Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Best Reggae Albums of 2010 [#'s 20-11]

Admiral T

In retrospect, how good was 2010 for albums? Pretty good I’d say. While I, and many people, were kind of down on it during it, when it ends and we can see exactly how many big names delivered albums in the year and how many surprises there were from names we knew and names we’d like to get to know more, I’m going to have to say that it was a very good year for Reggae albums. AND, not only was there stuff like that, but there was good stuff too! Wait! Some of it was even GREAT! And I’m going to help you out because I know you’ve had a hard year and you weren’t paying good attention - So I’m going to streamline things for your benefit (and because I have nothing better to do with my time) by showing you the best of the best. The 20 Best Contemporary Reggae Albums of 2010.

{Note: No compilations or reissues}
{Note 2: Dancehall - Yes. Soca - No}
{Honourable Mentions: “Shotta Culture” by Spragga Benz, “Genesis" by Maikal X, “Messages” by Lyricson, “20ten” by Bryan Art and “Dancehall Anarchy” by Lieutenant}
{See #10-2 Here}

#20. “Never Lost My Way” by Ginjah [No Doubt Records]

The here & now. The first of five debut albums on this list in total also, arguably, features one of the most interesting artists on the list altogether, the extremely talented Ginjah who made his debut in 2010 for the best Roots Reggae producer in the world, Kemar ‘Flava’ McGregor and his No Doubt Records imprint. I’d hate to exaggerate or even ‘talk up’ more than usual things but - OBVIOUSLY the connection here between producer and artist is SO strong so as to have so much of Ginjah’s finest work on this single album from this single producer. ”Never Lost My Way” lacked in spectacular moments in retrospect, but what it did have going for it was an artist and a sound which seemed so damn HAPPY to simply BE (“when mi sing, mi no haffi rich, ah no money man ah look afta dis”) that it caught the listener and I personally was happy that it ‘was’ also.

Best Tune: ‘Never Lost My Way’
See Review

#19. “Mi Deh Yah” by Clinton Fearon [Makasound/Makafresh]

The push. Wonderfully, with 2010 now in hindsight, I can fully say that, surprisingly one of the most talked about albums of the year, particularly on the internet was ”Mi Deh Yah” by the much revered former member of The Gladiators, Clinton Fearon. And while I don’t think that I was as high on this release as a great deal of others, these days every time I listen to it, slowly but surely, I think I may get closer to what they heard here. As it stands now, however, even with what is perhaps a diminished viewpoint of the album, it was still an all around SOLID piece and definitely something you’d expect from an artist with Fearon’s wonderful background and rich musical foundation.

Best Tune: ‘Feeling Blue’
See Review

#18. “Put The Stereo On” by Gappy Ranks [Greensleeves Records]

Half blast. About four or five months on from its release date, these days what I most find myself recalling of the debut album of breakout UK star Gappy Ranks, ”Put The Stereo On” is how it only featured half of the vibes of the artist. Largely produced by the historically old school Peckings Records, the album flew through in on the strength of a similarly vibed title track and the other eleven tracks did nothing but boost those type of vibes and, honestly as the time has gone on, musically speaking, I do have a slightly better appreciation of this album than I originally did I believe. Reportedly, Ranks is set to deliver the other half (the new school) of his vibes on an album later this year, but when he puts them both together on a single release, he’ll rather easily stroll onto the top half of a list like this and probably the top half of the top half also.

Best Tune: Heaven In Her Eyes’
See Review

#17. “Reggae Music” by Ossie Dellimore [Skank Records]
Time has come. It had been a decade since the last time the world was treated to a brand new album from the outstanding St. Vincy born Reggae singer Ossie Dellimore and it had also been quite some time from since we had first been told of his forthcoming sophomore release for Skank Records and while it seemed, at times, as though he may never have another album, when it finally did materialize, "Reggae Music" was well worth the wait. Much like in the case of Fearon, this one was just CONCRETE all around, there wasn’t very much in the way of ‘loose’ areas or soft spots and Dellimore definitely did dazzle as well (did you catch that?).

Best Tune: ‘Caribbean & American’
See Review

#16. “Teach Them Right” by Apple Gabriel [Jahsolidrock/Not Easy At All Productions]

Welcome back. Much like in the case of Ossie Dellimore, ”Teach Them Right” was the first solo album from the well respected former member of the legendary Israel Vibration group, Apple Gabriel, in a pretty long time. Unlike Dellimore, however, the time in between its release and the 1999 release of its predecessor ”Another Moses” was full of downright heartbreaking occurrences for the singer. So, obviously, being the artist he is, Gabriel would have had a great deal to say and he excellently put it to song on ”Teach Them Right” for a pair of Dutch labels in Jahsolidrock and Not Easy At All Productions (who I’ll tell you about again tomorrow) . . . And hopefully it won’t be 2021 when we next get an album from Apple Gabriel.

Best Tune: In The Jungle’ [“wash me clean and I will be clean”]
See Review

#15. “I-Ternal Fire” by Capleton [VP Records]

Over a medium fire. It hadn’t been quite as long for Capleton as it had been for either Ossie Dellimore or Apple Gabriel, since the last time he had an album, but it sure did seem like it. When he FINALLY did return, in 2010 with ”I-Ternal Fire”. The album certainly caught critics off-guard to a degree because it wasn’t the same fire breathing scaldingness (word???) which was to be found on his previous efforts for VP Records. HOWEVER (!) listening to this album these days, while it does lack that type of intensity that we’d come to know from Capleton over the years, I’m well of the opinion that in a few years’ time after we’ve had a bit of time to settle with the album, we may just look back on ”I-Ternal Fire” (as the title would indicate) as a timeless piece because it may just be regarded as THE best lyrical effort of the Prophet’s entire career.

Best Tune: ‘When I Came To Town’
See Review

#14. “United States of Africa” by Luciano [VP Records]

Edgy? Luckily I wasn’t the only one who seemed to notice that the version of the legendary Roots Reggae singer, Luciano, that appeared on his first album of 2010, ”United States of Africa”, came with a bit of an edge to his vibes which definitely worked in this case. While the Frenchie, from Maximum Sound, produced album may’ve caught a few people by surprise to an extent, the same level of quality we’ve come to expect from ‘The Messenjah’ was well intact on an album which, although it seems to have faded a bit in terms of the perception of it, isn’t a GREAT way away from some of the best releases from the artist (including another which will appear on this same list shortly).

Best Tune: ‘Be Aware’
See Review

#13. “D.O.B.“ by Busy Signal [VP Records]

Growth. The way I did this list, for the most part, having not heard some of these albums in a minute or two, was to go back and give each two or three cursory spins through and briefly compare them to my reviews and see if the same thoughts existed. ”D.O.B.” is the first instant here thus far where I didn’t have to go back at all because I’ve been spinning it THOROUGHLY as of late and since it was first dealt with back in July, my opinion of it has grown CONSIDERABLY, probably more than any other album on this list (it probably was headed for the ‘honourable mentions’ section, but I could now make a strong case for it being top ten). The attraction is simply the fact that Busy Signal is WICKED! Listening to one of his albums, in terms of the ground he covers and the ‘colours’ he uses is like listening to three or four from someone else - It’s really a strenuous workout of an album. Who else could cover songs from Phil Collins, The Commodores, mix in Bounty Killer, a Salsa track, an a cappella and have it STILL be Dancehall and oft-brilliant Dancehall at that.

Best Tune: ‘Opera’
See Review

#12. ‘Write My Name’ by Luciano [Footprintz Music Group]

Version 2. I very well may’ve been the only one (as usual) who thought so, but in my opinion the best album Luciano released in 2010 was the lesser known and underplayed ”Write My Name” from Footprintz Music Group. This album seemed to be a little less mechanical in nature and, inherently, more of the ‘standout’ type of vibes were present and it offered more spectacular moments in my opinion as well. Furthermore, there’s the matter of the title track for this album being so all encompassingly wonderful on just about every damn level that I can think of. A very strong supporting cast helped to make this one a pure winner and an arguable top ten album also . . . Well at least to me it does.

Best Tune: ‘Right My Name’
See Review

#11. “Instinct Admiral” by Admiral T [Don’s Music/Universal]

Phenomenal. 2010 was a pretty awful one for Dancehall albums. Spice’s album never materialized and neither did Beenie Man’s and . . . Really Busy Signal was the only one REALLY hitting hard in terms of Jamaican artists (unless I’m REALLY forgetting someone), but that wasn’t exactly the case with French/French Dancehall artists as several of the top artists drop full length projects in the year. That included THE biggest dog in the yard currently, the absolutely LIGHTENING that is Admiral T who returned to us with his first album in four years, the colourful ”Instinct Admiral”. The album, somewhat like ”I-Ternal Fire”, was somewhat toned down showing a certain level of maturity in the Admiral, but DEFINITELY there was more than enough musical acid for older fans of the Admiral’s seeking that energy boost which he always offers. Guest spots from Soca star Machel Montano, Fanny J, Patrick St. Eloi from Kassav, Lieutenant, Young Chang MC and even Busy Signal himself, helped see this one to the highest of heights and make it my choice as The Best Dancehall Album of 2010.

Best Tune: ‘Hands Up’ featuring Busy Signal
See Review

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