn’t that exclusive at the time. A brilliant rolling reggae rhythm, a kind of reggae rap, which in the reggae world is more likely to be called toasting, and some dub interventions. It has everything. For me this is one of the greatest records ever, reggae or otherwise. It has such a vibe. I’m not sure whether the singer is actually Maxi Priest, but it could be. The voice is similar. I found a version on You Tube, which is good, but you can hear the full version on my Spotify playlist.
1. Junior Murvin – Police and Thieves
This is such a wonderful tune. Junior Murvin is another singer with the sweetest of voices. But the subject matter is dark. The tragedy of the political conflicts in the 70s in Jamaica. I heard the Clash version, off their “1977” album, first. That is magnificent too and it inspired me to investigate the original. So I bought a four track twelve inch single by Junior Murvin from a record shop in Oxford, where I was studying. Four versions of this fantastic song: dub, saxophone, toasting as well as the main track. It is so powerful, so cool. You can dance to it and be hugely moved. Probably my most treasured vinyl record.
I can’t believe that I’ve left out these songs…
Under Mi Sensi – Barrington Levy
Dub Fi Gwan – King Tubby
I Need A Roof – The Mighty Diamonds
Two Sevens Clash – Culture
Night Nurse – Gregory Isaacs, The Cool Ruler
Water Pumping – Johnny Osbourne
Those Tricks – Carlton Livingstone
Done with It – Michael Palmer
Back To Africa – Aswad
Wolves and Leopards – Dennis Brown
Girls Wear Yuh Size – Lt Stitchie
Well, that’s cheating because that makes it twenty-one, but really, they are all so good, and there are so many more!
And here again is the link to the Spotify playlist, which gives you these wonderful songs as I remember them. I’ve limited the No 1, “Police and Thieves” to the first track, the main song, but if anyone would like to hear the full 12 inch single let me know.