Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Commentary: On Reggae Grammys and Best Ofs

This year's Grammy Award nominations in the Reggae category were revealed in early December 2010. The winners will be announced at the ceremony Sunday February 13.  It's another interesting set of choices and among the weakest set of nominations in years.

The nominations include:
Buju Banton Before The Dawn [Gargamel Music]
Gregory Isaacs & King Isaac Isaacs Meets Isaac [King Isaac Music]
Lee "Scratch" Perry  Revelation [Megawave]
Bob Sinclair And Sly & Robbie  Made In Jamaica [Yellow Productions/Universal Music]
Sly & Robbie & The Family Taxi  One Pop Reggae
[Phase One/Taxi]

Andrew Tosh  Legacy An Acoustic Tribute To Peter Tosh [Box10/Tuff Gong]

    My colleagues over at United Reggae were quick to comment ("Reggae Grammy is a Joke") on this year's selections, and in general I agree with their analysis.

    The Grammy awards are nominated by members of the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences now known as simply The Recording Academy. To become a "voting member" you have to be in the recording industry or music business, join a chapter, pay dues and fill out a ballot. Member labels submit their works for consideration in the voting process.

    Back to this year's nominees: Andrew Tosh is a credible and steadily developing artist who tours often and has decent chops. His Legacy album is a fitting nomination as we all know there has to be a Marley link of some kind at every Grammy Awards. And all the better better if there's more than one Marley nominated. Usually it's Ziggy (for his folky reggae-lite projects) and Ky-Mani for...actually I haven't heard a Ky-Mani Marley album I remember.

    Sly & Robbie's One Pop Reggae is also a credible selection featuring guest appearances from Third World's Bunny Ruggs, Lutan Fyah and Cherine Anderson. The album features covers and originals and a mix of the Riddim Twin revival and future-leaning arrangements. Overall it functions as an overview of what their Taxi studio has been up to lately.

    Bob Sinclair's Made In Jamaica is a cross-over minded roots-n-pop affair with token guest appearances by Tony Rebel, Queen Ifrica and, um, Dollarman? Thanks to Sly & Robbie's musicianship and, frankly, Sinclair's take on his French production counterparts Seven Dub's spacey mixing style there are several worthy moments.

    Lee "Scratch" Perry's Revelation made several "worst of the year" lists, which is a shame after his much lauded live appearances in 2010. (see Sunset Junction performance video) The Gregory Isaacs combination album with King Isaacs has decent modern roots production but the singing, from both Isaacs's, leaves much to be desired. Gregory is best remember by his classic 70s and 80s albums.

    Which leaves Buju Banton's Before The Dawn released on his own Gargamel Music. It features a number of seemingly prophetic songs, including "Innocent," "Bondage," and "Battered & Bruised." From a quality and artistic stand-point, Before The Dawn deserves the Grammy despite Buju's personal transgressions.

    And what a year it has been for Mr. Mark Anthony Myrie a.k.a. Buju Banton. It started with a previous Grammy nomination for his Rasta Got Soul project and ended in fiasco with a trial for allegedly conspiring to purchase kilos of cocaine. The case ended in a mis-trial and will be re-tried this year. Buju has been out on bail (apparently posted by Stephen Marley) and will perform a concert Sunday January 16, 2011 in Miami. Time will tell what the Grammy's and the public will make of this talented but tortured artist.

    Here's a reminder of other recent Reggae Grammy winners:
    2009  Burning Spear - Jah Is Real
    2008  Stephen Marley - Mind Control
    2007  Ziggy Marley - Love Is My Religion
    2006  Damian Marley - Welcome To Jamrock
    2005  Toots and Maytals - True Love
    2004  Sean Paul - Dutty Rock

    Kudos to All whose end of the year list of Top 10 Reggae Albums was on-point. From their blog:
    The list features representatives from the new guard (10 Ft. Ganja Plant, Wrongtom), some names from the old guard (Dennis Brown, the Uniques), a few crossover artists (Nas, Madlib), and, of course, a member of the royal family (Damian Marley)
    12 others that deserved recognition: 

    Duane Stephenson Black Gold (VP), as and also Toussaint's similarly named album on I-Grade, Tommy Tornado Sunrise (Rude Rich UK), Alborosie Escape From Babylon To The Kingdom of Zion (Greensleeves), Lee "Scratch" Perry Sound System Scratch (Pressure Sounds), Capleton Iternal Fire (VP), Lloyd Brown For Your Consideration (Cousins), Doubblestandart Marijuana Dreams (Collision), Gappy Ranks Put The Stereo On (Greensleeves/Peckings),  Henry "Junjo" Lawes Volcano Erruption (17 N Parade), The Uniques Absolutely Rocksteady (Pressure Sounds) and Horace Andy Serious Times (Minor 7, Flat 5).