From Halfway Tree to Grammy

Observer senior writer

Friday, January 19, 2018

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The 60th Grammy Awards takes 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 continues its series reflecting on the Best Reggae Album category.

IT was hyped as the album that would announce Damian Marley's arrival as a bona fide artiste — ln edgy blend of roots reggae and dancehall.

Halfway Tree did just that and more. It was the 23-year-old artiste's sophomore album, and came five years after his amateurish debut, Mr Marley.

Containing songs like More Justice, It Was Written and Still Searching, Halfway Tree won the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album in 2002, beating Music is Life (Beres Hammond), A New Day (Luciano), his brother Ky-Mani's Many More Roads, and the compilation Island Warriors.

Halfway Tree was largely produced by Stephen Marley and proved to be the most popular album by a Marley in Jamaica for some time. More Justice, It Was Written and Still Searching were heard on radio, sound systems and in minibuses, making it a shoo-in for the Best Reggae Album Grammy.

A number of artistes made guest appearances on the set, including Yami Bolo, Capleton, rappers Eve and Treach from Naughty By Nature. Distributed by legendary soul label Motown Records, Halfway Tree looked destined for the top rung of the Billboard pop chart in the United States.

It was released on September 11, 2001, date of the greatest terrorist attack on American soil when the World Trade Center was destroyed by extremists. As Americans struggled to come to grip with the unexpected assault, buying music was the last thing on their minds, and Halfway Tree fell through the cracks.

Marley's second album was released during a period of quality reggae productions out of Jamaica. Morgan Heritage's Don't Haffi Dread, Sizzla's Da Real Thing, Hot Shots by Shaggy, and Dutty Rock from Sean Paul came out in a two-year stretch that caught the attention of American music executives.

Though it never generated instant mega sales, Halfway Tree is among the top Jamaican albums for the last 25 years. Four years after its release, Marley returned with Welcome to Jamrock, an explosive collection driven by the title song.

There was no terrorist attack to impede its climb up the charts, as it clocked sales of over 500,000 in the United States and earned Marley a second Grammy for Best Reggae Album in 2006.




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