The Ultimate Guide To Great Reggae

A new book by Michael Garnice,
author of the web sites,
and Beat Magazine contributor

Available now!



As seen below, The Ultimate Guide To Great Reggae has received a very favorable review in the February 2017 issue of the UK’s monthly black music magazine, Echoes, written by no less an authority than Mike Atherton. Thank you Echoes and Mike!


The Ultimate Guide To Great Reggae

Michael Garnice

Equinox, 604pp, £25.00

 “If The Monkees were temporarily transformed into wildly creative and expressive Jamaican musicians, and they recorded a raucous ska-pop-rock adult love song, what would it have sounded like?” asks Michael Garnice. His reply is Answer To Your Name by Prince Buster, a record which this writer has owned on vinyl for decades, but now I shall never listen to it in quite the same way again. This is one of many examples of his fresh approach to a body of music which he’s obviously spent a long time loving.

   This reassuringly weighty hardback book is not modestly titled, and if you talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk. In titling this book, Mr. Garnice sets himself an exacting task, which he tackles with knowledge, understanding and humour. In over 50 chapters, he guides the reader through successive eras of Jamaican music from mento (on which he is an acknowledged authority), through r&b, ska, rocksteady, early reggae, dub, dub poetry and roots, to dancehall. He selects key artists and songs from each era and, through in-depth analysis, explains their significance as cornerstones in the Isle of Springs’ musical wall

   His reggae train diverts from its main line and draws its brakes at artists of particular significance: Prince Buster, The Ethiopians, Steel Pulse and Big Youth, amongst others, all benefit from chapters in which their important work is perceptively analysed, and Bob Marley & The Wailers’ progression from ska hopefuls to international stars merits no fewer than eleven chapters in which most of their considerable output is assessed.

   Though the book has no illustrations, they’re rendered superfluous as the author paints vivid word pictures of his chosen tracks: The Folkes Brothers’ Oh Carolina is “a strange bird with two unmatchedwings which flies nonetheless”. Lee Perry’s mixing technique “could make instruments resemble plastic objects recovered after a fire”; while on The Race by The Gladiators, “a trombone affably wanders around the track like a baby elephant”.

   His approach, at once knowledgeable and opinionated, often leaves the reader oscillating between “Wow, I didn’t know that!” and “Eh? You must be joking”. Few would have chosen Old Lady, Answer To Your Name and Too Hot as Prince Buster’s greatest songs; fewer still would name Nora Dean as the best female reggae singer, but the author makes a plausible case for her being just that; and very few would have known that slack mento chanteuse Girl Wonder was really Rita Marley.

   Despite a few idiosyncrasies [more pages are devoted to the admittedly great Black Uhuru than to the entire era of Jamaican rhythm & blues], and the odd error when the author strays beyond the confines of Jamaica [Cat Stevens would be surprised to learn that he composed Wonderful World, Beautiful People] this volume, heavyweight yet absorbingly readable, is indeed close to being the ultimate guide to this endlessly absorbing music.

Mike Atherton



[Return home]

email me at:

© 2016-2017
All rights reserved.