Review Summary: The final offering from The Wailers unit ends on a good note, ringing out the style that Marley would later take world-wide.
Before Bob Marley soared to international fame with his second incarnation, Bob Marley & the Wailers
, the trio that started it all was busy quietly paving the way for future success. Bob Marley, Bunny Livingston, and Peter Tosh, collectively known (with the help of backing musicians) as The Wailers
were - often without current recognition or distinction between Marley himself – responsible for a myriad of classics, first gaining mass in the band’s home country of Jamaica, then billowing forth upon the population of the U.K., North America, Europe, and beyond.
It’s unfortunate that Livingston and Tosh seem to fly under the radar with the likes of Marley fans who can simply recite a few verses of Jamming
or One Love/People Get Ready
. The irony is that a lot of classic “Marley” moments that the general music lover population can recall came from the unit under the Wailer’s
banner, with more than several tracks on the four albums in the band’s discography being credited to a member other than Bob. With this incarnation’s final outing, Burnin’
(before Livingston and Tosh departed for their own solo careers, and Marley changed moniker’s to include himself and his backing band) the unit leaves with several notable highlights. In terms of the writing workload, this album isn’t very different from the previous three excursions, though Marley seems to take more general control this time around. The powerful and memorable opener, Get Up, Stand Up
was co-written by Marley and Tosh, and serves as one of the band’s most memorable tracks. Livingston’s relatively stale Hallelujah Time
seems to recall a gospel spirit, which for one reason or another seems to clash with the rest of the record. This brief stutter-step is followed strongly, however, with another fan-favourite in I Shot the Sheriff
. Though it would be Eric Clapton who would be originally responsible for bringing this song overseas with his cover, the Wailers
version would soon follow in popularity. Burnin’ and Lootin’
begins with a somewhat uncharacteristically ominous intro, continuing to ring out a notably darker than usual tone to fit the songs lyrical matter. The band is still able to accomplish this feat without taking their trademark groove out of the music, something few bands have been able to blueprint equally. The first half of Burnin’
closes with the catchy Put It On
, a track that doesn’t blow the listener away, but seems to encapsulate the slower, groovy melodies that make up the disc. This half is the stronger of the two, possessing more hits and a better atmosphere than the second.
It was always impressive how The Wailers
were able to use their roots reggae messages and couple them with positive, uplifting music. This remains one of the band’s (and undoubtedly Marley’s next project’s) most enthralling features, continuing to move words of peace and positive change to each generation who stumble upon them. Side two to this disc has a slightly weaker feel than the first, as previously mentioned, but still retains the overall qualities that made the majority of the band’s music accessible to a diverse fan-base. Kicking off the half is Small Axe
, a song reasonably accepted as a Marley classic, but falls slightly shorter than needed to really impress this reviewer. This song follows the roots reggae (or semi-militant tones mixing with peaceful songs of harmony) format of the album, as well as three of the four others on this side. Though much of the music is appreciated for Marley’s lyrical content rather than the complexity of the composition, the layering and multi-tracking on this disc are quite impressive. Upon first listen of a song like Livingston’s contribution Pass It On
, one might be pulled in by the smooth groove of the melody, and be satisfied with that alone. Underneath the more conventional playing lies a myriad of guitar bits, organ additions, percussion pieces and ghostly backing vocals. The truth is, a lot of these songs are a lot denser than given credit. Duppy Conqueror
is another notable Wailers
piece, and one of the tracks to stand out on side two. Tosh’s One Foundation
echoes the groups various cries for a sense of togetherness, though lacks the lyrical ability that Marley and even to an extent Livingston possessed here. Rastaman Chant
is pretty recognisable amongst fans, stemming from a traditional arrangement. This final song seems to serve well as a closer, with its dull pace and vocals, though lacks much of the energy that keeps this album moving.
is not the greatest record that these iconic reggae-men put out, though it does an excellent job at displaying their consistency. All the music may not jump out at you and take hold, but it will leave you with a peaceful smile on your face. The spirit of The Wailers
rings true on this record, something the band never seemed to lose. The album, in terms of quality, fittingly finds itself in the middle of the classic Catch a Fire
and the semi-recycled Rasta Revolution
, the first outing as Bob Marley & the Wailers
. This is far more accessible and consistent than the album to follow, but for a final offering from Livingston and Tosh it comes up significant short compared to its predecessor. The record is definitely worth a listen for reggae fans or music fans looking to foray into the genre alike.