Music

Putting a Pulse on the Grammys

Grammy Watch

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL
Observer senior writer

Monday, December 11, 2017

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The 60th Grammy Awards take place on January 28 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. There are five nominees for Best Reggae Album. They are: Chronology by Chronixx; Stony Hill (Damian Marley); Avrakedabra (Morgan Heritage); Lost In Paradise (Common Kings) and Wash House Ting by J Boog.

Today, the Jamaica Observer launches a series reflecting on the Best Reggae Album category.

BRITISH band Steel Pulse is the only non-Jamaican act to win the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album. They did so in 1987 with Babylon The Bandit, when the category was known as Best Reggae Recording.

Distributed by Elektra Records, it got the better of Black Uhuru's Brutal; Jimmy Cliff's Club Paradise; Linton Kwesi Johnson and the Dub Band's Linton Kwesi Johnson in Concert with the Dub Band; and Rasta Philosophy by The Itals.

Steel Pulse was first nominated in 1985, the year reggae debuted at the Grammys. Their Steppin' Out lost to Black Uhuru's Anthem.

Though it included the popular song Not King James Version, Babylon The Bandit was not as strong as the band's previous albums as True Democracy and Steppin' Out. David Hinds, Steel Pulse's singer/rhythm guitarist and main songwriter, acknowledged this in a 2004 interview with the Jamaica Observer.

Babylon The Bandit, which won the Grammy, was an achievement, but I don't think it was one of our best products,” he said. “But if you are familiar with the Grammys or Oscars, you find that a lot of the music and movies that win are not necessarily the best, it's Hollywood politics.”

Hinds added: “I see that album as a milestone in our career but it wasn't one of our best.”

Steel Pulse has been nominated for the Best Reggae Album Grammy six times. Their last nod came in 2005 for African Holocaust.

Hinds, whose parents are Jamaican, admitted that the quality of Steel Pulse's music declined after they signed with major labels like Elektra and MCA. Elektra distributed 1982's True Democracy, which Hinds considers the group's best work.

That set contains classic songs such as Chant A Psalm, Raid Blues Dance, Your House, and Rally Round (Worth Your Weight in Gold).

Formed 42 years ago in Handsworth, a community in Birmingham, England, Steel Pulse were largely first-generation Caribbean youth. Their first three albums were distributed by Island Records.

True Democracy, their fourth album, was released one year after the band performed at Reggae Sunsplash in Montego Bay.

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