If you can get past the fact that 2015’s best reggae album (Protojé’s Ancient Future) didn’t even get nominated, and forgive the ineptitude of passing over Barrington Levy on what was most likely his best shot at winning the award, then I guess the Reggae Grammy Committee did a pretty decent job. I mean if they weren’t going to bestow the honor upon one of Jamaica’s most well-known, respected and accomplished voices for an almost supernatural vocal performance, then they made the reggae gods happy by giving the award to Morgan Heritage for their best album in years. Never mind the fact that Barrington Levy, whose performance on AcousticaLevy is probably his best vocal performance in three decades, will never again be so perfectly positioned to win the Reggae Grammy like he was in 2015. I mean he’s only been the most distinctive voice in reggae for more than 30 years, but who’s checking?
Don’t get me wrong, Morgan Heritage was deserving of the award. Strictly Roots is an exceptional album and one that made my top five in 2015 (I don’t think I’ve ever reviewed an album more positively). However, Morgan drops a Grammy-worthy album every other year and they are only now reaching their prime. So here we are once again reggae fans, left scratching our heads as we try to make sense of an award selection that doesn’t quite deliver.
The Reggae Grammy committee has been under-performing for so long that their annual adventure in obsolescence is no longer as painful as it is sad. There are so very few institutions that even recognize reggae anymore that I suppose we should be thankful that at least one still pays attention, even if it did summarily overlook the most prolific and transformative force to hit reggae since Bob Marley himself. I’m speaking of course about Midnite, a band who over the past two decades has utterly redefined the sound and vibe of reggae yet cannot claim even one Reggae Grammy Award nomination to their credit. It is as if the Committee is wholly ignorant of the “reggae revival” that occurred prior to the “reggae revival.”
I’m not saying Midnite is the be-all and end-all of modern reggae but, wait…that is exactly what I’m saying. I mean if The Wailers are The Beatles of reggae then Midnite is surely The Rolling Stones. But hey, I overstand. The committee was extraordinarily busy over the past two decades nominating groundbreaking, landmark reggae albums like Psychedelic Souls, Life Is A Miracle, Island Warriors, Ghetto Dictionary, Def Jamaica, Clothes Drop, Who You Fighting For?, Let’s Get Physical, Intoxication, Reincarnated, Dutty Rock, The Trinity, Imperial Blaze, Tomahawk Technique, Full Frequency, and not nearly enough Dennis Brown and Gregory Isaacs retreads.
Always the eternal optimist, I am looking forward to the lifetime achievement award that is most certainly in the cards for Midnite. That is if they can wrest it from the hands of Sean Paul.