Conscious Party (1988, Virgin)
With three albums already behind them and one of the most famous names in popular music, the Melody Makers were well known to reggae fans everywhere when they went into the studio in 1987 to record this album. In the music business and in wider circles however they were often still viewed as something of a novelty act. This album changed all that.
Full of great hooks and incisive lyrics, Conscious Party was a breakthrough for the band both commercially and artistically. The album leads off with the title track, a song that neatly captures what the Melody Makers are all about. "Lee and Molly", a provocative song about interracial love follows and features the signature guitar licks of Rolling Stone Keith Richard. The third track, "Tomorrow People" was a top 40 hit in U.S and the song that introduced many people to the new Marley magic. The sublime but less well-known "New Love" follows, and then the second hit single on the album, "Tumblin' Down", re-mixed to ride high on the R&B charts. An excellent CD bonus track ("We A Guh Some Weh") follows, then "A Who Say?" with Stephen taking over on lead vocals. One rhetorical question is followed by another as the Melody Makers ask "Have You Ever Been to Hell?". "We Propose", "What's True?", and "Dreams of Home" then round out this sparkling set.
Members of the Ethiopian band Dallol and guitar great Earl "Chinna" Smith provide backing instrumentation throughout. The album was produced by ex-Talking Heads Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth. Reaching Platinum sales internationally, Conscious Party was one of the best-selling reggae albums ever released. Ten years later it remains as a crucial recording.