PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Various Artists: Vintage Reggae Bash [DVD]

Dan MacIntosh

This DVD presents a fascinating picture of the depth and breadth of reggae music in the ‘80s.

Various Artists

Vintage Reggae Bash

Length: 130
MPAA rating: N/A
Subtitle: Brooklyn 1983
Label: Mvd Visual
US Release Date: 2007-08-07

When watching this multi-artist reggae DVD, I was trying to imagine what Brooklyn, NY must have been like in 1983. Run-D.M.C would not release their self-titled debut album until 1984, which meant that what we now call old school rap had not yet taken hold of the culture. Nevertheless, disco was long since dead by then and new wave rock was just ramping up. And while Bob Marley had died a few years earlier, there was still a big door of opportunity, at least in the Black community, for reggae to fill the void and make a bigger name for its self. And while the names on this bill are familiar to reggae aficionados, few outside its loyal fan base will recognize many of these nine acts.

This show took place at the Empire Roller Skating Center which is described on the disc jacket as “a go-to spot for skate-world renegades in the early ‘70s.” It was the kind of place where teenagers hung out after school and where families came together on the weekends. But for this night, the building hosted an evening of performances by seminal reggae artists.

The concert opens with a true Jamaican veteran, Max Romeo. Although Romeo started his career in the ‘60s, he’s probably best known for the track “War ina Babylon” from the mid-‘70s. And while no live rendition can match Lee “Scratch” Perry’s original studio production, this anthem nevertheless sounds great in concert. Romeo mixes it up a little bit, too, beginning with the chorus from John Lennon’s “All We Are Saying Is Give Peace a Chance”.

Ken Boothe is also impressive. Wearing a sharp white suit, Boothe has a likeable Otis Redding rasp to his voice. He’s also a smooth dancer. He includes the socially active “Freedom Road” in his set, as well as “Don’t Want to Say Goodbye”, “Moving Away”, and “Everything I Own”.

The high-voiced Lerory Sibbles also makes a positive impression with his four selections. Sibbles is formerly with the trio the Heptones. And while he performs here without the harmonies of his two former trio mates, he still brings a lot of life to “Party Time”, an old Heptones tune.

The appearance of the Blues Busters reveals just how much history is covered by the entertainers on this stage. Lloyd Campbell and Phillip James got their start in the late-‘50s, and come off like a sort of Jamaican Sam & Dave. Dressed in red and white suits, they offer a nice throwback to vintage soul days.

Another show highlight is Big Youth’s appearance. He gets the most video time with six songs. The lighter side of reggae has made inroads into the pop mainstream, with such songs as UB40’s “Red, Red Wine”. But Big Youth presents the far tougher, more politically rooted sounds. This approach is exemplified by “Every Nigger Is a Star”, which takes a Sly Stone sentiment and places it into an extremely confrontational stance; one that would definitely standout if placed next to an innocuous UB40 track. This is not to suggest that all UB40 music is innocuous; it’s just that none of that band’s more issue-oriented music ever made the pop charts.

Jamaica sometimes reminds me of England when it comes to producing musicians. It’s not an extremely large piece of land, yet it sure exports a ton of talent. This show from 1983 reveals the diverse artistry Jamaica has given us. Styles range from the soul music-inspired Ken Boothe and the Blues Busters to Big Youth’s harsh realism. This particular show makes you wonder what the musical landscape would have looked and sounded like, had reggae had become the next big musical wave rather than hip-hop. But then again, such speculation is all Monday morning quarterbacking. Instead of wondering what might have been, just enjoy this DVD for a wide angle view of reggae in the ‘80s.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.