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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on July 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
Jamaica's incredibly prolific musical output (more than one hundred thousand different records over the last fifty years) is a phenomenon totally out of proportion to the island's small size, its 2 million strong population and modest wealth. Equally significant is the huge influence of reggae music on everything from punk to hip hop to today's rave and dj culture. So if you're looking for a reggae primer that really explains what it's all about, this is the book to get.

Authors Steve Barrow and Peter Dalton possess an unrivalled knowledge of Jamaica's rich musical heritage and if you've ever bought any of the superbly remastered and repackaged reissue cds from Barrow's Blood & Fire label, you'll find the same care, attention to detail and love of the music in the pages of the Rough Guide.

The book chronicles the entire history of Jamaican music chapter by chapter, from the earliest beginnings to the sounds being made today; explaining when, how and why each new style developed, who made it happen and the background of continuing social change in Jamaica itself, which has always played a part in shaping the music. There are also excellent accounts of the evolution of reggae in the UK, the USA and Africa.

In each chapter the main text is supplemented by profiles of the major singers, groups, djs, musicians, producers, engineers, studios and promoters who came to the fore in that particular era, which often include interviews with the artists themselves. The accompanying discographies are well researched and can reliably be used to add to your record collection. There are over a thousand featured albums in the book, each of which is concisely reviewed, and although there's no rating system as such, the most important releases are highlighted as being essential for a particular artist or style. Such ratings are inevitably subjective, but if you follow these recommendations you won't go far wrong.

The Rough Guide is also well illustrated throughout with photographs and album artwork, and overall it's as comprehensive and accurate as it can be while remaining reasonably concise. I don't generally spend much time wading through books about music because theory (ie reading about it) is invariably much less enjoyable and informative than practice (ie listening to it), but I've found this one to be consistently useful.

If you have a few more dollars to spare I'd recommend that you also buy the wonderful 4 CD set "TOUGHER THAN TOUGH: THE STORY OF JAMAICAN MUSIC", so you can read and listen in parallel; and if you'd like to dig deeper into the subject try the excellent "BASS CULTURE: WHEN REGGAE WAS KING" by Lloyd Bradley. But the Rough Guide should definitely be your first book about reggae music and will probably be the only one you'll ever need.

Tougher Than Tough: The Story Of Jamaican Music

Bass Culture: When Reggae Was King
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2002
Format: Paperback
I can't imagine that I'd actually ever sit down to read this book, from beginning to end, I mean, now that would be boring, like watching grass grow, or reading a math text book from beginning to end. However, that being said, I don't think that this book was meant to be read in that way. It is a buyer's guide, and strictly as a buyer's guide, it is very good. Like another reviewer here, this book has cost me some serious dough indirectly, searching for, finding and purchasing some of the classics in this book has ran me over 2 thousand dollars. I lie the format where they give a brief accounting of the type of music for the chapter, then break it down by the artists and their best albums. It even has a dub section which is very extensive, and the best of its kind about this oft-forgotten type of music. It brought back memories, of my father playing tunes by Fred Locks, Tappa Zukie, Augustus Pablo, Yabby You and the Congos when I was younger, (I'm only 21) and I was able to purchase alot of those albums for my own collection. And my father owns the book, he's 47 years old, owns approximately 60% of the material in the book, and he's been listening to the music for approximately 47 years, and he loves it. In my opinion, if you just approach this one as what it is, a buyer's guide, then it'll work for you. I also like the way it handles Bob Marley and the Wailers, it gives a very in depth summary, but it doesn't over-do it, as many books on reggae does. And it also goes in depth on Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer as well. It covers very in depthly the current era of reggae as well, with the dancehall, and conscious vibes well touched upon. Overall, I say if you are a collector of reggae music, especially a newer collector, then this book will work for you, it does all of the research for you, gives you 100% of the labels, so you can go directly to the source, and get the material you want. Very very good!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
If you're looking for a quick and easy read on the history of Reggae, this probably isn't the place to start. If you're looking for a reference work to help you flesh out your reggae collection, this is the book for you. Steve Barrow might well be the most knowledgeable person writing about Reggae today.
Since buying this book I've personally dropped a couple a grand on Reggae CDs, mainly on recommendations in this book or the Virgin Reggae guide. Overall, I'd say about 90%+ were worth my money. In this respect, the book has been invaluable to me. If you're a true fan of Reggae, it will be invaluable to you too.
Some of the criticisms leveled by other reviewers on this site are a result of unfair or misguided expectations. They are apparently disappointed that the book isn't an easy read, or an oral history of some sort. I think the best way to approach this book is to start with a particular style of Reggae that you're interested in (i.e., Roots, Ska, etc.) and dig in. Get some on the recommended CDs, and enjoy! Then move on to another chapter if you are so inclined.
One last plug for the author: Steve Barrow is the co-owner of Blood & Fire, currently Reggae's best reissue label. Buy everything you can get your hands with the B & F logo! - the stuff is worth its weight in ganja.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 16, 1999
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed this book very much. If you have this, "Reggae Bloodlines" and "Catch a Fire," you have quite a comprehensive overview of the reggae phenomenon. "Reggae: The Rough Guide" is an indispensable World Music book, along with such must-have volumes as "The Brazilian Sound" and "World Music: The Rough Guide."
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26 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on August 6, 1999
Format: Paperback
The Rough Guide to Reggae is a good resource for starting a reggae CD collection. But it's not a very good read. Interested reggae fans should probably buy it. But if you really want to know what Jamaican music is all about, Reggae Routes - The Story of Jamaican Music is the real deal.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon May 26, 2006
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Great book, one of the best resources, along with allmusic.com. However, if you have the 1st or 2nd edition, there is not enough new here to warrant buying this, wait for 4th edition.

If you don't have any of the editions, which amazon sells all three, this is a great start as are the other two.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 2005
Format: Paperback
My parents raised me on roots, but when I wanted to broaden my DUB collection, one of the resources I turned to was the Rough Guide.

Rough Guide is a great go-to reference for the history of different reggae sub-genres and makes a solid buying guide. I've not regretted any music purchases I've made using information from this book. It really helped steer me toward the kinds of music I enjoy and away from things I don't like quite so much, but it also suggested successful adventures I might never have tried otherwise.
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on March 13, 2012
Format: Paperback
I have used the rough guide to reggae and the smaller "Rough Guide: 100 Essential CDs" by the same authors, for over a decade. They have proven to be excellent resources that, as the other reviewer's touch on, serve as buyer's guides rather than books to be read cover to cover (though the smaller one can be read cover to cover).

Some of the other comments that criticize the book's organization and objectivity are in my opinion totally irrelevant when you consider the overall depth and quality of this reggae resource. I have been a roots reggae deejay for 10 years and thanks largely to Barrow and Dalton my collection (and enjoyment) of the music has exploded. They basically never fail to recommend great music, they seem to know everything about the genre, and I find myself gaining more and more profound respect for their judgement.

I consider my reggae to have gone from first tier knowledge before reading the rough guide (the Wailers, Isaacs, Brown, Spear, Toots, Wailing Souls, Scratch, pablo, tubby, etc), on to a "second-tier" understanding after starting to explore this (skatalites, abyssinians, yabby you, junior byles, heptones, ellis, sugar minott, u-roy, keith hudson, etc) and then after really digging into the rough guide I have reached yet another level entirely, which has brought me some of the most classic and under-appreciated music to emerge from Jamaica (guys like joe higgs, jackie mittoo, the royal rasses, slim smith, and bob andy).

The gift that keeps on giving. I particularly like the smaller "100 Essential CDs" for the layout and cover-to-cover readability. Plus it allows for a longer review of each album that becomes a de facto mini-biography of the artists.

Thanks Steve and Peter for bringing me this muck joy! I am sure I will continue to find more classic music from your guides.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on April 1, 2006
Format: Paperback
A wonderful book that has introduced my to a lot of good music-- a good guide with some interesting stories spread throughout.

Most of the albums or collections deemed to be essential are truly "must haves".

Now the criticisms:

1

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The book is organized by genres, or stages of Jamaican music, rather than by artist. So, if you are interestedin finding recordings by one particular artist you may need to thumb through the entire book to find albums recorded during different periods.

For example, recordings by artists like Lee Perry and the Wailing Souls are spread throughout the book. This would not be a problem if the Index was more informative. But the mere mention of an artist (in passing) is sufficient to earn them a spot in the index, rendering it pretty meaningless.

(Boldfacing entries with record reviews would help users better navigate through the book--but I guess that is a criticism of the Rough Guide editors)

2

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The authors occassionally demonstrate a rather snide attititude towards reggae's "crossover" audience. That is, a non-Jamaican, and presumedly white audience. Sometimes this is expressed as a rather back-handed compliment. For example, Lee Perry is well reviewed, but the authors must add that his admirers come mostly from "crossover" audience.

Elsewhere, they are quite dismissive of Linton Kwesi Johnson for seemingly the same reason. They make some comment about his crossover (ie white) following and dismiss dub poetry in general. And that is too bad, because "Dread Beat and Blood" is an excellent album that deserves more recognitiion.

3

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Too many of the reissues that I have purchased based on the a reivew in this book have lead me to buy albums in which one of the author's has written the linear notes. On the whole the collections have been quite good, but it does lead me to question their objectivity.

Jesus Dread by Yabby You is excellent collection, but not nearly as great as their review would lead you to think. ;)

All that said, you won't find a better guide.
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on July 30, 2006
Format: Paperback
When one realizes the amount of reggae music one can find today, it can be a bit overwhelming and intimidating to understand let alone comprehend in selecting a good purchase.

Prior to purchasing "The Rough Guide to Reggae" I did not know or understand the difference between Rockstady,Reggae,Roots music and how they differed from each other.

The purchasing of this book was one of the best Reagge purchases i've ever made. Barrow and Dalton give you a chronological order to the music's beginning and its gradual development up to the present.

Novices and experts alike cannot afford to be without this invaluable Reggae guide and indispensible reference book. It's money well spent and you will not be dissapointed.
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