Print this Page

World Music CD Reviews Reggae & Caribbean


By Tom Terrell
Published January 20, 2006

Jah Love Rockers: Revolutionary Sounds From The Rockers And: ’75-‘80

Riddim: The Best Of Sly & Robbie In Dub 1978 To 1985

It’s often said that music and politics don’t mix. Bullshit! During America’s pre/post-Vietnam eras, the most spiritually uplifting, racially empowering, mentally liberating and physically entertaining/engaging black pop music was created as a purgative antidote to the various social-political-economic injustices perpetrated on the collective minority by the society-at-large. What went down in ’70s America manifested in a whole new kind of reggae in Jamaica too. The new sound and style—crisp cymbal strikes, “stepping razor” drumbeats, dark, bubbling bass, tuff guitar skank and socially conscious/politically defiant lyrics—was dubbed “rockers” (AKA “steppers”) reggae. Trojan Records’ latest double-CD compilations Jah Love Rockers: Revolutionary Sounds From the Rockers & Steppers Era ’75-’80 and Riddim: The Best Of Sly & Robbie In Dub 1978 to 1985 cover the subgenre’s waterfront with a fullness. Jah Love Rockers features some of the period’s hardest, sweetest, most iconic male vocalists (notably Leroy Smart, Johnny Clarke, Horace and Dennis Brown). Highlights: DB’s smoldering “Tenement Yard/Kill Landlord,” Leroy’s wailing “We Want To Go Home” and Johnny and U Roy’s fire and brimstone anthem “Every Knee Shall Bow (Extended Mix).” Via their studio aggregations (Aggrovators, Revolutionaries) and production gigs, drummer Sly Dunbar and bassist Robbie Shakespeare became the most innovative, prolific and six-degrees-of influential rhythm section in the history of reggae music. From the two classic Gregory Isaacs flip sides “Channel One In Dub” and “Slave Driver Dub” to “Liquidation Dub”’s rocksteady vamping to the Peter Tosh-jacking “Burial Dub,” Riddim’s 40 dub tracks fulfill the title’s boast in spades.