Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Best Reggae Albums of 2011 [#'s 20-11]

Danny I

Although I surely complained about it entirely too much, 2011 wasn't actually a bad year in terms of releases. Looking back - for what it lacked in consistent releases from more of the biggest names in the genre, it made up for it via lesser known lights stepping up and doing a significant amount of damage and in some cases (like #'s 20 & 14 on this list) perhaps even setting the stage for themselves to take that proverbial next step. There were also big names who did show up and pushed strong efforts as well as a few returns also who really livened up the year. Despite the fact that I didn't give a 5/5 review this year, I can very confidently say that, now that it's all over (not really though), it was a pretty good year for Reggae albums. How good exactly? Let's take a look back at the best of the best this year: The Best Reggae Albums of 2011.

{Note: No compilations or reissues}
{Note 2: Dancehall - Yes. Soca - No}
{See #'s 10-1}

#20. "7 Year Itch" by Protoje [Don Corleon Records]

Ointment. I'm still very much of the belief that "7 Year Itch", the most interesting debut album from the most interesting, Protoje, is 'only' the initial step of some larger plan, but it proved to be a pretty large step if that it's accurate (and it probably isn't). Regardless of the situation surrounding its future, the album, produced by arguably the greatest all-around maestro in the genre and Protoje's brilliant cousin, Don Corleon, went well to formally introduce to the Reggae world a talent which it seems very unlikely to shake anytime soon and it's certainly a much better and COLOURFUL place because of it.

Best Tune: '7 Year Itch'

#19. "Rasta Government" by Takana Zion [Soulbeats Records]

Glory. One of Afrika's greatest current Reggae exports, Guinea born youthful fireball Takana Zion, hit a new high for me in 2011 with the release of his third studio album to date, "Rasta Government". To date, Zion has very much been an artist who has received a special amount of attention from the Reggae listening world and it was an album like this, which has gotten even stronger in my opinion from the first listens, which it brought it even further along. Reaching this list with an album is one thing, but at just 25 years of age (to my knowledge), Zion figures to reach several more of them and he MIGHT just end up one of the, if not THE single greatest ever Reggae light from out of The Motherland.

Best Tune: 'Rasta Government'

#18. "Paris Is Burning" by Derajah & The Donkey Jaw Bone [Chapter Two Records]

A late flame. It definitely helps that this is one of the last album's that I REALLY vibed and I'm still playing it so it's likely the freshest in my mind, at least on this stage of the list, but I've yet to find any major fault in "Paris Is Burning" from Derajah. What I still hear is a very personal and ROUGH modern Roots Reggae set and a very interesting mix of that with at times downright SPECTACULAR riddims from The Donkey Jaw Bone band. Musically speaking, it may've been one of the year's finest and with Derajah added in - the fusioning of the two not inherently very similar styles - was winning all around on this big release.

Best Tune: 'Bun Dem To Rass'

#17. "Unstoppable" by Cali P [Hemp Higher Productions/Inspired Music]

Inspired. It was a pretty big and WONDERFUL shock when someone who I'd had my eyes and ears on for the past few years, the outstanding Cali P, brought forth his new album, "Unstoppable". I had been definitely looking forward to hearing more from the chanter and the very fact of him having a new project would have been a very large piece of news for me and that's exactly what it was. Even more surprising, however, is exactly what I heard when I spun it. Cali P had gone Dancehall for the most part . . . and he was good at it! A few months on still and I'm still wondering if he was even better than we thought on what was easily one of the most infectious albums of 2011.

Best Tune: 'Jah Rule The World'

#16. "Plead My Cause" by Junior X [Revolutionary Entertainment]

Listening. I think it's so important to reward to originality and uniqueness wherever you see it in a positive state, particularly in a genre which is often said to not have very much of it in Roots Reggae. If you take a very deep listen to "Plead My Cause", the looooooooooong awaited debut set from impressive veteran, Junior X. What he did on this album was to give his own very unique take on things going on in the world and it really didn't sound like much that I'd heard from anyone else to date. Of course the style is his and just so fascinating to hear develop. This album is also still developing and I wouldn't at all be surprised if deserved to rank in the top half of this list, to me, in a year or two. One of the best lyrical experiences to be had this year.

Best Tune: 'The Pill'

#15. "Jamaicanization" by Ce'Cile [Kingstone Records]

Reinvention. Unless you're a fan of Kartel, and you might be, there just wasn't much going on in 2011 in terms of big named Dancehall artists releasing albums. In retrospect, that set a brilliant stage for someone like . . . oh, I don't know, Ce'Cile - to come back with a big new and that's exactly what she did with "Jamaicanization". With eighteen tracks on board, it pretty much covered anything and stops from the likes of Agent Sasco, Million Stylez and Chris Martin helped even more as Ce'Cile made having fun look damn good (and SEXY) in 2011!

Best Tune: 'Hey' featuring Agent Sasco

#14. "Backyard Boogie" by J Boog

Do it now. Not much of ANYTHING ran in 2011 which was as sonically dominant as the much anticipated new album from J Boog. Launched on the strength of the MASSIVE Don Corleon produced single, 'Let's Do It Again', "Backyard Boogie", surrounded that game-changing tune and proved to be most worthy of the moment. Big tunes like 'Hawaiian Pakalolo', 'Mystery', 'Let Me Know' and several others helped to build a SOUND which may've been THE standard this year.

Best Tune: 'Let's Do It Again'

#13. "Thanks & Praise" by Gappy Ranks

LYRICS! 2011 found UK star, Gappy Ranks, intent on putting on full display the other side of his multi-faceted abilities. In 2010, he gave us the slower side on the "Put The Stereo On" album, but he went completely modern on "Thanks & Praise". Doing so, apparently, gave him a greater vehicle to show a quality which many people weren't necessarily giving him credit for having before - writing - as Gappy put on a linguistic light show which won't soon be forgotten!

Best Tune: 'Peace & Joy'

#12. "Back For The First Time" by Perfect [Lustre Kings Productions]

One thunder ball. I'd almost forgotten about this album which certainly is going to say much more about my increasingly useless brain that the album, but luckily I got it back in my mind and a VERY enjoyable trip back a few months to one of the year's most COMPLETE releases altogether, the EXCELLENT "Back For The First Time" by Perfect. Listening to it today (and I did listen to the entire thing again), it just so BRIGHT in many spots. Perfect, of course, is an artist who is almost impossible to qualify most times, but throughout this album, particularly at its highest moments, he just puts a giant smile on my face with joyous vibes.

Best Tune: 'HIM Smile'

#11. "To His Majesty" by Danny I [I Grade Records]

Most royal. Ranking at the top of the first half of this list is someone who will continually be overlooked by a lot of people who know better, wicked St. Croix singer, Danny I. The singer, somewhat surprisingly, returned to his fans in 2011 with his third and most high profile album to date, "To His Majesty", which was also the second time he linked with I Grade Records. The at times STUNNING album more than lived up to its 'situational' potential and although it remains to be just how many more ears and minds were opened up to Danny I because of it, however many there were surely are better fans because of it and this is just as certainly the type of release which will build, so if you haven't really dug into it, do so now!

Best Tune: 'To His Majesty'

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting stuff, thanks for the info.
    Best wishes for 2012