Marley is justly regarded as such a musical alchemist.
Chris Jones 2009-01-16
Following the success of his first major crossover album, Catch A Fire, Bob Marley had easily coped with the loss of Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer with his first album as 'Bob Marley And The Wailers', Natty Dread. Recorded on the final leg of that album's promotional tour in the UK (at London's Lyceum) this seminal live document captures almost exactly the point where both roots reggae and Rastafarianism finally entered popular culture.
Capturing the band at the peak of their powers with a set list that held absolutely no low points, another factor which made Live! such a success was the sweet backing vocals of the I Threes (featuring Bob's wife Rita) who had first appeared on Natty Dread. Along with the lithe guitar of Al Anderson and the percussion of Alvin 'Seeco' Patterson, this was a Wailers that could more than handle the lusher, fuller rock reggae that transformed Marley's Rastaman diatribes into pop gold. No one before this had combined both roots and r 'n' b in this way. Just listen to the bluesiness of Burnin' And Lootin'.
While Jah Bob's stock remained fairly low in the USA, here in the UK (and of course in his native Jamaica) he was approaching the status of new messiah. Listen to the way the crowd take over No Woman No Cry and the sheer glee with which they greet Kinky Reggae or I Shot The Sheriff. Remember, at this point, he'd yet to hit the singles charts on these shores, but he'd already won his core audience, uniting both black and white as well as working and middle classes with his songs of universal struggle and religious metaphor.
Rumoured to be released soon in its unedited form, Live! remains a key text in understanding why Marley is justly regarded as such a musical alchemist.