Top Reggae Picks for Summer

During the summer, what you really need to cool down and relax to is some chilled reggae beats to sit back and enjoy. Or, maybe you need some tunes to get up and skank to. Whatever you need, you’ll find it here.

To start off the list, which is in no particular order, I’m going for the album “Statement” by Ini Kamoze. Released in 1984. it’s an album that ticks all the boxes for a reggae album from the “rockers” era of Jamaican music. With the infamous Sly and Robbie on drums and bass, the album is able to host both those chilled beats, such as “to live a little love” and the more upbeat ones too, “Jump for Jah” for instance. Another great thing about the balance of this album is the way the individual songs are able to sometimes trail off into a little dubbed version towards the end of the track. “Call the police” does this at about three and a half minutes in. So for the remainder of the song, you are left with the iconic echo sounds you find in dub tracks. I first discovered this album when watching the 1985 reggae Sunsplash held at Selhurst Park, in South London on YouTube. He comes on at around 16 minutes in (link to the video attached here) and plays “England be nice” to the London crowd before the Cool Ruler, Gregory Isaacs, succeeds him on stage. Personally, if I could travel back in time and attend any concert in history, it would have to be this one, but that’s probably just the Palace fan in me. Find it in-store today!

My second pick is from an all-time great of the reggae genre - Dennis Brown. His prolific reggae career involved him being a pioneer of the reggae subgenre of lover’s rock. So in tune with this, I’m choosing his album, Love Has Found Its Way which was released in 1982. The album manages to stick to the reggae principles of a jumpy rhythm while adding aspects of funk and soul through the emphasis on brass instruments, and the lover’s rock is easily identifiable in Brown’s passionate and lustful lyrics. The prime example of this is “Get High On Your Love” while other songs vary in the number of different genres it adopts. A song like “Blood, Sweat And Tears” is majorly roots reggae due to its heavy bassline throughout the track, whereas a song such as “I Couldn’t Stand Losing You” could be considered to be closer to a funky sort of rock with it’s loud, dominant trumpet and guitar. This album really is a masterpiece with the way Brown can make you want to get on your feet and start dancing all while incorporating the various popular genres that dominated the world in the late 20th century but still keeping his lyrics thoughtful and romantic. Love Has Found Its Way comfortably finds itself in my top five albums of all time.

Next is an album by, in my opinion, the greatest reggae artist ever, Gregory Isaacs. The album came out in ‘79 while Isaacs was signed for Front line records. It mainly stays on the more relaxed route of reggae, as Isaacs so often chose, but it also tests the waters of lover’s rock on tracks such as “Lonely Girl” and “My Relationship” which may have been influenced by the fact Dennis Brown was on background vocals throughout the album. Alongside Brown in the credits of the album are some extremely creditable names which help make it the work of art that it is. These include once again Sly and Robbie on their respected drums and bass and joining Sly on the drums was Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace while Junior Delgado accompanied Brown on the backing vocals. When listening to this album, Isaacs’ often hard-hitting but honest lyrics about the current political state and history of his native Jamaica are made easy listening by Isaacs’ tame and mellow voice along with the easy, laid-back reggae rhythm. Tracks such as “Black Liberation Struggle” and especially “Slave Market” bring this idea to life perfectly. To talk about such serious and sensitive topics but still make it have a welcoming and enjoyable sound is something fascinating to hear. It’s a must-listen.

For my fourth pick, I’m going for an album by a trio that I think was one of the most successful groups in spreading the Rastafarian message through their music. The album I’m choosing is Two Sevens Clash by Culture. It’s exactly the sort of thing you would expect to hear from them. Their high-pitched vocals sound fresh and crisp and are perfectly accompanied by often quite high tempo drums to match, as heard in “I’m Not Ashamed”. But they also can switch it up to make it slightly slower, but still keeping their trademark friendly, fresh sound. Although what should really be focused on in this album is the lyrics. They are incredibly soulful, spiritual, and moving. They often address the Rastafarian and Marcus Garvey’s shared belief that African people living across the Atlantic should return to their homeland. One song was especially dedicated to this idea: “Black Starliner Must Come” which references Garvey’s prophesied black-owned route back to Africa. Overall, it’s an album with very enjoyable sounding tracks but ultimately the lyrics are what makes the album the gem it is. Find out more here

Finally, my fifth pick will be Heart of The Congos by The Congos. Released during the roots era of reggae in 1977 and produced by easily the greatest reggae producer ever, Lee “Scratch” Perry, it became a hall-of-fame album in reggae music. With some famous names in the credits such as Sly Dunbar (of course), Ernest Ranglin, and The Meditations while being recorded at The Black Ark recording studio, it’s no surprise the album was such a hit in late 70s Jamaica. The vocals of The Congos are similar to Culture in that they both are able to utilise their high-pitched voice to make the tracks sound light and radiant. However, The Congos strongly emphasise keeping their rhythm slow, heavy bass, and easy-going in contrast to Culture. The Congos are also known for having an excellent story-telling ability, often biblical, all while keeping the tracks flowing freely so they fit in with the easy-going rhythm as mentioned. Songs such as “La La Bam-Bam” and “Fisherman” come to mind as being especially good stories, as well as tunes. In this album, Scratch really tries to emphasise the rurality of Jamaica and the importance of religion as well. In other reggae albums from the 70s/80s you expect to hear lots about the west, Marcus Garvey, Babylon, etc. but Heart of The Congos is a light, refreshing break from that and instead wants to mostly focus on the natural aspects of life. It’s an incredibly chilled-out, relaxed album that I can’t recommend enough. Find out more here.


So there it is, my top 5 reggae albums! All are great in their own respected ways (like all reggae) so why not give them a try? Happy listening!