Review Summary: Marley goes (somewhat) militant in an effort to preach African solidarity.
The entity that Bob Marley
has grown to become seems to embody at least a few lasting traits with those touched by his iconic music. Whether you equate his spirit to simply that of a carefree pothead or to a voice of change and positivity amongst the human race, it’s all in the interpretation. That was one thing that Marley always seemed fantastic at – relaying one message but then conveying it in another manner. In a sense, to create a strong, culturally significant message all the while backed by that characteristically laid-back Rasta attitude. While it’s true that a lot of Bob Marley and the Wailers
’ music has become synonymous with marijuana – and for good reason: 1978’s Kaya
was barely more than a relaxed homage to the sticky green stuff – there were records made, like Survival
that seemed a direct response to critiques that he was losing his voice of change.
There was, however, a Ying to Bob’s relaxed Yang, and this came in social, political, and somewhat militant tones scattered throughout his work. Kaya’s recording and theme was pretty understandable – Marley had had an assassination attempt a few years prior, the result being the iconic Exodus
album, which expressed hope while crying for change. In Kaya, Marley found a purely laid-back and positive outlet for his music, reflecting what he was trying to attain at that point in his life. Unfortunately, criticism comes from many avenues, and eventually his followers found his stance on a united Africa and changes for his people fading from view, and urged Marley to pick back up the banner. Bob Marley and the Wailers responded with Kaya’s follow-up, 1979’s Survival
, a record which possessed a somewhat different theme and tone, though Marley never seems to lose his overwhelming sense of hope.
In Survival, Bob and co. probably offer up the most militant approach to their sound at any point during their career. Evident from the disc’s opener So Much Trouble in the World
and directly stressed on tracks like Zimbabwe
, Top Rankin’
, Babylon System
and Africa Unite
, there is an urgent cry for unity in Africa. Conceptually, all this can seem a little intimidating or off-putting. This is remedied well in the band’s composition skills, pairing those urgent cries with the stereotypical Bob Marley vibe. Lyrically and musically, Marley still tries to maintain that his message is a still a universal one, making for a much more reliable recording than the disc’s concept may suggest. All of this may admittedly only be apparent to ravenous fans, while casual listeners will probably find the usual laid back sound common to the spirit of the man.