If you've been reading the yuleblog for the past two weeks, you've probably seen every format under the sun created by Christmas comp master Martin Johns.
Today, we head for the tropical climes of sunny Jamaica to let down our dreadlocks and kick back on some Christmas reggae.
Of all the subgenres in my collection, reggae Christmas ranks very low. Currently, I have about four reggae Christmas CDs in my collection:
"Reggae Christmas" (1988), "Reggae Christmas From Studio One" (1992), Yellowman's "A Very Very Yellow Christmas" and "Natty & Nice: A Reggae Christmas" , both from 1998.
I was glad to see this arrive - it will point me in the right direction for some more reggae Christmas CDs in the near future.
For more, we ask Martin for a special insight about the making of this comp in a segment you longtime readers of the yuleblog already know as...
I dreaded this one (CAPT'S NOTE: GREAT PUN!). I was very fond of the Reggae Christmas tapes I'd done in the old days, and they were among the favorites of my subscribers, as well. I really didn't think there was anything new I could bring to it.
So I put off a Reggae CD for years. But, if for no one else, Mike (author of my Santa letter) deserved it. It works. Works fine. But, no, I didn't bring anything new to it. Now that that's out of the way, I'm free to bring a fresh perspective to the next one.
Graphically, I tried about 5 different covers before settling on this one.
1.) Great song that uses the title as a mantra backed by a reggae beat. Find this song on the "Natty & Nice" comp above, the 2001 "Reggae Christmas" CD from Trojan Records, or the deluxe 3-CD set entitled "Trojan Christmas" from 2003.
2.) To my knowledge, Bob Marley & The Wailers recorded only two Christmas songs - "White Christmas" which can be found on "Destiny: Rare Ska Sides from Studio One" and this jammin' tune found on the "Reggae Christmas From Studio One" (see above).
3.) Whoa. June Lodge's website link has this claim: "Reggae, R&B and Dance artiste". This song has the sound of reggae but very little soul (when the synth is drowning out everything else, you got problems). Find this song on "Reggae Pulse 4" and judge for yourself.
4.) Another contemporary reggae Christmas song that overutilizes a synth, giving it a more hip-hop reggae sound. It came on the "Natty & Nice" comp so I do own this... Next.
5.) Now we're talking! Here's a contemporary reggae song from BCI's 1999 "Reggae Christmas" without synth, has the great piano beat, real drums (nothing programmed)! Good stuff.
6.) GREAT JUMPIN' ICEBERGS!!! Barrington Levy sang the title and I damn near woke up the neighborhood with my guffaws! Great reworking of "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" into a reggae song that was on the OOP "Yard Style Christmas"
7.) Rueben Anderson doing his best Brook Benton impersonation - giving this a unique soul / reggae mix! This one's from "Reggae Christmas" (see #1 above).
8.) WOW! Doreen Schaffer gives this a sultry reggae feel with a Christmas theme - very nicely done! Released in 1993 on the Studio One LP "Christmas Vibes". For info on the CD release, click here - if you can find out how to order a copy, let me know!
9.) Tonca & Friends miss Santa something fierce so they decide to throw him a party! This song would easily go over well at any Christmas party! From Tonca's 2000 "Merry Christmas Everybody" CD.
10.) It wouldn't be a reggae comp without something from Toots & The Maytals! And this is a gem of a reggae / ska Christmas song is easily found on "Christmas Greetings From Studio One".
11.) How bad is this fake reggae? According to Mistletunes, "Dancehall Christmas" (from which this song came from) states "this was apparently recorded all at once rather than compiled from various sources, and the sketchy liner notes credits backup musicians and lists the recording studio (in Englewood, N.J., strangely enough)."
12.) Yellowman's Christmas CD (see above) is a fun album - if you can't crack a smile to it, you need professional help! This song wants to know why Santa never comes to the ghetto - would make a great back-to-back with James Brown's "Santa Go Straight To The Ghetto"!
13.) The Heavy Beat Crew only sounds hip-hop - this reggae Christmas song has don't drink & drive references, a Bee Gees "Stayin' Alive" refrain, and even a little Michael Jackson impersonation! Easily found on "Natty & Nice" (see above) but if you feel adventurous, try this German import comp on for size!
14.) Jacob Miller's 1975 "Natty Christmas" LP was released on CD in 1990. This song leaves no doubt what Miller wants for Ismas... what is that smell?
15.) One of Jacob Miller's trademarks was his staccato delivery that accompanies the rhythm section - in full evidence here! Miller was killed in a car accident in 1980 at the age of 27 - too soon. Bob Marley often said Miller was his favorite musician of all time.
16.) John Holt wrote "The Tide Is High" and released his Christmas album in 1986. This reggae cover of Chris DeBurgh's classic song gives it a special warmth all its own.
17.) This version of "Do You Hear What I Hear?" is quite good. Judy Mowatt sang this for a 1991 Tassa comp called "Reggae Christmas" - Amazon.com has 67 results with "reggae Christmas" in the title. That makes my job harder!
18.) Lots of synth on this one but Carlene Davis does such a good job on the vocals I didn't mind. From her 1994 "Christmas Reggae Rock" album.
19.) GREAT JUMPIN' ICEBERGS!!! Before Bob Marley became the face of reggae, that title was owned by Desmond Dekker. This slightly tinged reggae Christmas song is more doo-wop soul than anything else but when Dekker begins wailing, I didn't care in the slightest. Find this on Trojan's "Reggae Christmas" (see #1 above).
20.) I'm not sure if this is actual reggae or programmed on a synth. Either way, it's a great tune with Sandra and Lee playing off each other nicely. Another tune from Trojan's "Reggae Christmas" (see #1 above).
21.) The Heptones have such a great mellow sound that I found nodded my head to the rhythm! This wonderful song can be found on Tassa's "Reggae Christmas" (see #17 above) or "Reggae Christmas From Studio One" (see above).
Ja Mon! This is a heap good, jammin Christmas album! The best part about it was a good majority of the songs I haven't heard before or didn't own! I enjoyed tracking down all these reggae Christmas albums (the good and bad ones) which will no doubt add to my already monstrous wish list.
I can foresee using many of these songs on my annual Christmas CD. Especially the Jacob Miller, Desmond Dekker, Toots & The Maytals, Doreen Schaffer, and Barrington Levy songs.
I'm overwhelmed and paranoid all at once... getting a contact high from all the smoke off this one!
UP NEXT: JohnsCDs 2006-0768-030 - Progressive Christmas V5