Bob Marley & The Wailers The Real Sound of Jamaica Review

Released 2012.  

BBC Review

A compilation for completists only.

Lloyd Bradley 2012

There was going to be a great big Wailers-shaped hole in the celebrations for Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of independence had somebody not put out a commemorative compilation. But it isn’t necessarily the case that any Wailers is better than no Wailers at all.

Much of this collection, itself first released in 1997, came out a few years ago as Rainbow Country. And time doesn’t seem to have improved it much.

It kicks off hopefully, living up to the title’s billing, with the original Jamaican release of Concrete Jungle. It’s a slower, gutsier, earthy reggae take on the tune, making a far more credible statement about life in said jungle than the quasi-love song it became.

An early version of Put It On is another highlight. It’s delivered as almost a Rastaman chant, making complete sense of so simple a song. And Thank You Lord is the gorgeous piece of rocksteady first issued in Jamaica, before a jaunty reggae version came out in the UK.

In each case, these are straightforward approaches that aren’t remotely concerned with global marketing, full of spirit and spontaneity.

However, it’s a dangerously short step between straightforward and undercooked, and too much here sounds like demos or rehearsals, or works in progress. Soul Rebels, Reaction and Don’t Rock My Boat appear unfinished; Mellow Mood must be a demo; and Redder Than Red seems like it’s being written there and then.

A few tracks appear to have been rebalanced to bring Marley’s voice to the front, but that serves to further undermine what’s being presented.

Like Rainbow Country, there are no production credits whatsoever in the booklet, with the popular theory being these are tunes the Wailers were working out themselves under Lee Perry’s guidance, who then went on to properly produce quite a few of them. In one or two instances it’s interesting hearing the song build as it progresses and participants start to get into it.

There’s one genuine rarity – Power More Power, which is Satisfy My Soul with different words on top of it. But there isn’t nearly enough here for anybody other than the Marley/Wailers completist.

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