...A convincing case can be made for 1977’s 'Exodus' being top of the pile.
Angus Taylor 2007
There’s a sense of splitting hairs when assessing Bob Marley albums. From 1975 to 1980 he exercised a level of long-player quality control unheard of in both singles-based reggae and popular music altogether. Yet a convincing case can be made for 1977’s Exodus being top of the pile.
Widely considered to be his best work, no other album has as many tracks featured on Legend; the biggest selling reggae record of all time. Exodus was also recorded between two key events in the Marley story; the assassination attempt and the One Love Peace Concert, marking his transformation from rebel to superstar in the eyes of the world.
Fittingly, it’s an album of two halves; opening with the slow fade-up of ''Natural Mystic'', followed by the exuberant ''So Much Things To Say''; with Bob’s reggae-scat on the final verse mimicking the ‘nonsense talk’ all around him. ''Guiltiness'' and ''The Heathen'' explore darker territory, before the glorious primordial shuffle of the title track.
''Jamming'' signals the change in tone, followed by ''Waiting In Vain'' (how to write the perfect love song using a few deft strokes) and the Clapton-esque ''Turn Your Lights Down Low'' (how not to). The album closes with the uplifting ''Three Little Birds'', and Curtis Mayfield adaptation ''One Love''.
Exodus was book-ended by the less well-received Rastaman Vibration and Kaya, which, oddly, both possess the one thing Exodus doesn’t; a sense of unity across the tracks. While the earlier songs could easily have ended up on Kaya (the sessions overlapped) the later ones sound like they came from a different session altogether.
So if you like an album to be a complete whole, try the blunted production of Kaya, the politically-savvy Survival, or the maturity of Uprising. For Bob’s greatest song-writing, un-tempered by Peter, Bunny or Scratch, Exodus is king.