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.
If 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.
Guinean singer Takana Zion returns to the rootsier side of reggae with his brand new album Good Life. A wise decision since his eclectic Kakilambe was a disappointment.
Good Life follows the same recipe as the monumental Rasta Government. The new album was also recorded in Jamaica – at Tuff Gong and not Harry J’s this time – with Sam Clayton at the controls and working with legendary local talents such as drummer Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace, sax maestro Dean Fraser and bass man Errol “Flabba” Holt.
Takana Zion is one of Africa’s finest reggae singers. Probably the best in my opinion. His sound is darker, rootiser and more uncompromising compared to greats such as Alpha Blondy and Tiken Jah Fakoly. He is a versatile artist equally at ease with both dread singing and singjaying.
Highlights include the uplifting album opener Africa Unite, pulsating nyabinghi take Congo Dreadlocks, the positive Hit My Soul – with its infectious sing-a-long chorus – and the dubby Mosiah Marcus.
Iconic singer Bunny Wailer also turns up on the album adding spirituality to When Jah Speaks. It’s not an ordinary combination track; it’s more like an endorsement from Bunny Wailer.
A solid set, though not nearly as strong as Rasta Government.
Jamaican singer Duane Stephenson is set to drop his third album, and the follow-up to his Black Gold set, released in 2010. This slick and passionate singer is probably best known for his excellent single August Town, which was taken from his debut solo album From August Town, put out in 2007.
Dangerously Roots – Journey from August Town will be available in stores in late September. The first single off the album is a cover of Bunny Wailer’s Cool Runnings. In the retro-flavored video Duane Stephenson pays tribute to the original artist. Check the smooth grooves below.
Abyssinians performing live at Uppsala Reggae Festival 2010. Photo by Stefan Gunnarsson, Reggaefoto.se
The second day of Uppsala Reggae Festival was a night of highs and lows, from big acts to smaller ones. But the night belonged to the reggae veterans – from Abyssinians and Bunny Wailer who have been in the business since the 60’s to Midnite and Peetah and Gramps Morgan, who started in the later half of the 80’s.
The elderly gentlemen behind monster tune Satta Massagana made for Friday’s high point. Their concert was backed by a young and hungry band with live saxophone and trombone who treated the audience to lots of great music from their well filled treasure chest, for example Declaration of Rights with its haunting organ and three versions of Satta Massagana. The last version bursts out into a bass pumping percussion extravaganza by Bernard Collins and the Manning brothers.
The big disappointment was VI roots reggae pioneers Midnite. Their concert began ten to seven, ten minutes ahead of schedule. This probably surprised many of the attendants, and although some rushed to the area, it never got crowded below the stage. This was perhaps also due to Midnite’s lack of energy, humour and vitality. Front man and lead singer Vaughn Benjamin seemed distant and may as well have been sitting in his car singing songs of freedom, oppression and propaganda to himself. Sure, Midnite’s music is introvert and unusually monotonous, which makes it difficult to convey live. However, it doesn’t get better when they insist on playing all their songs at full-length, which means no more than ten songs in 70 minutes. Not surprising, the audience decided to do something else.
This evening’s biggest surprise was Voicemail, a dancehall outfit on European tour to honour their recently deceased member O’Neil Edwards. The group tours with talented songstress Alaine who charmed the audience for the first part of the concert. When Voicemail took the stage they showed amazing energy and skilled showmanship, and got the entire audience to follow almost every move or call and response they made. It actually seemed like a very few wanted to leave the tent scene when Bunny Wailer entered the main stage.
Uppsala Reggae Festival is the largest reggae festival in the Nordics and this year it’s a 10 year anniversary with some of the biggest artists of all time.
Legendary roots veterans such as the Abyssinians and Bunny Wailer perform along with fresh talents such as dancehall stars Mavado and Busy Signal. There are also plenty of domestic acts, for example Million Stylez, Kalle Baah and Serengeti.
The crew behind the festival has also invited three well-acclaimed sound systems – Meditative Sounds, Channel One Sound and Stone Love.
The festival starts on Thursday August 5th and ends on Saturday August 7th. Reggaemani will cover the festival on Friday and Saturday and will also cooperate with Svenska Reggaebloggen and Reggaefoto.se. Svenska Reggaebloggen is specialized in Swedish reggae and Reggaefoto is a site dedicated to reggae photography.
As a warm up, I’ve compiled ten of my favorite tunes for this year’s festival. It’s a mixture of old and new.
Mavado – Nine Lives
Abyssinians – Satta Massa Gana
Busy Signal – Beep
Million Stylez & Busy Signal – As Mi Forward
Peetah Morgan & Busy Signal – Unfair
Peetah Morgan – Di Government
Alborosie – Rudie Don’t Fear
Jah Cure – Save Yourself
Midnite – Pagan, Pay Gone
Anthony B – Heavy Load
Det är över trettio år sedan reggaekonserten alla svenskar talar om. Den 10 juni 1976 stod Bob Marley på Gröna Lunds scen och rev av ett antal mästerverk.
I kväll stod den enda kvarvarande medlemmen i The Wailers på samma scen och framförde både egna alster och ett antal signerade Bob Marley. Bunny Wailer är av många betraktad som en levande legend. Han har varit i branschen sedan tidigt 60-tal och spelat in en rad klassiker både på egen hand och tillsammans med The Wailers.
Vitskäggiga Bunny Wailer kliver på scenen klädd i en vit dress, rastahalsduk, solglasögon och en virkad väst i svenska flaggans färger. Han ackompanjeras av ett tajt band med en fullfjädrad blåssektion och en kör bestående av tre män på ålderns höst. Medan kören under kvällen gungar långsamt i takt med musiken, så har Bunny Wailer själv energi som en tonåring.
Han rör sig obehindrat över hela scenen och river av den ena klassikern efter den andra, bland annat ett medley från kritikerrosade debutalbumet Blackheart Man från 1976. Och det är i huvudsak åt den perioden – under kvällen kallad memory lane – den nästan två timmar långa konserten ägnas.
Den inledande timmen vigs åt eget material, medan den andra består av klassiska Bob Marley-låtar samt en och annan från The Wailers och Peter Tosh. Den låt som drar mest applåder är faktiskt marijuanahyllningen Legalize It av Peter Tosh.
Två timmar är en lång konsert, och det krävs en hel del för att hålla intresset uppe under så lång tid. Därför är tempohöjningen med skaklassiker som I Stand Predominate och I’m the Toughest ett välkommet inslag bland en annars rätt mossig repertoar. Tyvärr räcker det inte för att lyfta kvällen. Jag lämnar Djurgården med lärdomen att man kanske inte ska förvänta sig en sprakande Bob Marley-upplevelse av en gammal, om än livlig, gubbe.