Tag Archives: Bob Marley

Damian Marley follows-up Welcome to Jamrock with the ecclectic Stony Hill

unnamedAbout a year ago Damian Marley released Nail Pon Cross, the first official single off his much-anticipated fourth studio album Stony Hill. The album was supposed to have been released in October last year, but was postponed several times. But in July this year it finally hit the streets. And many of the singles off the set have been very promising, especially Caution, Nail Pon Cross and Medication.

More than a decade has passed since his previous album – not including Distant Relatives with Nas – and Damian Marley has been busy touring the world, running the Ghetto Youths label with his brothers and producing other artists.

Welcome to Jamrock was a ground-breaking effort. Stony Hill is solid follow-up, but it’s hard to reach the heights of an album like Welcome to Jamrock, which rocked the music world with its blazing title track.

Stony Hill collects a hefty 18 tracks, of which some could have been shelved, especially some of the not-so-inspired dancehall numbers and ballads. Damian Marley flexes his vocal prowess throughout the album and he is at the top of his game when singing on cuts like the rootsy Looks Are Deceiving, The Struggle Continues and Everybody Wants to be Somebody. Songs in classic Bob Marley tradition.

One of the best tracks is however Living it Up where Damian Marley explores unknown territories. It comes with a disco-fused beat and an uplifting chorus. In the verses Damian Marley is at his most authoritative.

This album will probably not rock the world as Welcome to Jamrock did, but again – to exceed Welcome to Jamrock would have been an exceptional task. And Stony Hill is a solid album, which would have been even better with 12 rather than 18 tracks.

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Stephen Marley’s electic The Fruit of Life

stephen-marley-the-fruit-of-lifeOne of recent years most anticipated reggae albums has finally arrived. Stephen Marley’s Revelation Part II: The Fruit of Life – the follow-up to Revelation Part I: The Root of Life – was announced already in 2011 when the first part was put out.

Stephen Marley is the second eldest son of Bob and Rita Marley. He has been immensely successful since he started singing professionally at the tender age of seven. His three previous solo albums all landed #1 on the U.S. Billboard Album Chart date and to date he has earned a total of eight Grammys for Best Reggae Album.

The first single off The Fruit of Life was released in 2014. Rock Stone was a murderous combination cut with conscious deejays Capleton and Sizzla and it boded very well for the full-length. The second single Ghetto Boy was another strong combination, but this time with Bounty Killer and Cobra, two dancehall deejays. This was another promising cut.
Since then another four singles have been lifted from the album, but none with same musical magic as Rock Stone or Ghetto Boy.

The digital version of The Fruit of Life comes with a hefty 24 tracks, including intro, prelude, outro and three remixes. It also boasts something of a record in guest appearances. I count to 26 if I include a sample of Nina Simone. Most performers are from hip-hop and R&B, including legends like Rakim and Busta Rhymes.

And compared to The Root of Life this album has a more diversified sonic palette with samples and drum machines. Stephen Marley has aimed at expressing the impact Jamaican music has had on various other genres, especially hip-hop, and with bold and clever production he has created striking album; a melting pot of influences that together make a cohesive whole.

The Fruit of Life is eclectic with room for both revolution and romance as well as boisterous party-starters like Tonight (It’s a Party) and ballads such as It’s Alright. This is not another anthemic roots album, but a sonic picture showing the fruits of reggae and the bond between reggae and dancehall and contemporary hip-hop and R&B.

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Epic Bunny Wailer compilations – collecting almost two decades of singles

The Wailers is mainly synonymous with Bob Marley since he used the name for his backing band, but initially it was a trio comprising founding members Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. Bob Marley and Peter Tosh are by far the most widely known and their musical legacy have been collected and reissued countless of times in an almost endless stream of different packaging. With Bunny Wailer however there’s a slightly different story.

He has always seemed if not shy, but reluctant to the spotlight. His music has done most of the talking so to say. But an important part of his musical legacy has been hard – and expensive – to find. His major label releases – including his classic and complex debut album Blackheart Man – have been rather easy to lay hands on, but his singles on his own imprint Solomonic didn’t have proper distribution and were mostly released only in Jamaica.

They are every bit as great as the Blackheart Man album and has now been collected on two soon to be classic compilations titled Tread Along 1969-1976 and Rise & Shine 1977-1986. Both are put out by Dub Store Records, a label that started working with Bunny Wailer – the last surviving member of The Wailers – in 2010. They have prior to these two beautiful sets reissued a selection of his earliest recordings for the Solomonic label. Now they have taken another step forward together putting out these timeless and often political, educational and spiritual recordings.

The albums together collect a hefty 29 cuts with a large number of masterpieces included, and when listening to both sets after one another one can follow how Bunny Wailer developed both his song writing and vocal style. It’s a fascinating, laidback journey where Bunny Wailer fights against Babylonian wrongdoings with music and lyrics as his weapons.

The Wailers importance in reggae and popular music can’t be overstated and if Bob Marley and Peter Tosh were roaring advocates for unity, equality and the legislation of marijuana – maybe Peter more than Bob though – Bunny Wailer has always been quietly ferocious with apocalyptic messages and a mystical and transcendental sonic landscape. And many of these marvellous songs – classics, long lost gems, dub versions and instrumentals – are now finally readily available.

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Boiling ska and romatic ballads on The Wailers’ debut album

WailingWailers_COVERIf you have been into reggae for a while you’ll probably know about producer Clement “Coxsone” Dodd and his studio and label Studio One. If you are collecting reggae records you’ll probably also know that Studio One records are highly sought after. You’ll need to have an abyssal wallet to buy the originals, which you often need, because several Studio One records haven’t been properly reissued for many years. Some have never been reissued.

But now things might change since Studio One has started a reissue program together with U.S. based Yep Roc Music Group. The first release is The Wailers’ debut album The Wailing Wailers, a set originally released in 1965. The album comes with the original cover art and track listing and is sourced from the Jamaican master tapes.

The Wailers recorded about 100 songs at Studio One and The Wailing Wailers collects twelve of those. It’s a collection of dance scorchers and pleading love songs heavily influenced by vintage R&B and doo wop backed by some of Jamaica’s greatest musicians ever – The Skatalites.

Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, aka The Wailers, would later – together as well as solo artists – re-record several of the songs featured on this album. Put It On and One Love are stone-cold classics classics, but usually not the versions here. Tracks like those – along with Simmer Down and Rude Boy – show a glimpse of what was to come from one of the most important groups in music history.

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Powerful performance on Easy Skanking Boston 78’

Bob-Marley-Easy-SkankingA few days ago I received my Spotify year in music and I was quite amazed by the result since Bob Marley was my most played artist. I mean, I like his music, but I don’t really, really like it. So why did I play him so much?

Well, I realized that I have been spinning my playlist Bob Marley’s 50 Best Songs According to Rolling Stone rather a lot. That’s actually the playlist I use every time we have friends or family over. I mean – who doesn’t like Bob Marley?

But I have also played a recent Bob Marley release – Easy Skanking Boston 78’. I haven’t written about it though, so I thought I’d put some words on it.

Easy Skanking Boston 78’ was captured in Boston in 1978 and is thus recorded the same year as his classic live album Babylon by Bus. The sound quality is excellent and Bob Marley puts on a powerful performance going through highlights from many parts of his career.

It contains unique energy and kicks off with the classics Slave Driver and Burnin’ & Lootin’ moving forward via monster jams like I Shot the Sheriff and No Woman No Cry and explodes with anthems like Get Up Stand Up, Jamming and Exodus.

The album comes with a video that features hand-held footage from a fan who captured the show – only seven songs filmed though – and marks the beginning of Universal’s archival Bob Marley series. More militant grooves to come hopefully.

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Tiken Jah Fakoly covers classic reggae on Racines

1443178659_racinesSince Alpha Blondy has increasingly moved towards rock and pop music, Ivorian reggae star Tiken Jah Fakoly is Africa’s king of reggae. At least if you ask me.

On his new album Racines – Roots in English – he travels back to his roots and covers some of the songs he danced to as a youth. He has re-shaped eleven mostly classic reggae joints, cuts originally voiced by reggae luminaries such as Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Max Romeo, Burning Spear, Junior Byles, Buju Banton, Junior Murvin and Alpha Blondy.

To recreate their masterpieces he is joined by Ken Boothe, Max Romeo, U Roy and Jah9 on vocals along with Sly & Robbie as riddim section. The foundation of the album was recorded in Jamaica and it was later overdubbed in Mali adding traditional African instrumentation. The result is excellent and Tiken Jah Fakoly presents his own versions of these classics and gives them a new bright shining light.

According to the press release Tiken Jah Fakoly has previously not really allowed himself to record cover versions. And with this album he certainly pays a very personal homage to some of the artists and musicians that helped to create reggae. As Bob Marley once said, and quoted in the press release, “reggae will come back to Africa”.

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New compilation charts the links between Rastafari and reggae

Layout 1Rastafari – a religion or maybe more a way of living – emerged in Jamaica in the 30s, a time of political and social change. But the pivotal catalyst for the Rastafari movement was the crowning of a black king in 1930 – Haile Selassie I or Ras Tafari. Followers of the movement see him as Jah, an incarnation of God.

A new compilation from Soul Jazz Records charts the many links between reggae and Rastafari. The album, which carry a hefty 20 tracks, spans nearly 30 years of revolutionary and exceptional music influenced by mento, jazz, nyabinghi drumming, anti-colonialism, equal rights and worldwide love.

Rastafari – The Dreads Enter Babylon 1955-83 is an in-depth look at reggae and Rastafari and includes righteous and conscious cuts from the likes of Counts Ossie, Johnny Clarke, Ras Michael, Rod Taylor and Mutabaruka.

According to the a press release from Soul Jazz, one of the earliest mentions of Ethiopia in Jamaican music can be found on mento singer Lord Lebby & The Jamaican Calypsonians’ 1955 recording Etheopia (included on the set), a cut where they sing about Ethiopianism, the political movement that calls for a return to Africa for black people.

But it was in the 1960s that Rastafarian music started to grow, particularly thanks to Count Ossie and his drummers. The visit of Haile Selassie to Kingston in 1966 was of course also instrumental and in the following decade Rastafarian reggae went global with Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Burning Spear and a host of more underground artists and musicians. Rastafarianism was now synonymous with reggae. It was spiritual with a political and cultural context.

But most of the cuts on this set are not for the faint-hearted. Crowd-pleasers are few and far between. Several of the songs are percussion-driven instrumentals or instrumentals heavily influenced by avant-garde jazz. A bunch of the tracks also includes chanting rather than singing.

This compilation is however a solid overview of a groundbreaking genre that became a rebel sound.

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Many friends on new Peter Tosh compilation

2237_PeterTosh_CoverListening to the latest Peter Tosh compilation Peter Tosh & Friends – An Upsetters Showcase. This 15 track set is described as a Peter Tosh compilation, but there are a lot of friends and only five of the 15 songs are by the man himself. The other ten tracks are singles from the likes of pioneering deejays U Roy and Big Youth along with the gritty Carl Dawkins and the soulful, and underrated, Dave Barker.

All tracks are however produced by the Upsetter himself and during the period covered on this album Lee Perry recorded some of his best work, including Bob Marley & The Wailers’ post-Studio One and pre-Island days.

All songs on this compilation has been reissued before and several are available on Trojan’s six disc compilation Bob Marley & The Wailers Complete Upsetter Collection. Nothing wrong with reissuing these fine tracks again and making them easily available, but the title could be more accurate.

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Bob Marley’s 50 greatest songs according to Rolling Stone Magazine

91c+umg3G3L._SL1500_Last year Rolling Stone Magazine published an issue titled Bob Marley – The Ultimate Guide to His Music & Legend. This issue holds 100 pages dedicated to a man that went from being a local music hero to becoming a global pop star, whose music is as relevant today as it was when he and The Wailers were making it in the 60s, 70s and early 80s.

The issue also countdowns Bob Marley’s 50 greatest songs. The list comprises several of Bob Marley’s best moments and includes anthemic crowd-pleasers and fan-favourites like One Love, Get Up, Stand Up and No Woman, No Cry along with lesser known gems like Guava Jelly, Lick Samba and Nice Time.

Bob Marley was a prophet, a revolutionary and a sex symbol and his albums can often be found in reggae illiterate households. His music and messages of equality and loves speak to everyone everywhere.

And Bob Marley made music that still cries to be heard, so I compiled a playlist on Spotify with Rolling Stone’s Bob Marley top 50. The list countdowns from 50 and you can check it here. Enjoy!

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Reggae with jazz on Groundation’s A Miracle

unnamedHarrison Stafford’s second big project in 2014 is a brand new full-length album from his band Groundation. A Miracle is their eight album and follows Building an Ark, released in 2012.

Groundation has always made music rooted in Jamaican reggae, but with clear influences from jazz. And this new album is cooked according to the same successful recipe. The set sounds like it’s partly recorded via all-night jamming sessions where each player gets to shine. It’s harmonic, yet improvisational and shines light on both genres.

A Miracle also owes quite a lot to Bob Marley & The Wailers and albums like Rastaman Vibration and Exodus. Apart from several musical references it features the vocal talents of Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt – two of the founding members of Bob Marley’s backing trio the I-Threes. Neville Garrick, Bob Marley’s longtime friend and art director, has also made the cover sleeve.

Harrison Stafford’s singing style is as usual an acquired taste. It’s theatrical, nasal and dramatic. But he has proper backing from Jamaican singers Kim Pommell and Sherida Sharpe, two songstresses that add several well-needed harmonious dimensions.

Onboard is also three U.S. jazz musicians. And their talents can be recognized on tracks like Gone a Cemetary and Cupid’s Arrow.

This album is no miracle, but it’s definitely no disappointment for Groundation’s fans and followers.

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