Much like UB40, American reggae band Big Mountain brought a very commercialized version of Jamaican music to the American mainstream when their cover of Peter Frampton's "Baby, I Love Your Way" reached the Top Ten in early 1994. To the band's credit, though, its three albums contain reggae roots music combined with only several R&B-ish covers, and the lineup includes two Jamaicans with excellent credentials: rhythm guitarist Tony Chin and drummer Santa Davis -- both of whom played with Peter Tosh's band and the Soul Syndicate.
Big Mountain were originally formed in San Diego as the Rainbow Warriors. After several years of dizzying lineup changes and two name changes -- first to Shiloh and finally to Big Mountain -- the group settled around vocalist/guitarist Quino, with rhythm guitarist Jerome Cruz, drummers Gregory Blakney and Lance Rhodes, keyboard player Manfred Reinke, and bassist Lynn Copeland. That lineup released Wake Up on the Quality label in 1992 and charted "Touch My Light" early the following year. The single reached number 51 in America, but only one year later Big Mountain began to experiment with several different guitarists. After several changes, Tony Chin became available and joined Quino and Copeland with new additions Santa Davis, James McWhinney (percussion), and keyboard players Billy Stoll and Michael Hyde. During sessions for their second album, movie producer Ron Fair approached Big Mountain about recording a cover of "Baby, I Love Your Way" for his upcoming movie Reality Bites. Included on the soundtrack and the group's 1994 Unity album, the single reached number six in the U.S. and became a worldwide hit.
Despite Big Mountain's success on the commercial pop charts, most of the reggae community remained faithful to the band; the group headlined two consecutive Reggae Sunsplash festivals in Jamaica during massive world tours that crisscrossed Europe, North and South America, Asia, and Indonesia. Third album Resistance was released in 1995, followed two years later by Free Up. ~ John Bush