Reggae music is a much-maligned genre. Generally regarded as the preserve of teenage stoners and middle-aged hippies, it’s very rarely given the time of day by music journalists and music fans in general.
As a middle class white kid, from a genteel suburb of Liverpool, I’m not really supposed to like reggae. But since I first heard Bob Marley on my dad’s record player, I’ve been hooked on what is quite simply the most intoxicating music in the world today. Or some other clichéd nonsense…. whatever, you get the picture, I love reggae and I don’t really care who knows it.
This Buy, Try or Die is for all you potential dreads and rudeboys out there who want to start your reggae collection, but don’t really know where to begin.
BUY – Exodus, Bob Marley (1977)
It’s pretty much the law that any analysis of Jamaican music has to include something by Robert Nesta Marley O.M, so there’s no way I could leave him out. For me, Exodus is his finest album, with well known tracks like One Love, Jamming, Three Little Birds, and of course the iconic title track spaced out between lesser known but no less incredible tunes like Natural Mystic, Guiltiness, Waiting In Vain and Turn Your Lights Down Low, it’s an album that should be in everybody’s record collection.
TRY – War Inna Babylon, Max Romeo (1976)
Recorded by Max Romeo at the infamous Black Ark Studios in Jamaica, home to the almost criminally insane legendary producer Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, and featuring Perry’s band The Upsetters as the backing group, War Ina Babylon is a real connoisseur’s album. Best known for the track, Chase The Devil, which has been sampled by just about everyone from The Prodigy to Jay-Z, there’s also the singles One Step Forward, Norman and War Ina Babylon, to look forward to. Slightly more rootsy than Bob, which means you can blare it out the window at the police and shout ‘CHANT DOWN BABYLON SYSTEM!’ without feeling like a bumbaclaat.
DIE – Love Struck, Robert Minott (1993)
If reggae is the music world’s maligned genre, than Lover’s Rock is it’s bastard offspring. For the record, when it’s done well Lover’s Rock (romantic reggae songs, instead of ‘Chant Down Babylon’ records) can be quite pleasant. But a whole album of it is actually quite dreadful. Containing god-awful covers of songs like Loving You and Just My Imagination, it’s the kind of crappy reggae album you can pick up at your local Asda bargain bin for less than a £5. Avoid.
(Genuinely so bad it doesn't have a single video on Youtube)
To limit an entire genre to just 3 albums is almost criminal. So here are 5 more classic reggae anthems that you simply need to have in your life.
54-46 That's My Number - Toots and The Maytals - Classic, skinhead stomper.
Money In My Pocket - Dennis Brown - Bob Marley's favourite singer, so you know he's good.
Police and Thieves - Junior Murvin - Fabulously covered by The Clash.
Hurts So Good - Susan Cadogan - Pure sex from one of reggae's queen's.
The Harder They Come - Jimmy Cliff - Cliff's Magnum Opus