Beyond Bob Marley: More Great Early Reggae CDs

Most people are at least somewhat familiar with the music of roots reggae master Bob Marley. However, many of his contemparies are equally talented but not as well known. If you like Bob Marley and would like to discover some similar music, read on!

Peter Tosh was an original member of The Wailers, Bob Marley's rocksteady and early reggae trio. Legalize It is perhaps Tosh's best-known album, and the title track has become an anthem for those who believe in the legalization of marijuana. Because of this and other drug-related subject matter on the album, this may not appropriate for the whole family (try some reggae for kids instead), but adult Bob Marley fans will certainly love this one.

Bunny Wailer was the third member of the original Wailers, which also included Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. Eventually, Bunny Wailer became well-known as a pop dancehall musician, but this album is characteristic of the roots reggae style that Bob Marley made famous. Bunny Wailer is the only member of the original Wailers that is still alive today; he resides in Jamaica.

Lee "Scratch" Perry was both a musician and a record producer, producing hits for Bob Marley and the Wailers, among others. In his later career, he moved from playing roots reggae to playing dub and dancehall, and these recordings from the mid-1970s show his prowess at combining the styles.

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The Abyssinians - 'Satta Massagana'

The Abyssinians - 'Satta Massagana'
The Abyssinians - 'Satta Massagana'. (c) Heartbeat Records

The Abyssinians are not quite as well-known as many of the reggae groups on this list, but their music is equally as wonderful. Fans of the early music of the Wailers should enjoy the three-part harmonies prevalent among the Abyssinians' style, and their thick roots reggae beats are irresistable.

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The Mighty Diamonds - 'Right Time'

The Mighty Diamonds - 'Right Time'
The Mighty Diamonds - 'Right Time'. (c) Frontline Records

The Mighty Diamonds are another stellar group that layers rich three-part vocal harmonies over reggae grooves. Perhaps best known for having penned the song "Pass the Kouchie" (which later was recorded as reggae pop hit "Pass the Dutchie" by Musical Youth), the Mighty Diamonds are one of the few groups from the early days of reggae that is still together and touring today.

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Toots and the Maytals - 'Roots Reggae' (Box Set)

Toots and the Maytals - 'Roots Reggae'
Toots and the Maytals - 'Roots Reggae'. (c) Sanctuary Records

Toots Hibbert and his band, the Maytals, were literally the ones to invent reggae - the word, at least. Their 1968 hit single, "Do the Reggay", is generally considered to be the source for the name of the genre, and a turning point in Jamaica's musical history. Toots & the Maytals recorded their early Studio One hits at the same time as the Wailers, but for various reasons, never quite achieved the international success of the other group.

Burning Spear was something of a protege of Bob Marley at one point, and in listening to his music, one can see why: he is a wildly talented musician and songwriter. He's one of the only legends of Jamaican music who continues to record and perform today, but if you like Bob Marley, definitely check out some of Burning Spear's music from the mid-1970s (or one of his more recent releases, for that matter)... you'll be hooked.

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The Ethiopians - 'Train to Skaville' (Anthology)

The Ethiopians - 'Train to Skaville'
The Ethiopians - 'Train to Skaville'. (c) Sanctuary Trojan US

The Ethiopians were one of the most popular groups within Jamaica and the Caribbean during the crossover years of Rocksteady, Ska and Reggae. Like The Wailers, The Ethiopians recorded at Studio One and had several hits within Jamaica and internationally, including the legendary "Train to Skaville."

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Desmond Dekker - 'You Can Get It If You Really Want' (Collection)

Desmond Dekker - 'You Can Get it if You Really Want'
Desmond Dekker - 'You Can Get it if You Really Want'. (c) Sanctuary Records

Desmond Dekker, who passed away in May of 2006, was a ska and reggae legend who was the first Jamaican artist to have a major hit outside of Jamaica, with his song "The Israelites". He had several more hits throughout the years, both in Jamaica and internationally, particularly in England, where he eventually made his home.

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Jimmy Cliff - 'Jimmy Cliff'

Jimmy Cliff - 'Jimmy Cliff'
Jimmy Cliff - 'Jimmy Cliff'. (c) Sanctuary Records
Jimmy Cliff is perhaps best-known for starring in and soundtracking the film The Harder They Come, which brought reggae music to the masses around the world. His music is soulful, heavily grooved and dynamic, perfect for fans of Bob Marley who are looking to expand their collection.