It is hard to understand how an album can be called "Ultimate Reggae" when
it does not include a single track by Bob Marley. Having said that, the
latest offering from UTV records does offer a pretty good overview of the
more popular aspects of reggae music spanning the last three decades.
Toots and the Maytals set the ball rolling with "54-46 Was My Number,"
providing a fairly gentle introduction to what is to follow. The gentle
lilting beat that underpins the earlier reggae sides makes for a fantastic
soundtrack to the summer. Add in great vocalists of the calibre of the
currently resurgent Jimmy Cliff ("The Harder They Come") and Johnny Nash
("I Can See Clearly Now"), and the package becomes rather irresistible.
Most of the first half of the album represents what many would probably
describe as classical reggae music, hailing from the 1970's and early
1980's. It includes many important and influential artists too, such as
Burning Spear, Peter Tosh and Junior Murvin, whose "Police and Thieves" is
In the 1980's the wider world started to tap into some of the alternative
styles of reggae, with singjay--a combination of singing and
dee-jaying--being popularised by the likes of Eek-A-Mouse ("Wa Do Dem"),
the deejay styles of Yellowman ("Zungguzungguguzungguzeng"), and dancehall
singers like Half Pint ("Greetings"). The classic sound still remained
popular too, thanks to people like of Dennis Brown ("Love Has Found Its
Way") and Gregory Isaacs "Night Nurse," both of whom found their way onto
As it moved into the 1990's, reggae continued to broaden out, as ragga
crossed over on an international scale thanks to artists like Chaka Demus &
Pliers ("Murder She Wrote"), and Shabba Ranks' "Mr. Loverman." Things
probably peaked when Shaggy's "Boombastic" entered the UK charts at number
1. Deejays also remained popular, with rivals Buju Banton ("Untold
Stories") and Beenie Man ("Who Am I") also being successful.
Reggae's popularity continued as things headed on into the new millennium.
Newer artists like Mr. Vegas (the excellent "Heads High" which has been
occupying most of my CD player's time in recent weeks), Bob Marley's
youngest son, Damian "Jr. Song" Marley ("And You Be Loved"), and more
recently Sean Paul (not included on this album) suggest that the reggae
music genre will endure.
"Ultimate Reggae" offers a very good fairly gentle introduction to reggae.
If you have never encountered the delights that reggae has to offer, this
is a fine place to start, and you will be singing along to several of the
songs here after just a few plays. Unfortunately, the liner notes do not
offer much for those who want to pursue their interest further.
For that, you will have to check out books like The Rough Guide to Reggae,
although my copy is getting a bit long in the tooth now (it was published
in 1997, but there is a more recent version from 2001).
It is hard to believe that there are still some people out there who think that
all reggae sounds the same; "Ultimate Reggae" shows that they are wrong.
Now, how about an "Ultimate Dub" companion album?
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