Seven Roots-Reggae CDs You Must Own

By Michael Endelman
February 07, 2005 at 05:00 AM EST

1. The Congos, HEART OF THE CONGOS 1977 (Blood and Fire) Here’s reggae music as a mystical experience — the duo chant spiritual lyrics with a gospel fervor, swathed in ocean-deep harmonies and Lee Perry’s hazy production.

2. Toots & the Maytals, 54-46 WAS MY NUMBER: ANTHOLOGY 1964 to 2000 2002 (Trojan) The Otis Redding of reggae, Toots Hibbert brings a cathartic intensity to his indelible hits, filled with raucous call-and-response hooks and punchy rhythms.

3. Peter Tosh, EQUAL RIGHTS 1977 (Columbia) Proof that Marley wasn’t the only songwriter in the Wailers, Tosh’s second album is a dark brew that’s equal parts uncompromising agitprop and rockin’ reggae riffs.

4. The Mighty Diamonds, RIGHT TIME 1975 (Virgin/Front Line) Butter-smooth harmonies are this trio’s hallmark, which makes this 10-track classic a nice addition to anyone’s late-night rotation.

5. Burning Spear, MARCUS GARVEY 1975 (Island) On this album, named after the pioneering activist, Burning Spear hypnotically yelp about black oppression over Himalayan-size bass lines. Trance-inducing, but without the assist of illicit substances.

6. Delroy Wilson, ORIGINAL TWELVE: THE BEST OF DELROY WILSON 1991 (Heartbeat) Led by Wilson’s swaggering soul vocals, these tunes highlight the peppy pre-reggae style known as rock steady.

7. Augustus Pablo, KING TUBBY MEETS ROCKERS UPTOWN 1976 (Shanachie) Reggae’s trippy instrumental spin-off, dub, reaches an early peak in this subliminally funky set. Remixers and ravers, this is your bible.