To accompany the release of Kevin MacDonald’s upcoming Bob “Tuff Gong” Marley biopic Marley, Island are releasing a collection of songs from and inspired by the film. With a formidable number of retrospective collections for Bob Marley & the Wailers already available (not to mention Legend, the best selling reggae album of all time) it may seem pointless to release yet another. However, as with MacDonald’s documentary, this release proves to scratch beneath the surface of the man a little more than its predecessors have.
Although most of the fare on offer here has been previously heard elsewhere, there are a few hidden gems to be found. The pre-Island era tracks offer an insight into the early musical potential and growth of Bob, especially Small Axe and Mellow Mood which point to the rootsy pop sound that would make Bob the Third World’s first superstar. Meanwhile, the inclusion of live cuts gives a glimpse into the formidable presence Bob had on stage and the energy emitted from The Wailers during their extended jams. Of particular note is the previously unreleased recording of Jammin’ from 1978’s One Love Peace Concert. The energy of the performance is palpable, with Bob on striking form as the possessed reggae prophet giving it his all. Around the sixth minute Bob requests the presence of bitter political rivals Michael Manley and Edward Seaga to join hands, a gesture which went some way towards restoring peace to a divided Jamaica. While on paper this may seem like political showboating, listening to the recording puts such suspicions firmly to rest. You can audibly hear Bob smiling and revelling in the music as The Wailers keep the good vibes burning on through the night. It is such treasured moments as these that remind us of Bob’s all-encompassing philosophy that all ailments could be healed through the power of music and love, and of his dream for a united world.
As for the hits on the soundtrack, many of them are from across Bob’s career such as Stir It Up, No Woman, No Cry and Redemption Song. These are positioned alongside noteworthy, but oft neglected album tracks such as Concrete Jungle and Real Situation. Overall this is a decent and varied collection of songs, the only real false note being the Kindred Spirit dub remix of Exodus where the original track soon becomes lost amongst dance beats and trance keyboards. Will this replace Legend as the go-to introduction to Bob Marley & The Wailers? Probably not, but it is certainly a compelling selection of tracks that present a balanced portrait of the man behind the music. If you haven’t got a Bob Marley & The Wailers album in your collection, you could certainly do a lot worse than Marley.