‘Out Of Many: 50 Years Of Reggae Music’: NPR

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Gregory Isaacs.

Peter Simon / Courtesy of VP Records


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Peter Simon / Courtesy of VP Records


Gregory Isaacs.

Peter Simon / Courtesy of VP Records

The cover of Out of Many: 50 Years of Reggae Music by VP Records.

The concept of compilation Over many: 50 years of reggae music Is simple. 50 years ago Jamaica gained independence from the West Indies Federation, led by the British. Around the same time, Jamaican popular music began to solidify into some of the many sounds we now think of as reggae. Among many tells these two stories in parallel, with one song selected to represent the sound of each year from 1962 to 2012.

There is also a third story: that of VP Records, the label responsible for the compilation itself, and the family behind the label. The “V” and “P” in VP Records are Vincent and Patricia Chin, the Sino-Jamaican owners of Randy’s Records, a store that opened in Kingston in 1961. Vincent also opened a recording studio called Studio 17 and produced many early ska and rocksteady songs. The family founded VP in 1979 after moving to New York City to distribute Jamaican popular music in the United States. Today it is the largest independent reggae label in the world.

It is only natural that the three stories merge into one: Randy’s Records, Studio 17 and later VP have been there for almost every step of reggae’s development, from hyper-local folk art to international force. The opening song on Among many, a celebratory historical tale called “Independent Jamaica”, was recorded in 1962 at Studio 17 by Trinidadian singer Lord Creator and produced by Vincent Chin; it was also Chin’s first single released. Like so many Jamaican records that would follow, he speaks directly to his audience of specific events they knew personally – in this case, the effort to gain independence.

Of the, Among many follows the development of the island’s musical history like a three-hour fireworks display: it goes from ska (“Malcolm X”) to rocksteady (“Take It Easy”) in the 1960s; fans of rock (“Everything I Own”) and roots (the socio-economic warning shot “Fade Away” and the apocalyptic “Two Sevens Clash”) in the 70s; the tightly wound electronic riddims that popped up in the ’80s (a series of hits including “Under Me Sleng Teng” and “Rumors”) and dancehall (“Who Am I” and “Get Busy”) that have dominated for the years 90.

All of the music here has been made to train you on the dance floor, but if you slow down and listen with an open mind (and lots of open browser tabs), it’s also an education in the complex and layered history of ‘a nation, a record company and a family. These songs are entertaining, however, in the best possible way. Good luck with staying off the dance floor for a long time.

List of tracks

Disc 1

  1. Independent Jamaica – Lord Creator (1962)
  2. Coup Roland Coup – Joanne Gordon / Roland Alphonso (1963)
  3. Malcolm X – The Skatalites (1964)
  4. Bouche A Massy – Alton Ellis (1965)
  5. Take It Soft – Hopeton Lewis (1966)
  6. Ba Ba Boom – The Jamaicans (1967)
  7. Such is Life – Lord Creator (1968)
  8. I love the reggay – Gaylads (1969)
  9. Love of Ordinary People – Nicky Thomas (1970)
  10. Cherry Oh Baby – Eric Donaldson (1971)
  11. Java – Auguste Pablo (1972)
  12. Westbound Train – Dennis Brown (1973)
  13. All I Have – Ken Boothe (1974)
  14. Fade Away – Junior Byles (1975)
  15. I’m Still In Love With You – Marcia Aiken (1976)
  16. Two Sevens Clash – Culture (1977)
  17. Smoke My Ganja – Capital Letters (1978)
  18. We Have Love – Freddie McGregor (1979)
  19. Love of Ice Cream – Johnny Osbourne (1980)

Disc 2

  1. Wah-Do-Dem – Eek-A- Mouse (1981)
  2. Fattie Boom Boom – Dread Rating (1982)
  3. Zungguzungguzunggezeng – Yellowman (1983)
  4. Here I Am – Barrington Levy (1984)
  5. Under Me Sleng Teng – Wayne Smith (1985)
  6. Hello Darling – Tippa Irie (1986)
  7. Rumors – Gregory Isaacs (1987)
  8. Love on the Phone – JC Lodge (1988)
  9. Twice My Age – Krystal & Shabba Ranks (1989)
  10. M. Loverman – Shabba Ranks & Deborah Glasgow (1990)
  11. The Going Is Rough – Home T, Cocoa Tea & Cutty Ranks (1991)
  12. Gal Wine – Chaka Demus & Pinces (1992)
  13. The Return – Father and Son – Ninjaman & Ninja Ford (1993)
  14. Under mi Sensi (94 Spliff) – Barrington Levy (1994)
  15. I Can’t Stop A Man – Beres Hammond (1995)
  16. Give Me Reason – Lady Saw (1996)

Disc 3

  1. Who Am I – Beenie Man (1997)
  2. Head Up – Mr. Vegas (1998)
  3. Can You Play More – Beres Hammond & Buju Banton (1999)
  4. By the River – Morgan Heritage (2000)
  5. Give It To Him – Tanto Metro & Devonte (2001)
  6. Just One of These Days – Sizzla (2002)
  7. Get Busy – Sean Paul (2003)
  8. Pon De River Pon De Bank – Elephant Man (2004)
  9. Living in Love – I Wayne (2005)
  10. These Streets – Tanya Stephens (2006)
  11. Weh Dem A Do – Mavado (2007)
  12. Roots – Etana (2008)
  13. I Feel Good – Beres Hammond (2009)
  14. Hold On – Gyptian (2010)
  15. Zungguzungguguzungguzeng (Horsepower Prod Remix) – Yellowman (2011)
  16. Independent Jamaica – Peetah Morgan & Hollie Cook (2012)


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