Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Best Reggae Albums of 2010 [#'s 10-2]

{Note: No compilations or reissues}
{Note 2: Dancehall - Yes. Soca - No}
{See #'s 20-11 here}


The Best Reggae Albums of 2010

#10. “Diversity” [Deluxe Edition] by Gentleman [Bush House Music/Universal]

Beneath the ruins. Placing the big deluxe edition 2010 album from German standout, Gentleman, ”Diversity” on this list is probably the hardest any of the entries here because of how it actually worked out. If you just take the original, one disc release, there’s a pretty good chance that it resides in the ‘Honourable Mentions’ file, but the double edition is different. If you were strip away from the twenty-eight tracks between both and whittle it down to about seventeen or eighteen, you’d legitimately have a five star album on your hands. Still, as a whole the project was excellent and with the likes of Tanya Stephens, Sugar Minott, Rebellion The Recaller, Million Stylez, Luciano and others, it also may’ve been one of the most star-studded releases of the year as well.

Best Tune: ‘Changes’
See Review

#9. “Black Gold” by Toussaint [I Grade Records]

Soul roots. I spend so much time talking about how I’m growing increasingly depressed by our wonderful music being diluted by other genres and just making a mess of it in many respects - But sometimes it works out. Let the prime example of that be ”Black Gold” by Toussaint who kind of did it in reverse by taking Reggae and adding to his own base - Soul music to form this BEAUTIFUL subgenre called ‘Soul Roots’ which was on full display on what was arguably the most interesting release of the entire year, ”Black Gold”. In retrospect, besides having an American Soul artist making a Reggae album in St. Croix with the VI’s dominant label, I Grade Records, one of the most interesting and impressive aspects of this album was just how NATURAL and INSTINCTIVE it came through. While it is apart of this new and interesting genre, it’s never actually acknowledged in the music and it all came together FUCKING SEAMLESSLY on undeniably one of the year’s most fascination and just BEST albums.

Best Tune: ‘Nobody Knows’
See Review

#8. “Black Gold” by Duane Stephenson [VP Records]

Remember him? I had to go back and take another VERY good listen to Duane Stephenson’s sophomore album from VP Records, ”Black Gold” (yep, that’s the title) (look at the picture if you don’t believe me), because I honestly hadn’t spun it in a month or so and really the discussion around has . . . Well it’s pretty much stopped at this point hasn’t it. That’s a real shame because, much like the case with the album I’ll speak of at #3, when you look back at this album, it was just such a COMPLETE experience of an album that it left virtually no vibe, no range of emotion or no sonic encounter to be had and it was seriously as good as it possibly could have been. And that’s very interesting to say about Stephenson because often times he’s overlooked in favour of the likes of Tarrus Riley, Etana and even Queen Ifrica who’re the artists more closely identified with the current Jamaican Roots Reggae upswing and in ”Black Gold”, he released a project which could stand up to the best of his peers.

Best Tune: ‘Cycle Goes On’
See Review

#7. “Babylon Nightmare” by Jahdan Blakkamoore [Lustre Kings Productions]

Mr. X. As the most recent entry on this list and one which is still very much on my players, I kind of had to temper my seemingly growing affection for ”Babylon Nightmare”, the most much anticipated 2010 release from the flaming Jahdan Blakkamoore. As you can see, I didn’t fair too well knocking this one down much as it ranks all the way at #7, but it’s well accurate and well deserved. As I said, in the review for the album, no one in 2010 THRILLED lyrically the way Jahdan did (although #6 made a WONDERFUL attempt at it). Be it due to the Hip-Hop colours he obviously had or . . . I really don’t care anymore. The man absolutely DAZZLED on an album and it seems to have ‘wings’ as well. While I wouldn’t at all complain if Blakkamoore wanted to make it 3 out of 3 in terms of releasing albums in consecutive years - The work he did on ”Babylon Nightmare” figures to carry WELL beyond next year and the year after that and the year after that and the year after that and the year after that . . .

Best Tune: ‘Flying High’
See Review

#6. “Red Pond” by Junior Kelly [VP Records]

I needed that. I ask you - Is the world not IMMEDIATELY a MUCH better place to be when Junior Kelly drops a new album (and particularly his first since 2005)? Kelly certainly spruced up 2010 by FINALLY delivering the latest installment of what has been a most underrated yet unmistakenly BRILLIANT career. Though the album has seemingly, for the most part, faded from the radars of most, perhaps it’s a miniature version of Junior Kelly himself - I imagine that years from now we’ll all wake up and realize how GOOD we had it when he was in his prime years and although we can argue whether he still is or isn’t, with material such as what was to be found on the MIGHTY ”Red Pond”, I don’t really care. This thing was just SO on-target and SO well carried out that it seemed as if he’d given the whole of the five years in between albums to perfect it. Of course that wasn’t the case and the fact that it wasn’t makes it even more impressive.

Best Tune: ‘Nuthin Wrong With The World’
See Review

#5. “Romain Virgo” by Romain Virgo [VP Records]

Wow! With the exception of whatever ends up being #1 on this list (I like how I say that, like I have no clue as to what it is) I can definitely say that no single album on this list is as IMMEDIATELY gripping as the self-titled debut album from potentially one of the biggest artists to come around in quite some time, Romain Virgo. It certainly doesn’t take a very long time at all to be entangled and entwisted in an album WELL beyond the nineteen years of its star. Looking back, I’m still most struck at how we look at Virgo, ostensibly, as this type of Sanchez-like love song singer, but he’s not that at all. Instead of being ‘the next Sanchez’ or Gyptian, he seems headed to creating his own most interesting legacy - One which is part Lover’s Rock and part Roots singer - But at the EXACT same time. His album was a BEAUTIFUL weaving of both styles and CLEARLY one of the best of the year.

Best Tune: ‘Mi Caan Sleep’
See Review

#4. “Judgement Time” by Chezidek [Jahsolidrock/Not Easy At All Productions]

Too short . . . Right? I can remember most people (myself included) remarking quite vividly and adamantly on the number of songs on "Judgement Time”. The album only had eleven vocal tracks and with seventeen in full, that meant that the remaining six were riddim versions. Initially this was a probably, but when you really look at it, what it means is that Chezidek and Dutch label duo, Jahsolidrock and Not Easy At All Productions had less room for error than most albums you’ll find here. Well, as it turned out they didn’t make too many mistakes AT ALL. It says a great deal about an album which is so ‘brief’ that I can sit here and call it (and I am) arguably the most sonically pleasing Roots Reggae album of the year. Be it the actual riddims or the specs on the audio - WHATEVER - ”Judgement Time” just has this SOUND about it which takes the listener to very nice places by itself. When you add on top of that the fact that it found the singer in one of the best forms of his career altogether and writing excellent also, what you had was an absolute POWERHOUSE of an album. I don’t give a damn how many tracks it had.

Best Tune: ‘Walk With Jah’
See Review

#3. “Matsahyel” by Iba [Outpost Music Workshop/Negus I Records]

He has found Jah. In 2010 I only gave out four 5star reviews (and only 3 of them were for albums which would qualify for this list) and this is the first of the three on this list and it’s probably the least known of the three and partially because of that, I wanted to REALLY go back and have a very thorough listen to it again so as to be able to defend its very high ranking here when not only compared to more well known material, but more recent and current material as well and I was really thinking about moving it out of the top 3 - Until I started playing it again.

What I heard on ”Matsahyel”, the third studio album from VI Reggae veteran Ras Iba was, as I alluded to previously, such a COMPLETE musical experience that I’d rather happily continue to be the only one still championing the cause of the GREATNESS of this album. What I hear is sonically pleasing (of course it is, it‘s vibed by the incomparable Tuff Lion), it’s deep, the lyrics make a very direct and powerful point on EVERY song and it was simply the best album that it could have been and for me (and maybe only for me) that was a spectacular piece.

Best Tune: ‘Mission’
See Review

#2. “Feel Your Presence” by NiyoRah [Denkenesh Records/I Grade Records]

Bruk down barrier. Just in case there was any remaining further apprehension in ANYONE regarding the ‘combining‘ of the two regions, hopefully that was taken care of when St. Thomas based, Dominica born VI Reggae star, NiyoRah, traveled to Jamaica to work with Andrew ‘Bassie’ Campbell on what would ultimately become his third studio album and my choice as the year’s second best Reggae album altogether, ”Feel Your Presence”. Previously Pressure Busspipe had enjoyed a great deal of success with super producer Don Corleon and the woefully overlooked King Cephas went the other way in linking with Tuff Lion and then there was this piece, wonderfully coming right in between both of those situations in terms of popularity.

Besides the circumstances surrounding its release (which was also very interesting because it came through Denkenesh, NiyoRah‘s very own label), this album was highlighted by an even further refined and detailed version of an artist who had already come quite a far way in both regards. The version of Niyo on ”Feel Your Presence” could do absolutely anything with the vibes - He was truly the finished product which DOMINATED in 2010.

Best Tune: ‘Feel Your Presence
See Review


  1. Good list but why no female artists?

  2. Because I wanted to make a list of the best albums and I didn't want to make a list which tried to fulfill some type of quota. Unless I'm REALLY overlooking someone, the best female Reggae album that I heard last year was Lady Saw's album and I don't think it's good enough to make this list. I did have Queen Ifrica on my list last year and I anticipate Etana being up next this year and I have written lists specifically about women artists in the past as well.