Bob Marley Tops List of Best Reggae Album Releases of 2015

Bob Marley and the Wailers‘Easy Skanking in Boston ’78’ comes in at Number One on MusicSnake’s Top Ten Reggae Albums of 2015.  The first half of 2015 has seen the release of a ‘whole heap’ of solid reggae albums and the second half has yet to be told. As the reggae industry celebrates the 70th anniversary of Bob Marley (born February 6, 1945), Island/Tuff Gong released Bob Marley and the Wailers’ best live album since Marley’s landmark 1975 ‘Bob Marley and the Wailers Live!’ It has been an impressive year again for Jamaican artists as Protoje, Morgan Heritage, No-Maddz, Exile Di Brave, Exco Levi, Barrington Levy and the legendary Kiddus-I have all released outstanding reggae albums in the first half of 2015. However, it is the US reggae contingent that has been most impressive of late with extraordinary albums from the likes of Midnite, Niyorah, New Kingston, Jahdan Blakkamore, Puma Ptah, and a brilliantly-produced dub album from John Brown’s Body. It has also been a great year for re-issues, compilations, and EPs, however, this list is limited to the best full length LPs released so far this year.

Number One: ‘Easy Skanking in Boston ’78’ by Bob Marley & the Wailers. The year’s best reggae album to date, ‘Easy Skanking’ features Bob Marley and the Wailers’ live performance at Boston’s Music Hall on June 8, 1978. The album set, released on Blu-Ray/CD combo pack as well as DVD/CD and standalone CD, includes fan favorites like “I Shot The Sheriff,” “Jammin’,” and “The Heathen.” The DVD/Blu-Ray discs also contain previously unreleased and beautifully restored film footage that was shot by a fan using a handheld camera. The live recording captures the high energy of the show as Marley treats the sell-out crowd to an unforgettable evening. Notable tracks include “Slave Driver” and “Rebel Music.”

Number Two: ‘Dread Prophecy – The Strange and Wonderful Story of Yabby You.’ The long-awaited Yabby You compilation from Shanachie hit the streets on February 16, 2015. With Dread Prophecy Shanachie’s Randall Grass has constructed the most significant and definitive collection of music ever assembled for one of the unheralded heroes of the “golden age of reggae.” This 3-disc set of rare and previously unreleased Yabby You material is the most noteworthy compilation of the artist’s work since Blood & Fire’s masterful ‘Jesus Dread’ (1997) and one hell of a collector’s item. Notable tracks include “We Want Our Liberty” and “What a Sufferation.”

Number Three: ‘Kings and Queens in Dub’ by John Brown’s Body. ‘Kings and Queens in Dub’ is the follow-up and dub companion to the band’s critically-acclaimed 2013 effort titled ‘Kings and Queens.’ Record label Easy Star took a rather novel approach to the album by having each track mixed by a different dubmixologist. So what you have is a set of strong reggae roots tracks mixed by some of the best dubmixologists in the world including Ticklah, Dubmatix, Dubfader (of 10 Ft. Ganja Plant), the legendary Dennis Bovell, Yesking, Goldwasser, Lord Echo (of The Black Seeds), and more. By far the best dub album of the year to date. Notable tracks include “People in the Light Dub” and “Give Up the Ghost Dub.”

Number Four: ‘Ancient Future’ by Protoje. ‘Ancient Future’ is Protoje’s best album yet, a head-knocking set that bridges the gap between reggae and hip-hop in a way that few others have before him. It is an exceptional collection of brilliantly-produced tracks informed by elements of roots, dancehall, and hip-hop that make for an undeniably fascinating album with wide commercial appeal. In the same way that Dr. Dre’s groundbreaking 1992 album The Chronic ushered in the G-funk era of funk-influenced hip-hop, Protojé’s Ancient Future introduces a wholly new and unique brand of reggae heavily informed by elements of American hip-hop. Notable tracks include “Protection” and “Who Knows.”

Number Five: ‘Ride Tru’ by Midnite. ‘Ride Tru’ is yet another solid album from the most influential roots reggae outfit to ever emerge from the U.S. A worthy follow-up to 2014’s ‘Beauty for Ashes’ (Itunes reggae album of the year), ‘Ride Tru’ is another collaboration between St. Croix’s Midnite and producers Zion I Kings. Together with Zion I Kings, Midnite has been instrumental in bring about the most inventive and transformational period for roots reggae in more than thirty years. Notable tracks include “Calm the Day” and “Arise Again.”

Number Six: ‘Strictly Roots’ by Morgan Heritage. ‘Strictly Roots’ is a powerful album that just may be Morgan’s best effort to date. That is a bold statement when one considers the fact that they have been recording and touring for more than two decades. There aren’t many other reggae acts that possess both the vocal talent or the wide commercial appeal of Morgan’s Heritage. This album is just too enjoyable on so many levels it almost demands to be included in any Top Ten list for 2015. Notable tracks include “Rise and Fall” and “Why Dem Come Around.”

Number Seven: ‘Take A Trip’ by Kiddus –I and the Homegrown Band. One of the most pleasant surprises so far this year was the arrival of this Kiddus-I set, which was originally recorded over several years in the late 2000s with France’s Homegrown Band. The album was completed in 2009 but sat on the shelf in abject obscurity until it was rescued and issued by Iroko Records. I wish I were a talented enough writer to aptly describe how great this album sounds, but you will have to purchase a copy if you want in on this magic. Kiddus-I’s vocal is timeless and the Homegrown Band is the perfect complement as the instrumentation never overpowers his voice. True sleeper hit for the reggae massive and one which will still be standing strong in this list at the end of 2015. Notable tracks include “Looking for a Friend” and “Take a Trip.”

Number Eight: ‘Rising Sun’ by Niyorah. Another album by an artist hailing from the US Virgin Islands, ‘Rising Sun’ by Niyorah is one of the most enjoyable listens to drop so far this year. Featuring top ranking production from a diverse group of production houses from Austria, Morocco, St. Croix and Jamaica, ‘Rising Sun’ is a Rastafari album at its core with songs that range from the deeply devotional to political to celebratory. It is one of several albums on this Top Ten list featuring production from U.S.-based production team Zion I Kings. Notable tracks include “Rising Sun” and “Here to Serve.”

Number Nine: ‘The Journey Begins’ by Exile Di Brave. “Revival come again” with ‘The Journey Begins’ by Clayton Johnson AKA Exile Di Brave. Along with the EDB Clan which includes Infinite, Jahkime, Kazam, Micah Shemiah, Hempress Sativa and Rassi Hardknocks, Exile is part of a dread-serious post-revival group of promising young artists who first broke in Europe in 2014 at Rototom and at various eastern European reggae festivals. Billed as a singjay, Exile Di Brave is really a chanter, and a pretty good one too. Chocked full of great guest appearances, Rasta power and jubilance, ‘The Journey Begins’ has a unique sound and vibe – a harbinger of reggae’s promise for the future. Notable tracks include “Hungry” and “Save the Children.”

Number Ten: ‘Kingston City’ by New Kingston. Yet another solid roots reggae release from Easy Star, ‘Kingston City’ by New York’s New Kingston is more proof that the US reggae scene is still on the come up with no end in sight. The album, release by Easy Star on January 27, 2015, impressively debuted at #1 on the Billboard Reggae chart. The album is the band’s third studio album and their first release to claim the #1 spot on the Billboard Reggae chart. A Jamaican roots reggae vocal trio at their core, New Kingston displays a remarkably expansive vocal range, impressive diction (check “Conquer Dem” featuring Sister Carol), an inspiriting lack of pretense, surprisingly adept musicianship, and musical sensibilities that span many sub-genres within reggae. For three youths who grew up in Brooklyn, they sport the gully bank-patois of a Kingston original. Notable tracks include “Mystery Babylon” and “Conquer Dem.”