Cocoa TeaCocoa Tea - Biological Warfare
One of the towering figures of early dancehall reggae and still going strong 30 years into his career, Cocoa Tea today sounds better than ever. Biological Warfare was recorded with the German producer Andreas "Brotherman" Christophersen and features an impressive roster of A-list session musicians, including Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace, Dean Fraser, Nambo Robinson, and others. Some tracks are written and performed in a vintage late roots style, while others are modern digital dancehall based on Christophersen's own programming. Cocoa Tea is equally at home in both musical contexts, and his lyrics are consistently excellent. Read More >>

CultureCulture - Two Sevens Clash [The 30th Anniversary]
One of the masterpieces of the roots era, no album better defines its time and place than Two Sevens Clash, which encompasses both the religious fervor of its day and the rich sounds of contemporary Jamaica. Avowed Rastafarians, Culture had formed in 1976, and cut two singles before beginning work on their debut album with producers the Mighty Two (aka Joe Gibbs and Errol Thompson). Their second single, "Two Sevens Clash," would title the album and provide its focal point. The song swept across the island like a wildfire, its power fed by the apocalyptic fever that held the island in its clutches throughout late 1976 and into 1977. Read More >>

DJ SpookyDJ Spooky - Creation Rebel
One of those rare remix albums that exceeds expectations, DJ Spooky's Creation Rebel is a "Re-Mixed, Re-Visioned, and Re-Versioned" journey through the Trojan Records vaults with the experimental maverick bringing the spirit of the legendary reggae label into the laptop age. Spooky may add modern beats, hip-hop influenced scratching, and other manipulations only possible with computers, but what makes this album so special is how Trojan the whole thing sounds, as if the label was jettisoned into the future with all their dirty six-foot bass cabinet charm intact. Read More >>

Wayne JarrettWayne Jarrett - Chip In
Wayne Jarrett seems to have drifted in and out of the reggae spotlight like a late-night ghost, tracking the timeless "Satta Dread" with Bunny Lee in 1976, then vanishing until he turned up to record the album Chip In with producer Henry "Junjo" Lawes in Kingston in 1982; later in the year he showed up in New York to put down six classic sides for Lloyd "Bullwackie" Barnes' Wackies label which, along with the dubs, made up the Showcase, Vol. 1 LP. Then Jarrett, like a wisp of ganja smoke, was gone again, and rumors persist that he is now living in Connecticut, in New York, in Miami, or perhaps he's back in Kingston. Mysterious as these comings and goings are, Jarrett has managed to produce two marvelous roots albums, both of which feature his disarming, Horace Andy-like tenor vocals. Read More >>

Lady SawLady Saw - Walk Out
Walk Out finds Lady Saw devoting less of her album to sexually charged, aggressive music than usual and delivering a diverse effort in the style of her good friend and critical darling Tanya Stephens. Be warned, though, that she refuses to tone down her brazen "slack" tracks and earns her self-proclaimed title of "punany lyricist" with "Power of the Pum" and "Like It." These "pat-your-front woman" anthems are hard synthetic dancehall, authentically Jamaican, and unconcerned with crossing over, as is the celebratory, empowering, and trash-free highlight "Me and My Crew (The Rae)." Add the bitter "Chat to Mi Back" and you've got the usual exciting set of Lady Saw tunes, but Walk Out is a much more ambitious album. Read More >>

Lee PerryLee Perry & the Upsetters - Ape-ology
A godsend if ever there was one, this two-disc reissue set combines three of Lee "Scratch" Perry's quirkiest and most fascinating LPs, 1976's Super Ape and 1978's Return of the Super Ape and Roast Fish, Collie Weed & Cornbread, in one package along with seven rare and related bonus tracks. It's all vintage Perry, who was at the peak of his powers as a maverick producer in 1976. His fabled Black Ark Studio in Kingston was up and running by this time and his brilliant production work on Max Romeo's classic War ina Babylon LP and fine sets by the Heptones and Junior Murvin, among others, had made him a cult figure in Britain. Read More >>

ShaggyShaggy - Intoxication
Shaggy's 2005 effort Clothes Drop was widely ignored in the States and only semi-accepted in the U.K. and Europe. In Jamaica and Japan, however, the album had serious legs, carrying the dancehall singer's career all the way to 2007 and the release of the "Church Heathen" single. Seeing as how his most supportive territories were Jamaica -- the home of it all -- and Japan -- where they'll take their dancehall straight, no R&B chaser required -- it made perfect sense for Shaggy to deliver a JA flavored tune featuring Jamaican Patois and references for the dancehall literate. That tune, "Church Heathen," took the dancehall world by storm, re-established the singer's footing in the U.K., and began to make an impact in the States towards the end of the 2007. Read More >>

Bim ShermanBim Sherman - Tribulation: Down in Jamdown 1974-1979
When Bim Sherman died of cancer in 2000, the reggae world lost one of its most distinctive voices. Not a smooth-voiced crooner like Cornell Campbell or Johnny Clarke, Sherman instead sang in a voice that ached with vulnerability and floated like a ragged gossamer scarf in the breeze (the fact that it occasionally floated only approximately around the intended pitch just added emotional depth to his interpretations). Those who have heard his recorded work have mostly come across it on compilations from the On-U Sound label, or have heard him as one of the featured vocalists with Singers & Players. This collection brings together recordings made early in his career, when he was writing songs with his friend Bob West and producing the sessions himself, releasing the songs as singles on his own label. Read More >>

The TechniquesThe Techniques - Queen Majesty: The Anthology
One of Jamaica's most influential vocal groups, the Techniques' history was particularly convoluted. Formed in late 1964, the original group comprised lead singer Slim Smith, Winston Riley, Frederick Waite, and Franklyn White. Their recording debut, "No One," was overseen by Edward Seaga, but it was their subsequent singles for Duke Reid that took the island by storm, with 1965's "Little Did You Know" the first of many to top the Jamaican chart. Read More >>

Wailing SoulsWailing Souls - Most Wanted: Classic Cuts 1978-1984
Greensleeves' 2007 release Most Wanted: Classic Cuts 1978-1984 isn't the definitive Wailing Souls compilation, but with the band's discography sprawling across labels, decades, and many flavors of reggae, a one-disc wrap-up is a bit too much to ask. Most Wanted focuses on the transitional years of 1978-1984, just missing their seminal 1977 hit "Bredda Gravalicious," but displaying their evolution from rugged roots music to more mature roots and on to dancehall. Read More >>

Gussie ClarkeVA - 12" Rulers: Gussie Clarke
Producer and label owner Augustus "Gussie" Clarke is well respected for his pre-dancehall work -- most notably for bringing the world Big Youth's grand album Screaming Target -- but once Wayne Smith's "Under Me Sleng Teng" changed reggae for good with its synthetic rhythms, Clarke signed up for the revolution and his career began to thrive. It was then that his Music Works studios began to crank out a series of hit singles, both in Jamaica and the U.K., most of which land on Greensleeves' excellent compilation 12" Rulers. Read More >>

Tenemant YardVA - Down in a Tenement Yard: Sufferation and Love in the Ghetto, 1973-1980
The Trojan label has perennially been accused of rehashing the contents of its nearly bottomless reggae vault in a haphazard manner, throwing together slipshod compilations at a headlong pace without worrying enough about sound quality or coherent presentation, and the detractors have not always been wrong. But this two-disc set is one that any boutique label would be proud to release. Not only is it carefully and insightfully organized around a central lyrical theme, and not only does it draw skillfully and broadly on a catalog that includes both certified reggae classics and lots of unjustly neglected obscurities, but it includes many extended 12" mixes... Read More >>

Summer RecordsVA - Summer Records Anthology 1974-1988
Toronto had a sizeable West Indies population by the late 1960s, including many ex-pat Jamaican musicians, one of whom was Jerry Brown, who left Kingston for Canada in 1968. A car body repairman by trade, Brown was soon established enough to turn his attention to his first love, making music, and he built a recording studio in the basement of his Malton, Ontario residence. Dubbed Summer Sound, the studio was soon a center for the area's Jamaican reggae artists, a community that included such high ranking names as Studio One veterans Jackie Mittoo, Leroy Sibbles of the Heptones, and songwriter Willi Williams. Brown produced a solid body of work out of his little studio between 1974 and 1988, a sampling of which is presented on this delightful 15-track set from Light in the Attic Records. Read More >>