Summer is almost here – although it’s 55 and raining today in Cleveland – and summer is the time for the langorous strains of a Jamaican backbeat wafting on the floral breeze.
Ya mon, it’s reggae time, and if you only have one collection spanning the entire reggae era (in addition to your mandatory Bob, or course), Ultimate Raggae, out next week on Universal’s UTV label, is a difficult choice to beat.
Running the gamut of reggae styles from the joyous melodicism of ’70s Jimmy Cliff (the anthemic title track to “The Harder They Come” soundtrack), Toots and the Maytals (the ganja bust classic “54-46 Was My Number”), and Johnny Nash (the pure sunny pleasure of “I Can See Clearly Now”); the lovers reggae of Gregory Isaacs (classic seduction “Night Nurse”) and Dennis Brown (“Love Has Found It’s Way”); the early toasting of Yellowman (“Zungguzung..”)and Eek-A-Mouse (“Wa Do Dem”); the mental toughness of founding Wailer Peter Tosh (“Equal Rights”), Burning Spear (righteous rasta of “Marcus Garvey”) and Junior Murvin (“Police and Thieves,” co-written and produced by Lee Scratch Perry, later covered by the Clash); the harmonies of Black Uhuru (“Sponji Reggae”) and Third World (“1865: 96 in the Shade”); and the dancehall stylings of Half Pint, Chaka Demus and Pliers (the compulsive syncopation of “Murder She Wrote”), Shabba Ranks (“Mr. Loverman”), Shaggy (“Boombastic”), Buju Banton, and Beenie Man.
There may be collections with more reggae hits on them, but this one confines itself to real Jamaicans (other than American Johnny Nash, whose “I Can See Clearly Now” was backed by the Wailers and you can’t much more authentic than that) at their most iconic. Jah rastafari.