Tag Archives: The Wailers

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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Winston Jarrett and Horace Andy rock Kingston

various-the-kingston-rock-dub-store-lp-34488-pJapan’s Dub Store Records has reissued The Kingston Rock. This twelve track combination album was originally released in 1974 on RCA, and was at the time issued as a generic reggae compilation with no main artist credited on the cover.

On the first reissue, which was on Atra, Horace Andy was pictured on the cover and the album was titled Earth Must Be Hell.

The set is however no Horace Andy set; it’s a combination effort with Winston Jarrett produced by Brent Clarke and Aston “Family Man” Barrett. The latter was at the time part of The Wailers and one might think that such a thing would have been a blessing for any marketer, but for some reason it wasn’t highlighted.

The Kingston Rock is a marvellous album with killer cuts from both Horace Andy and Winston Jarrett; two singers with radically different voices. Horace Andy is soft, while Winston Jarrett has a rougher and more rural style complemented by beautiful harmonies. Check for example the stunning Wake Up Suzy with its rock steady harmonizing.

A rock solid album showcasing two of Jamaica’s most distinct voices.

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Keith Hudson meets The Wailers on new unreleased album

$_35Keith Hudson, aka The Dark Prince of Reggae, died in 1984 only 38 years old. He was a creative and innovative producer turned singer that worked with some of the biggest singers and deejays in the 60s and 70s, including Ken Boothe on Old Fashioned Way and Delroy Wilson on A Place in Africa.

He’s known for his moody, haunting rhythms and a vocal style that’s an acquired taste. That’s why I have always preferred his role as a producer than a singer. And that’s also why I had slightly low expectations on a new Keith Hudson album that surfaced out of the blue in early December.

The tracks on Tuff Gong Encounter were recorded around 1984 with Carlton Barrett and Aston “Family Man” Barrett, known as the Wailers’ riddim section, on drums and bass. These key musicians were joined by Junior Marvin on guitar and Tyrone Downie on keys, two players that have also worked extensively with Bob Marley.

The cuts were intended for an album that never saw the light of day. Until now. More than 30 years after the recordings took place. But the album is not full-blown vintage material. Prior to the release King Jammy finished off the existing mixes for the six vocal cuts and also mixed six woofer testing dub versions.

Tuff Gong Encounter is solid. It’s one of Keith Hudson’s most accessible albums and his singing is more on pitch than usual. The dub versions are nicely mixed with just a dash of effects. And Keith Hudson’s voice is almost completely removed from the dub versions; the bass, the drums, the guitar and the keys does most of the talking.

The album comes with fascinating and detailed sleeve notes courtesy of Vincent Ellis, who is currently writing a biography on Keith Hudson. Probably the final album from one of reggae’s most ingenious producers.

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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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Lee Perry rarity gets a well-deserved reissue

UPSETTERSHot Milk Records, a subsidiary of Cherry Red Records, has recently re-issued an ultra-rare Lee Perry-produced album with a fascinating background story.

The Upsetters’ The Good The Bad and The Upsetters was released by Trojan Records in 1970. And since The Upsetters was sound alchemist Lee Perry’s band one might think he was involved in that particular release, but apparently he was not.

Following the success of Return of Django in the UK in 1969 Lee Perry and The Upsetters were booked on a UK tour that very same year. When the tour ended the musicians in The Upsetters had nothing to do while still in the UK. So Bruce White and Tony Cousins – two former singers that ran the booking agency responsible for the tour – persuaded The Upsetters to record an album, which Trojan then released.

Lee Perry had nothing to do with it, altough it had the Upsetters name on it. It was released without his invovement or permission. Frustrated he issued his own version of the album in Jamaica using the same artwork but with totally different songs and a new stickered tracklist on the back.

And this little known gem is now made available for the masses for the first time ever. The Good The Bad and The Upsetters – The Jamaican Edition collects 14 tracks, of which 13 are instrumentals and one is a deejay cut from an uncredited deejay. Four of the songs are versions of The Wailers material – Mr Brown, Who the Cap Fit, It’s Alright aka Night Shift and Soul Rebel all receive the Lee Perry sonic treatment.

The album is not as cheesy as many other reggae instrumental albums released in the same period. It is darker, sparser and more like a precursor to dub.

Be aware of one thing with this album though. The last track is too short and is abruptly cut-off a few seconds too early.

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Peter Tosh – a myth unveiled

untitledWhen you hear the name The Wailers, you’ll probably immediately think about Bob Marley. For many he’s the original Wailer and The Wailers are often recognized as his backing band.

But that’s wrong, of course. The original Wailers were a quartet and later a trio consisting of Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh. They split up in the early 70s and went their separate ways. Bob Marley became a superstar and a spokesman for all things reggae. Bunny Wailer kept a rather low profile and let his music do all the talking.

Peter Tosh was far from quiet, something that’s evident after you’ve read John Masouri’s Steppin’ Razor: The Life of Peter Tosh. This biography covers the life of a sometimes overlooked superstar.

Through his music and in interviews he gave the poor a voice. He often spoke passionately about equality and justice. He stirred up controversy with his outspoken lyrics and tunes like Oh Bumbo Klaat, Legalize It and the funky Buk-In-Hamm Palace.

But being the voice of the poor and criticizing the system and politicians can be dangerous, as Peter Tosh experienced firsthand. He was physically assaulted by the police in Jamaica and he was verbally abused by the media, particularly by rock critics in the UK.

But Peter Tosh was a rebel. He had his principles and would never go against them. He had his own game and his own set of rules. He played by them. Like it or not.

Peter Tosh also had a big ego, and over the years he lost faith in the music business and his Rolling Stones-owned label. He became disappointed in the lack of success and disillusioned by bureaucracy and the media that never fully understood him nor his music or mission.

Down the road things started to go wrong. Terribly wrong. His friends didn’t recognize him and his erratic behavior got increasingly worse. Whether this is due to an extreme amount of high grade ganja consumption, or Marlene Brown, a girlfriend described as something of a Yoko Ono for Peter Tosh, is unclear.

But according to several sources in the well-researched book she’s to blame for much that went wrong in the later parts of Peter Tosh’s life. She’s described as the reason for his demise and eventually his untimely death at the age of 42.

Peter Tosh was murdered in his home in Jamaica. Not by Marlene Brown. The motive behind the murder is blurry, but there are several theories of which one is about money.

He was an angry man and a highly complex individual with both a militant and a spiritual side. To this day and while he was still alive, he was in the constant shadow of Bob Marley; partly because his music was not as uplifting and direct as Bob Marley’s, but his lyrics were also darker and more controversial.

Peter Tosh struggled all his life, something that becomes apparent when reading the book. He was a charismatic protest singer of a kind that is rarely seen or heard today, and during his too short life he was on a mission. He was a musical outlaw that fought for freedom and promoted the herb. Not loved by all, and hated by some. Particularly the system, or shit-stem as Peter Tosh used to say.

But that was him. A man with a misson. A man on a mission. And a man that stood up for what he believed in, regardless who he would provoke.

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Joe Higgs’ Unity is Power is a grower

310Joe Higgs is one of reggae’s most influential forces, but at the same time one of the most overlooked artists. His voice is far from anonymous, but due to a number of circumstances he is today probably best known for teaching Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh the basic principles of singing – harmonies, breathing and structuring a song. He even took Bunny Wailer’s place on The Wailers’ first U.S. tour.

Among reggae heads he is probably also known for his 1960 hit song Oh Manny Oh, which reputedly sold more than 50,000 copies at the time.

But he also recorded a number of albums. In 1972 he dropped his debut set titled Life of Contradiction, reissued by Pressure Sounds some years ago. Now the same label has decided to reissue its follow-up – Unity is Power. It has not been reissued since its original release in 1979 and comes with two bonus cuts – his 1972 Festival Song Competition winner Invitation to Jamaica and its version.

Unity is Power was produced by Joe Higgs himself and he utilized some of the best musicians around at the time of its recording. It’s a mellow and mid-tempo reggae set that is much in the same vein as his debut. No hard roots or crazy dub mixing. This is soul, gospel, jazz and vintage R&B set to a reggae beat. It might not grab you instantly and it might need a few spins before its majestic character is revealed.

Joe Higgs’ rich, rural and emotive voice, with its melancholic and honest tone, is however easy to fall in love with and hard to let go.

The extensive and frank liner notes by noted reggae historian Roger Steffens tells a story of a man that managed to overcome a lot of hardship and difficulties during his lifetime. This pain and suffering is heard in his voice and in his music. Authentic sounds from one the many overlooked and forgotten heroes in reggae music.

Available now on LP, CD and digital download.

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Sevdee reaches for a new Bob Marley audience

Sevdee is a Canadian hip-hop DJ that has embarked on a reggae journey with the recent Bob Marley & The Wailers remix set Mr Musick, available for free download.

Sevdee started as a hip-hop DJ back in 1994 with a few friends and DJing has since been his foundation. But his love for reggae started earlier.

At the age of eleven he recognized the music of Bob Marley when he heard Iron Lion Zion.

“I vividly remember the overwhelming feeling that came upon me when hearing the song. My mother, who enjoyed Bob’s music as well, purchased the Legend tape. The message behind Bob’s music reached me, and is still very much present to this day,” Sevdee writes in an e-mail to Reggaemani.

Sevdee’s most recent venture is a Bob Marley & The Wailers’ remix album entitled Mr Musick, a project that took him about 40 days to complete.

Tough task
Remixing this legend’s music has proved to be a tough task, something that Stephen Marley experienced when he did the Chant Down Babylon remix album that included hip-hop and rock artists covering songs by Bob Marley & The Wailers.

Sevdee writes that he is very critical when he hears a Bob Marley remix and expects other Bob Marley enthusiasts to be critical as well.

“Within hip-hop, sampling plays an important role. A lot of people have used samples from The Wailers’ music. I have personally refrained from doing so, because I hold his music in high esteem,” Sevdee writes, and continues:

“The sole reason I did it this time was first to celebrate Bob Marley’s work, as well as to bring awareness to his message. And there was no question of me making a cent with this project, which is why I give it out for free.”

Songs fit the message
According to Sevdee the choice of songs came naturally.
 
“Ultimately, there is a message within the music that I wanted to be conveyed, and the choice of songs fit that message,” he explains, and expands:

“Originally, the album was entitled Movement of Jah People, since the theme of the album is Exodus. Is one able to take up and leave, physically and spiritually? Music will move us. So I was inspired to go with the title Mr Musick.”

Hopes to reach new audience
The 15 songs on Mr Musick have all been updated in a 21st century style with rougher and tougher beats. The sound is funky, modern and will probably appeal to a newer and younger audience.

“I think a younger audience has the opportunity to discover Bob’s work with this remix album. Then if they listen to the originals, they won’t feel a large gap between the originals and the remixes. It is a fine line I have walked with this project, and I wanted to keep the musical essence for the most part of the album. It’s a lot more electronic and noisy, and that was on purpose,” he explains, and adds:

“At no point in time was I sitting around listening to The Wailers thinking ‘I can do better than this.’ I was inspired to do it because I think people are sleeping, and the message contained in Bob’s music can start waking them up.”

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Därför lyckades Bob Marley

Bob Marley är utan tvekan världens mest kända reggaeartist. Reggaemani har läst ett gäng Bob Marley-biografier och listat ut några av ingredienserna i hans framgångsrecept.

Desmond Dekker, Millie Small, Jimmy Cliff, Shabba Ranks, Shaggy och Sean Paul är alla reggaeartister med världshits i bagaget. Men trots stora framgångar är de inte i närheten av Bob Marleys stjärnstatus på den internationella musikscenen.

Att Bob Marley blev en stor stjärna berodde på ett antal viktiga faktorer. Han var perfektionist, en fantastisk låtskrivare som omgav sig med duktiga musiker och hade dessutom oslagbar karisma.

Men det var ett strategiskt avgörande beslut i London 1972 som förändrade Bob Marleys framtid dramatiskt. The Wailers hade gett ut singeln Reggae On Broadway på skivbolaget CBS och var i London för att marknadsföra den.

Men den sålde inte.

Frustrerad bestämde sig Bob Marley för att knacka på hos Chris Blackwell, ägare av skivbolaget Island (framgångsrikt med soundtracket till reggaerullen The Harder They Come). Marknadsföringsgeniet Chris Blackwell, delvis uppvuxen på Jamaica, förstod reggaemusik men även vad den vita rockpubliken ville ha. Han fattade tycke för Bob Marley, såg möjligheterna och signade bandet.

De två första The Wailers-plattorna på Island – Catch A Fire och Burnin’ – blev hyggliga framgångar, men det var när Peter Tosh och Bunny Wailer lämnade gruppen som det tog fart på allvar för Bob Marley.

Bredare sound
Han tog in de gospelinfluerade sångerskorna i the I-Threes och arbetade med gitarrister med tydliga rock- och bluesinfluenser. Amerikanerna Al Anderson, Don Kinsey och Junior Marvin blev en stor del i Bob Marleys nya och lite rockigare sound.

Turnéer
Nu ensam frontman började Bob Marley att turnera som en galning, varje platta följdes av långa turnéer i bland annat Europa och USA.

Budskap till media
Vid varje skivsläpp tog Bob Marley sig tid till att prata med media, och hade tydliga budskap om jämlikhet och mänskliga rättigheter. Han var en motpol till diskons dekadens, och medierna tog honom varmt till sina hjärtan. Detta hade en klar effekt på reggaemusikens ökade popularitet.

Även om Bob Marley hade koll på det mesta, fick han draghjälp av några slumpmässiga händelser. Eric Claptons rosade cover på I Shot the Sheriff kom lägligt sommaren 1974, och skakade av sig strålglans på Bob Marley som just skulle göra solokarriär. Även mordförsöket i december 1976 påverkade såväl image som låtskrivande i en positiv riktning.

Det är omöjligt att säga om reggaen någonsin kommer att föda en stjärna som Bob Marley igen. Garnett Silk nämndes på 90-talet som en efterträdare, men gick hastigt bort i en olycka 1994. I dag kan jag inte se någon tydlig tronarvinge, utan förutspår att dagens största stjärnor – som Sean Paul, Sizzla och Buju Banton – inte har en chans att slå igenom Bob Marley-style. De saknar helt enkelt hans kombination av karisma, viktiga budskap och förståelse för hur medierna skapar stjärnor.

Vill du läsa mer om Bob Marley rekommenderar jag biografierna Bob Marley – Conquering Lion of Reggae av Stephen Davis och Catch A Fire: The Life Of Bob Marley av Timothy White.

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