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Bob Marley and the Wailers

Legend: the Best of Bob Marley and the Wailers [DVD]

(Island; US DVD: 29 Jul 2003; UK DVD: 6 Oct 2003)

No other Jamaican singer has colonized the consciousness of the record buying public quite like Bob Marley. Marley became not only a superstar in the ‘70s and very early ‘80s; he also became the international ambassador for Jamaican reggae music, and remains the only real household name in Jamaican music. And although other Jamaican artists over the years have broken into the worldwide mainstream (Jimmy Cliff, Peter Tosh, Buju Banton), none have ever eclipsed what Bob Marley contributed to the genre.

A natural companion piece to the always-popular Bob Marley collection, Legend, this DVD is a great introduction to Marley for the uninitiated, although it ultimately would have benefited from a more scholarly approach to Marley’s life.

Containing many, if not all of Marley’s music videos, plus a feature length documentary, Legend: The Best of Bob Marley and the Wailers is not short on content.

The 90-minute documentary, “Time Will Tell”, is a sort of Marley cocktail, containing no true narrative structure although it attempts to tell a linear story. It is narrated solely by Marley himself (make sure you use the subtitles), through various interviews recorded throughout the years. The sound and picture quality of the interviews varies greatly and unfortunately a lot of what Marley has to say is a little vague. There’s a lot of formless talk of people coming together, about the spiritual side of the music, about Jah Rastafari, and well, you get the picture. These interview segments are broken up with footage of the Wailers playing live and occasionally some 16mm footage of Trenchtown, and schoolyard soccer matches.

All in all, “Time Will Tell” is an interesting view, but the BBC’s “The Bob Marley Story - Caribbean Nights” is a much more comprehensive film on Marley and a more informative one also. If your goal is to simply get a feel for the man, “Time Will Tell” will provide that for you, but if your interest in Marley runs deeper, “Caribbean Nights” is the better film.

The meat of the disc, however, is the live performances and they are a real treasure. Marley was a first class performer and the Wailers were very tight live. Footage and performances from the famous Live at the Rainbow concert from ‘77 as well as early footage from BBC’s The Old Grey Whistle Test from ‘73 illustrate the purely hypnotic power of Bob Marley and the Wailers live shows. If that wasn’t enough, there are no less than ten “bonus songs” featuring live recordings from Exeter, and Germany’s Rockpalast festival among others.

Legend is a beautiful DVD, but it benefits greatly from the fact that Marley’s material was so strong, and I can’t help but wish that Island was able to put together a better documentary feature for such an important figure to not only the music world, but to the Island Records roster as well. That being said, the fact that Island saw fit to include a documentary at all is still beneficial to the collection, as it would have been very easy for Island to release only what was included on the Legend CD, and there seems to have been an honest effort here to provide some value to Marley’s extensive fan base. It’s not a flawless collection, but it’s a damn fine one nonetheless, and one that reggae fans should enjoy immensely. Other features include a “personal playlist” which allows the viewer to choose which order the DVD plays a selection of songs in, and exclusive web content for your DVD-ROM.

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