TROJAN BOB MARLEY COVERS BOX SET (TJETD323) - Bob Marley is not only Jamaica's best known Reggae singer, he's become a cultural icon who's admired and revered around the globe. In the words  of some unnamed sage, "if Che Guevara had fronted a rock band, they would have sounded a lot like Bob Marley & The Wailers". The reason for such acclaim have their roots in Marley's musical genius, most certainly, yet at the same time, he spoke on behalf of the common man, and saw his music as a vehicle to not only touch people's hearts and minds, but also affect social change. His rebel philosophy, expressed in songs of resistance like 'Get Up Stand Up', 'Slave Driver', and 'Crazy Baldhead', has made him a hero to freedom fighters the world over, yet such sentiments, although uncompromising, were nevertheless grounded by righteousness, and a deep-seated love of humanity. It was his belief in (and practise of) Rastafari that infused his works with such certainty, and this, coupled with his poetic lyrical ability, made his music utterly compelling. It was varied too, since like Bob Dylan, he made frequent use of Biblical imagery and folklore, yet he was also a ladies man, and wrote some of the best love songs of his generation.

Such versatility, fuelled by religious and social conviction, was to enshrine Marley as a Reggae superstar even before his death in May 1981 at the age of thirty-six. Twenty-five years later, and his life and music remain the benchmarks by which all other Reggae artists are measured. It's a legacy that has been revisited by several generations of musicians already, including five of his own sons, two of his daughters, his widow Rita, and even his mother. Yet, it is the tributes by his peers that tell us most, and confirm the true greatness of his talent.

One of the first songs he wrote, 'Simmer Down', was a smash hit in Jamaica during the early days of Ska, just before Millie roared into the UK charts with 'My Boy Lollipop', and became the first Jamaican act to achieve an international breakthrough. Marley's group the Wailers, formed around a nucleus of himself, Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingstone, were signed to Coxsone Dodd's Studio One label at the time, and would remain so until 1966. Their output for Studio One was varied to say the least, ranging from cover versions of Soul and Pop hits (like 'I'm Still Waiting'), to Gospel, MOR, and then rude boy songs such as 'Rudie Come From Jail', which Cornell Campbell would later reprise as 'Rasta Come From Jail'. 'Put It On' and the bawdy 'Bend Down Low' also date from this period, as does 'Mr Chatterbox', which the Wailers originally recorded as 'Mr Talkative', but Marley later re-voiced for producer Bunny Lee after an altercation with Niney The Observer.

After Leaving Studio One, the Wailers issued their own productions on the Wail'M Soul'M and Tuff Gong labels, as well as recording for Rasta elder, Mortimer Planno, Leslie Kong of Beverleys, Lee 'Scratch' Perry, and American entrepreneur Danny Sims, who commissioned Marley to write material for US singer Johnny Nash. 'Stir It Up' was a sizable hit for Nash on both sides of the Atlantic, whereas other Marley compositions signed to Sims' Cayman Music imprint weren't recorded by either Nash or Marley. One such example is the little-known 'African Lady', which Ken Boothe covers so majestically on Disc 2 of this compilation, together with a heart stopping rendition of 'I Shot The Sheriff' (A song that Eric Clapton took to No.1 on the US Billboard charts in late 1974, and which Jacob Miller and Pluto 'Dat' Shervington attempt to make their own here).

By then, Marley, Tosh and Livingstone had set the Jamaican scene alight with their tracks for Perry, who had first worked with them at Studio One, but now had the mighty Upsetters at his disposal. From these sessions came hits like 'Duppy Conquerer', 'Soul Rebel', 'Don't Rock My Boat', 'Small Axe' and the original versions of 'Kaya', 'Keep On Moving', and 'Sun Is Shining'. This extraordinarily creative phase of the Wailers' career lasted less than a year in total, and ended when Marley left for Sweden to work on a movie soundtrack with Nash. On his return, the three Wailers and members of the Upsetters began recording songs such as 'Trenchtown Rock', 'Screwface', and 'Lively Up Yourself' for their own Tuff Gong label. The latter is one of the most the life-affirming items of the entire Marley catalogue. Few would imagine that Byron Lee & the Dragonaires could recapture the same vibrancy as the Wailers on their version, and yet hearing is believing, and it's no accident why Byron Lee's cut should open proceedings here.

After his adventures with Sims, Perry and Tuff Gong, Marley and the other two Wailers signed to Island Records in 1972. this line-up recorded two highly acclaimed albums - 'Catch A Fire' and 'Burnin'' - before splitting up, and leaving Marley to front a new look Wailers based around the Barrett brothers' rhythm section. 'Slave Driver', 'Stir It Up', and 'Concrete Jungle' all made their appearance on 'Catch A Fire', which Island released in 1973, whereas 'Get Up Stand Up' and 'I Shot The Sheriff' formed a shared centrepiece of their 'Burnin'' album, together with reworked versions of 'Small Axe' and 'Duppy Conqueror'. The original cut of 'Iron Lion Zion' also dates from this period - a song that was later remixed by Island and transformed into a UK hit in 1992, and which Ruddy Thomas sings quite beautifully on Disc 3.

The release of 'Natty Dread' in 1974 marked a watershed in Marley's career, as it was the first he recorded without input from either Tosh or Livingston. This album and the live recording resulting from the 'Natty Dread' tour - 'Live At The Lyceum' - won Marley and the Wailers many new fans, and with Island's help, finally began to deliver the wider audience their talents deserved. Songs like 'Natty Dread', 'Talkin' Blues', 'Rebel Music (Three O Clock Road Block)', 'So Jah Seh', 'No Woman No Cry', and reworkings of 'Lively Up Yourself' and 'Bend Down Low' conspired to make this one of Marley's best-ever albums, as evidenced by the large numbers of other artists wishing to version them. Jacob Miller and Pluto Shervington are again in superb form on theirs, whilst the unfortunately named Sambo Jim takes an irreverent view of Rastas on his. Listen out too, for interpretations of 'Natty Dread' tracks by Jackie Edwards, Ernie Smith, and UK group, the Maroons, whose cover of 'Talkin' Blues' was an especial favourite of the Wailers themselves.

From 1974/1975 onwards, Marley and his band went from strength to strength, releasing a total of five further studio albums prior to the singers death six years later. Johnny Clarke, whose covers of Marley's songs for Bunny Lee invariably featured the playing of Wailer's bandleader, Aston 'Family Man' Barrett, does a magnificent job of 'Crazy Baldhead', taken from the Marley's 'Rastaman Vibration' album. Others such as 'Is This Love', 'Natural Mystic', 'Jammin'', and 'Time Will Tell' come from the two albums recorded in London, after the assassination attempt made on Marley in December 1976. After completing 'Exodus' and 'Kaya', the Wailers toured Japan, Australia and Zimbabwe, as well as Europe and America, and then released one final album - 'Uprising', containing the disc-friendly, world-wide hit 'Could You Be Loved' - before Marley was taken ill, and eventually succumbed to melanoma cancer.

That his songs continue to sound so timeless, despite some of them having been first recorded over forty years ago, is testament to Bob Marley's gifts as a writer, and it's this, rather than his own career as a recording and performing artist, that is being celebrated here above anything else. It's little wonder, hearing the range of songs and also subjects covered by the artists on this compilation, that the Wailers have been described as 'Jamaica's answer to the Beatles'. Marley's melodic sense is never far from the surface after all, and much of their material has now rightfully passed into legend, and not least among dedicated Reggae fans.

John Masouri

DISC 1

DISC 2

DISC 3

Lively Up Yourself
Byron Lee and The Dragonaires
Get Up Stand Up
Ruddy Thomas
I Shot The Sheriff
Pluto Shervington
Roadblock
Jacob Miller and The Inner Circle
Talkiní Blues
The Maroons
No Woman No Cry
Ken Boothe
Easy Skanking
Johnny Clarke
Is This Love
Michael Spence
Kaya
Ronnie Davis
Keep On Moving
John Holt
Slave Driver Dub
Sly and Robbie
Crazy Baldhead
Johnny Clarke
Sun Is Shining
Delroy Wilson
Curfew
Jacob Miller and The Inner Circle
Natty Dread
Pluto Shervington
Mr. Big
Augustus Pablo and The Inner Circle
Donít Rock My Boat
Max Romeo

Natty Dread
Jacob Miller and The Inner Circle
No Woman No Cry
Byron Lee and The Dragonaires
Iím Still Waiting
Delroy Wilson
African Lady
Ken Boothe
Put It On
Derrick Morgan
Mr. Chatterbox
Johnny Clarke
Rasta Come From Jail
Cornel Campbell
I Shot The Sheriff
Ken Boothe
So Jah Seh
Jackie Edwards
Natty Dread
Sambo Jim
Duppy Conqueror
Ken Lazarus
Stir It Up
Jackie Edwards
Screwface
Cornel Campbell
Natural Mystic
Horace Andy
Concrete Jungle
Cornel Campbell
Rastaman Chant
Ronnie Davis

I Shot The Sheriff
Jacob Miller and The Inner Circle
Bend Down Low
Ernie Smith
Small Axe
Beres Hammond and Zap Pow
Exodus
Ruddy Thomas
Could You Be Loved
Ernest Wilson
Buffalo Soldier
Mafia & Fluxy
Iron Lion Zion
Ruddy Thomas
Nice Time
Delroy Wilson
Jamminí
Michael Spence
War
Killer Man Jarrett
Natural Mystic
Mafia and Fluxy
Time Will Tell
Johnny Clarke
Redemption Song
Cornel Campbell
Concrete Jungle
Dennis Brown
Donít Rock My Boat
Glen Ricks
Soul Rebel
Cornel Campbell
Rainbow Country
Dennis Brown

Time - 61:40

Time - 59:02

Time - 62:01

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