Bob Marley and The Wailers



by joshuatree EMERITUS
January 9th, 2008 | 88 replies

Release Date: 1977 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Reggae's poster child has a career beyond "Legend". Who knew.

It’s sort of a shame that Bob Marley’s best selling album isn’t exactly that -- an album that actually runs like an album. Legend has sold over twelve million copies in the United States alone, and has secured a spot in places as diverse as your aunt’s dusty basement or on the top of a pot-smoking college student’s record collection. But it’s just a greatest hits compilation, and the character and free-natured spirit that truly defined Marley is missing from the fourteen songs that occupy my vinyl version of the album. So if you can’t get the true Marley experience from Legend, where do you turn?

But let’s interrupt for a bit of backstory. Exodus, commonly considered as Marley’s opus, was released in 1977, after Marley’s biggest commercial success in America, the mostly unremarkable Rastaman Vibration. Marley finally managed to grow from being the cult hero of hazy-eyed frat boys to being a legitimate star, and easily the most successful and identifiable reggae star at the time. But the biggest event of this time period was in December of 1976. Two days before Marley was set to play the Smile Jamaica concert, which was organized by the prime minister of said country, Marley and his wife were gunned down inside his house. The two were seriously injured from the attack, but they were alive. And that’s all Marley needed. Two days later, Marley played the show injured.

If you needed another reason why this man is considered one of the greatest artists of all time, then there’s the music. Exodus features a rejuvenated Marley, exuberant and happy to be alive. If Marley was feeling any gloomy thoughts about his near-death, they sure don’t show through here, and it sure doesn’t seem as if he was trying to confirm his heroic status with pretentiousness. Instead, Exodus features a laid-back, stoned atmosphere that’s simultaneously funky and political. In fact, Marley might not even be the star here; that reward goes to the rhythm section of the Wailers. Bassist Aston Barrett plays a liquid-y bass that’s never overly technical, but it provides a dark, flat feel to the album. This, with brother Carlton Barrett’s superb drumming notwithstanding, leaves plenty of room for Marley and guitarist Junior Marvin to wander freely. The random soloing in “So Much Things to Say” provides texture to Marley’s foreboding political lyrics and impassioned vocal performance. His droning, distorted guitar solo in “Heathen” is also the closet Exodus ever gets to being frantic. Added production elements, such as the trumpets in the seven-minute centerpiece and musical call-to-arms “Exodus” and the ballad-like keyboard work in “Turn Your Lights Down Low” provides a change of pace from the traditional reggae norm.

But this is still very much Marley’s album, and it shines through with his vocal talent and his lyrical content. Unlike other Marley albums, Exodus shies away from the cryptic story-telling of previous albums and tells much more straight-forward stories. “Exodus”, like I stated previously, is a call for change, told most obviously in the verses: “Open up your eyes/look inside/are you happy with the life you’re living?” Marley touches on religious politics again with the transcendent closer “One Love/People Get Ready” and with the most rock-based track on the album, “Heathen”. But most of the time Marley simply tries to get away from the political messages that nearly almost took his life. “Jammin’” is a sultry sex tune, with a pulsating bass beat and soulful piano lines to add a fresh smell of nostalgia to the song, almost like a reggae Frank Sinatra, only with more of a funk. “Three Little Birds” holds the title of simply being the most uplifting song ever, and bonus track “Punky Reggae Party” takes notice of musical trends happening elsewhere in the world. Hell, the whole second half provides five of the greatest songs Marley ever written, and it might be the best side of vinyl ever created. Vocally, Marley provides almost a minimalist approach, never trying to reach out or prove his abilities with falsettos or whatever other vocal techniques people use. He just sings the songs, and he provides more emotion with his straight-forward vocal technique than anything Chris Martin or Bono could ever provide.

But that’s the thing with Exodus -- it’s just so different. It’s undoubtedly a classic album, and Marley’s legacy still lives on, whether its mentions of his name in movies such as Knocked Up or I Am Legend, or if it’s Time Magazine naming Exodus the best album of the twentieth century. But Marley never really defined the music he was representing. His style of reggae isn’t really what was dominant in Jamaica at the time, and it doesn’t really sound a whole lot like any reggae that came before it. Exodus is much more rooted in the blues and soul, has a little pinch of the British rock that much of his fanbase was also listening to, with a reggae façade thrown on top. But if Exodus was straight reggae, it probably wouldn’t be as good as it is. While Wal-Mart may be content with stocking their “M” section with twenty copies of Legend, fans who might be looking for the true experience must buy this. Hell, any fan of music should buy this. Exodus is an album I can say is a classic, without any hesitation or second thoughts. It is that good.

Recent reviews by this author
Beach Fossils Clash the TruthBuke and Gase General Dome
Beach House BloomSun Kil Moon Among the Leaves
ASAP Rocky Live.Love.A$AP.Red Hot Chili Peppers I'm With You
user ratings (577)

Comments:Add a Comment 
January 10th 2008


I'm editing some of it, but comments would be appreciated.

January 10th 2008


Album Rating: 5.0

thanks for the review, I'll be buying this soon. Been meaning to get into marley for a while now.This Message Edited On 01.09.08

January 10th 2008


This is probably his best album.

January 10th 2008


This is one of those albums that I can just put on at any time and enjoy. Good review as well.

January 10th 2008


Yeah, I don't have to be in a particular mood to enjoy this, like I have to be for Wilco or Animal Collective. I can enjoy this at anytime.

January 10th 2008


I love Bob

January 10th 2008


Yeah how has this not already been reviewed :confused:?
You did it justice though, good review.

dub sean
January 10th 2008


Album Rating: 4.5

Decent review, though I disagree that Rastaman Vibration is 'unremarkable.' Bob is my favorite artist though, so that has something to do with it. Natural Mystic is currently competing as my favorite Marley track ever, though it's a tough competition. I'll vote...

January 10th 2008


Album Rating: 4.5

Good review, incredible album. There isn't a bad track on here, and its the perfect starting point for people who want to venture beyond his GH album, and find more of Bob's undeniable genious work.

January 10th 2008


I can't believe this wasn't reviewed already.
My thoughts exactly.

January 10th 2008


Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Great album!

the heathen rocks all

January 10th 2008


I own this on vinyl, even though I've never listened to it.

January 10th 2008


^^you definitely should.

though I disagree that Rastaman Vibration is 'unremarkable.'

its just average for me. whenever i put it on i realize i could be listening to catch a fire or kaya or something, and i put it away.

dub sean
February 2nd 2008


Album Rating: 4.5

that's how it is for me with Kaya....but Catch a Fire is amazing.

January 4th 2010


Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Good and fair review of a quite simply stunning album. This is my favourite Bob Marley album and it sounds as fresh, majestic, inspiring and as timeless today as it did when it was first released in 1977. If this was the only album that Bob ever did, hell, if "Exodus" was the only song he ever wrote, he would IMO still be a legendary genius and an all time great! As it is he literally had dozens of fantastic songs, a good number of which (at least 9) are on this album. To me the first part/side (the first 5 songs) of this album is the best side to be found in any genre of music, period. Frankly, anyone who does not have this album in their record collection - and listen to it regularly - should have their head examined (hee hee).

October 6th 2010


Such a classic. So proud to own this one on vinyl.

October 23rd 2010


"the mostly unremarkable Rastaman Vibration"

CRAZZZZY!! Insanity, Rastaman Vibration is an absolute classic to the core. This is just an insane thing to say. Who the Cap Fit? War? Johnny Was? Positive VIbration? Crazy Baldhead? Rat Race? Jah Live for God's sake? Everything else on the album? For this alone this review is embarrassing and really calls into question the integrity of the reviewers.

To other reviewers, Bob Marley has zero unremarkable albums. They are all masterpieces. Every album, every song.

June 27th 2011


Album Rating: 5.0


March 30th 2012


Album Rating: 5.0

Definitely a 'desert island disc'.

If you're a reggae fan, I'd also recommend checking out Burning Spear and Toots and the Maytals.

March 30th 2012


Album Rating: 3.5

exodus are better

You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile


Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Site Copyright 2005-2019
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy