The Top Reggae Bands of All Time | Reggae Lover Podcast Episode 74

I curated some of the biggest hits from legendary bands: Third World, Israel Vibration, Inner Circle, Aswad, Black Uhuru, and Steel Pulse – groups who have presented fabulous reggae music performances and recordings for nearly half a century.

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Third World is a Jamaican reggae band formed in 1973. Their sound is influenced by soul, funk, and disco. Although it has undergone several line-up changes, Stephen “Cat” Coore and Richard Daley have been constant members.

Steel Pulse is a roots reggae musical band, from the Handsworth area of Birmingham, England, which has a large number of Afro-Caribbean, Indian and other Asian migrants. They originally formed at Handsworth Wood Boys School – composed of David Hinds (lead vocals, guitar), Basil Gabbidon (lead guitar, vocals), and Ronald McQueen (bass); along with Basil’s brother Colin briefly on drums. Steel Pulse was the first non-Jamaican act to win the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album.

Black Uhuru is a Jamaican reggae group formed in 1972, initially as Uhuru (Swahili for ‘freedom’). The group has undergone several line-up changes over the years, with Derrick “Duckie” Simpson as the mainstay. They had their most successful period in the 1980s, with their album Anthem winning the first ever Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album in 1985.

Aswad is a long-lasting British reggae group, noted for adding strong R&B and soul influences to the reggae sound. They have been performing since the mid-1970s, having released a total of 21 albums. “Aswad” means “black” in Arabic.

Inner Circle is a Jamaican reggae group. The group was originally called The Inner Circle Band and formed in 1968. The band achieved major success in the 1970s with Jacob Miller as their lead singer but split up after his death in 1980. They reformed in 1986 and had a major hit with the 1987 song “Bad Boys”, which serves as the theme song for the long-running Spike (formerly Fox Network) television program COPS.[1] They are also well known for their song “Sweat (A La La La La Long),” a big hit in the U.S. in the early 1990s. The band is known for blending pop and rock with reggae.

Israel Vibration is a reggae harmony group, originating from Kingston, Jamaica. Lascelle “Wiss” Bulgin, Albert “Apple Gabriel” Craig, and Cecil “Skelly” Spence all overcame childhood polio and went on to be one of the most successful roots groups to form in Jamaica in the 1970s. The trio initially met as children at a rehabilitation center.

I would also want to make mention of bands like Fab 5, UB40, Big Mountain, SOJA, Tribal Seeds, Raging Fyah, and there are and have been 1000’s of musical ensembles that dedicated themselves to pushing the reggae music envelope. Big ups to all singers and players of instruments.

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Big Bands of Reggae

Highlanda.net:

“Nothing compares to being in a venue where a reggae band is performing live.  The rumble of the bass lines surround you in a warm embrace and you can’t help but to rock and skank as you are transported to another realm and higher level of consciousness.  This describes the effects of the power that live reggae musicians have over the masses.”


Third World

Third World is a Grammy nominated Jamaican reggae band formed in 1973. Their sound is influenced by soul, funk and disco. Third World’s greatest success came in the late 1970s and early 1980s, peaking with their cover version of The O’Jays’ “Now That We Found Love”, a hit single on both sides of the Atlantic in 1979. Here is a Third World performing “Now That We Found Love:”
This song brought them to the attention of Stevie Wonder, who worked with them and wrote (along with Melody A. McCully) their song “Try Jah Love.” This band still records and tours to this day so definitely check them out if they come to a venue near you. Visit Third World online at http://www.thirdworldband.com/

Inner Circle

This Jamaican reggae group was formed in 1968 by the brothers Ian and Roger Lewis in Jamaica. The band released its debut album in 1974 on the famed record label, Trojan Records, and resigned in 1979 to Island Records, where the internationally successful album Everything Is Great originated. They are responsible for the 1989 song “Bad Boys,” which serves as the theme song for Fox Network’s long-running television program COPS. Here is Inner Circle with “Bad Boys:”
Jacob Miller, the frontman and lead singer, was killed in a car crash on March 23, 1980. The band appeared in the reggae cult film Rockers in 1978. Their second American hit, reaching #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1993 was “Sweat (A La La La La Long)”, which was a #3 hit in the UK. Here is Inner Circle with “Sweat:”

Steel Pulse
Steven Huey reports, “Generally a protest-minded Rastafarian outfit, Steel Pulse started out playing authentic roots reggae with touches of jazz and Latin music, and earned a substantial audience among white U.K. punks as well. Their 1978 debut, Handsworth Revolution, is still regarded by many critics as a landmark and a high point of British reggae. As the ’80s wore on, slick synthesizers and elements of dance and urban R&B gradually crept into their sound, even as their subject matter stayed on the militant side. By the late ’80s, Steel Pulse had won a Grammy and were working full-fledged crossover territory, but never reached the same degree of commercial acceptance as Aswad or Inner Circle. They subsequently returned to a tough-minded, rootsy sound that nonetheless made concessions to contemporary trends with touches of dancehall and hip-hop.” Here is Steel Pulse performing “Rally Round:”
In 1993 they performed at Bill Clinton’s inaugural celebration, the first reggae band to appear at such an event. Visit Steel Pulse’s website for more.

Aswad
From Vh1: “Aswad was arguably Britain’s most successful reggae band, in terms of both popularity and longevity. Critical opinion on their body of work is often divided; some hail their early material as the greatest roots reggae Britain ever produced, while others find their later pop-crossover phase more distinctive and unique, even at the expense of authenticity. Regardless, Aswad’s ability to adapt themselves to the changing times — new musical trends, shifting personnel — was ultimately the driving force behind their decades-long career.”
Aswad was often hired as backing musicians for touring Jamaican stars: Bob Marley, Burning Spear, Dennis Brown, and Black Uhuru.