The Congos… There is not a lot I can add here to the realms that have already been written about The Congos’ classic 1977 debut Heart of the Congos. It is possibly the pinnacle of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s explorations in deep dubby roots reggae. ‘Open Up the Gate’ is a beautiful devotional hymn…
…and here is a more recent version sans Scratch and his pyrotechnics.
…and just for good measure, here’s the deepest groove from Heart of The Congos repurposed Inna De Yard. If anyone asks me why I like reggae, I’m going to show them this video – pure joy, passion and groove.
Culture… Another roots era big hitter. Two Sevens Clash, the album and single, is the must-have acknowledged classic but you won’t be disappointed if you pick up a copy of Baldhead Bridge, Cumbolo or Harder Than The Rest, from which this nugget comes from.
Don Carlos… One of the founders of Black Uhuru who stepped out on his own during the 1980s. Albums such as Suffering (also known as and released as Prophecy) and Day to Day Living are well worth seeking out. They showcase the deep dread sound of the 1970s on the verge of 1980s digitisation. Comes highly recommended by Andrew Weatherall.
Cultural Roots… More deep rasta reggae with a flavour of nyabinghi. Cultural Roots were a vocal trio in the same mould as The Mighty Diamonds or Wailing Souls. ‘Mr Boss Man’ can be found on the criminally underrated Drift Away from Evil album. You can read their full story here – it’s quite a tale.
Capital Letters… were a late 1970s UK reggae outfit best known for ‘Smoking My Ganja’, which was picked up by the Legalise Cannabis Campaign and ensured a certain level of immortality among heads.
And last but definitely not least, one should never forget Jimmy Cliff, who did almost as much as Bob Marley to popularise reggae in the 1970s. A great showman, his charismatic showing in era-defining film The Harder They Come, also bequeathed his best album and one of reggae’s finest.
Jimmy has endured, coming up with all manner of strange partnerships from 1983’s The Power & The Glory with, er, Kool & The Gang (approach with caution) to the far more fun fusion of 1995’s Samba Reggae and 2012 “comeback” album Rebirth.
With thanks and praise to Steven Cumming, Grim Dewar, James Fyffe and Graham Sherman. Jah Bless.