Friday, April 20, 2012


A new documentary, called Marley, follows the life of  the most influential Third World superstar.  With it comes this new soundtrack, that collects music from much of his career, over two discs.  Marley is perhaps the most anthologized performer going, thanks to numerous reissues, and a ridiculous number of compilations from his early days in the 60's.  With his appearances on so many small Jamaican labels, everybody and their dog has had a shot at repackaging every single and album track, plus a seemingly unending supply of out-takes.  Then there are all the deluxe editions of his biggest hit days, with Island records, and a great stream of live concerts.  Add to that dodgy and questionable modern remixes, with overdubbed "guests", and you can end up with an entire Marley section of your collection, numbering in the dozens.  Like, umm, me.

Or, you can do what most of the world has done, and simply buy Legend, the ever-selling greatest hits, and it is a masterful package.  Most North Americans know him from that, and the classics on it.  So, how do you sell a new soundtrack collection, without it duplicating those tracks too much, and making it different enough for even the completists?  It's hard, but I think they've done a pretty decent job here, coming up with a set of songs that may tempt those Legend-owners into grabbing this after they see the film. 

It starts, as it should, in the early days of The Wailers, still an equal partnership with Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, and a nice set of cool stuff, including Simmer Down, Small Axe and Stir It Up.  Then it's a jump to the 70's.  Now, purists will go raving about all the great, pre-Island music that just got leaped over, but really, the story line does pick up at that point, as Marley discovers England and vice-versa.  Now we're getting into the meat, and it's Concrete Jungle, Natty Dread and a live Trenchtown Rock, from the famous Roxy concert.  The set makes good use of live versions, as I'm sure the movie does as well, and the plethora of recordings available makes for a great pacing break between the studio cuts, plus helps out in that alternative-to-Legend quest.

Not everything works.  In the desire to get away from the Big 12 or so hits, the plumbing of some less-than-familiar work hits snags, with a couple of minor and dumb choices.  The track Work, for instance, is assuredly on no-one's mix tape, and a disco-dub mix of Exodus is a waste of space, made especially annoying as it is immediately followed by the sublime, live at the Lyceum version of No Woman, No Cry.  Some cuts are historical, part of the film's progression, especially the live Jammin', not a great version, either in fidelity or performance, but hugely important as it comes from the One Love Peace Concert when Marley got the vicious political rivals Michael Manley and Edward Seaga to come on stage and clasp hands in the middle of the song.

There are the obvious ones of course, as you can't do a proper documentary of Marley without One Love, I Shot The Sheriff, War and Three Little Birds.  But full marks have to go to whoever thought of ending it on the somewhat obscure High Tide or Low Tide, a beautiful number sung by the Wailers trio and found tucked onto the Songs Of Freedom box set.  Here, it's a killer, it's water metaphor a classic, Biblical reference.  Goes right to the soul, it does.  Even if you do have a bunch of Bob Marley already, I can assure you this will give you a couple of hours of needed bliss,with only a couple of tracks to skip.


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