Manna for Bob-heads everywhere.
Jack Smith 2004-03-11
For the majority of the world Bob Marley and the Wailers breakthrough came in 1973, the year 'Catch A Fire' launched the band onto the international stage. Yet, as is evidenced across these 3 CDs (the first in a 3 volumes), Marley's genius was fully formed long before Island Records arrived on the scene. Bearing the first fruits of a licensing deal between JAD Records (who own the masters to an incredible 211 tracks cut between 1967 and 1972) and Universal, Grooving Kingston 12 is proof positive of a band on top of their game.
Kicking off with the original version of "Concrete Jungle" (minus the rock guitars supplanted by Chris Blackwell) this is a raw and righteous sound. Marley sounds both indignant and soulful. "I dont know what 'appiness is", he laments "I don't know what sweet caress is, I'm always laughing like the clown."
CD 1 also includes the original version of "Lively Up Yourself", where Marley breaks into Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready", emphasising the relationship between civil rights in Jamaica and the United States. (These were, after all, populations separated only by the destination of slave ships.) The Wailer's adaptability is highlighted in a rendition of "Pour Down The Sunshine", where Marley's falsetto mimics exotic bird calls and the backing vocals are seemingly torn from some long lost Supremes record.
Thequality remains high throughout the collection. Amidst various dubs and versions - including fledging appearances from the likes of U Roy there are the classic singles "Kaya", "African Herbsman", "Small Axe", "Keep On Moving" and "Sun Is Shining." All are arguably stronger than material from The Wailer's commercial peak in the mid-to-late 70s.
Most extraordinary of all are the eight acoustic numbers rescued from a 1971 session in Sweden (!), the previously unreleased JAD cut of "I'm Still Waiting" and two versions of the previously unheard "Music Gonna Teach." Manna for Bob-heads everywhere.
Marley's gift for communication remains paramount throughout, here is an artist who turned tales of his own backyard into a universalmessage and sound. Grooving Kingston 12 is an essential purchase for anyone wanting to understand the roots of reggae, roll on volumes 2 and 3.