One advantage of being a certain age is that, when it comes to reggae, your objectivity isn't necessarily skewed by hippies, hacky-sack, Bob Marley, trustifarians or other such reggae cliches. My friends and I were lucky enough to be turned on to reggae as an ersatz chaser to a punk rock cocktail. When all other mellow music was getting tossed aside, reggae was not. Simply put, it was the best rebel music with a soulful beat available. It was an awesome awakening: the hunt for reggae on the shelf, any store shelf (Ratner's Electric in downtown San Diego?!?), the booming sound system of the reggae disco at North Park Lion's Club (you could feel the bass in your chest), the kind recommendations from reggae freak elders, and learning the proper way to spell New York ("a knife, a fork, a bottle, and a cork, that's the way you spell New York..."). And all of that discovering of this other acceptable genre comes flooding back when I hear anything from Horace Andy's first album, "Skylarking".
At the time, a lot of earlier reggae was getting licensed in the U.S. and issued at bargain prices. Marley had yet to break and it seemed like the reggae that was being released as if spattering paint, just hoping some of it would stick. The reissues were typically released with bland packaging with total disregard of the exotic covers of the originally issued LPs. It boggles the mind to think about what could have happened if these LPs were released with the original packaging (as seen here). What if the significance of these reissues was more widely recognized, and what would have happened if reggae music as a whole had broken before the rampant one dimensional Marley mania?
Before any miscreants start whining about how great Bob Marley was, let me pose this question: what would rock n' roll be like if the only artist most people were familiar with was the Rolling Stones? You get the picture, so make room on your plate. There is so much more essential reggae.
.All the ingredients are here: an essential 1969 Studio One classic
Horace Andy - Skylarking, the entire LP download at Global Groove
Sound Dimension - Real Rock mp3 at The Suburbs are Killing Us
The house band at Studio One with the rhythm that backs 250+ early reggae classics
Sound Dimension - Real Rock Version mp3 at The Suburbs Are Killing Us
The Heptones -Hypocrite mp3 at Ear It Now
The Maytals - Pressure Drop mp3 and 6 other Maytal cuts at I Predict A Riot
Sister Nancy - Bam Bam mp3 and 11 early reggae & rock steady cuts at I Predict a Riot
Bam Bam, from 1982, had to have been on MIA's turntable at some point
Alton Ellis - I'm Still in Love With You mp3 at Grand Panda
If the rhythm sounds familiar, you must have checked Althia and Donna's Uptown Top Ranking
Big Youth - Screaming Target mp3 at Djnodj
The Slickers - Johnny Too Bad mp3 at Motel de Moka
King Tubby - Take Five mp3 at 8106
How this is a King Tubby cut when there's no dub is beyond me, but a cover of Dave Brubeck with a groove keeps me from asking too many questions...
Another all time classic: melodica + dub = chill bliss