A collection strong enough to stand apart from its parent documentary.
Lloyd Bradley 2012
Selecting two-dozen songs to sum up Bob Marley’s life, as a soundtrack to Kevin McDonald’s meticulously produced documentary Marley, was never going to be easy, and the choice was wisely left to immediate family members and former Island Records boss Chris Blackwell. Sensibly, they’ve opted for symbolic selections rather than assembling yet another ‘best of’, resulting in a genuinely interesting and, thanks to four tracks unique to this album, at times surprising set of songs.
From the rollicking ska of Judge Not to a generous four songs from Uprising, different chapters are illustrated as the parochial (Big Tree, I Shot the Sheriff, Concrete Jungle); the lover (Stir it Up, Mellow Mood, Three Little Birds); the roots rebel (Crazy Baldheads, Natty Dread, Exodus); and the international revolutionary (Get Up Stand Up, War, Redemption Song).
Quite correctly, Marley the Rock Star is covered by live tracks. No Woman No Cry and I Shot the Sheriff are from Live at the Lyceum, the best and the best-recorded example of Marley doing what he did best. War is from Live! At The Rainbow, and has never been available on a record before; while Trenchtown Rock (from Live at the Roxy) gently untangles a complex arrangement to get it across immediately.
The gem is the previously unreleased nine-minute version of Jammin’, recorded at the One Love Peace Concert in Kingston, in 1978. It’s notable not just for the edgily restrained performance or the quality of the recording, but the history being made as Marley brings the two bitterly opposed leaders of Jamaica’s warring political parties on to stage to shake hands: "…show the people everything’s alright… show the people you’re gonna unite…"
The other specials are a remix of Crazy Baldhead, heavy on the bass for a real air of menace, and the Kindread Spirit Dub Mix of Exodus reinventing the tune as a pumping dance track, yet keeping it appropriately woozy and pointing towards Addis with sharp horn phrases.
This OST also finds room for the relative rare High Tide Low Tide from the original Jamaican Catch a Fire, and the usually underappreciated Roots Rock Reggae, astonishingly his only single to break the Billlboard Hot 100.
As a Marley collection, the set is strong enough to stand apart from the film, which is always the mark of the very best soundtracks.