[21 May 2002]
To commemorate the 20th anniversary of his death last year, Robert Nesta Marley releases and greatest hits collection popped up periodically in record stores, but for most people, the greatest hits were superbly captured with the release of Legend back in 1984. The album remains the biggest selling reggae album of all time. Now, this past February saw the album re-released as a remastered double-album deluxe edition, including remixes and a few bonus tracks not on the original. A staple of most record collections, the record is a testament that good music is good music is good music, regardless of time, place or situation. The only sad aspect is that he would only be 56 had he still been living today.
Starting off with Disc One, the first track sets the album off on an easy, relaxing course. “Is This Love”, one of the later hits recorded in 1977 on his Kaya, sounds just as relevant and fresh now as it did then. And what can be said that hasn’t been already said about the classic “No Woman No Cry”? Recorded at the Lyceum Ballroom in London, this song encapsulates the political message with the same infectious rhythms and beats, culminating with the audience joining him in song. “Get Up Stand Up” fits equally into the same niche, but comes off as a bit more militant. Even in his political messages though, the upbeat and uplifting, spiritual quality to the songs shines through, particularly on “Buffalo Soldier” on the closing “Woe yoe yoe, woe woe yoe yoe/Woe yoe yoe yo, yo yo woe yo, woe yo yoe”.
The first disc does have some bonus tracks that only appeared on the original British cassette version, including the spliff happy party atmosphere of “Easy Skanking”. The song is a bit of a disappointment though, seeming a bit out of place with its less than impressive arrangements and definitely out of place given the quality of the other songs. But such is the case with deluxe editions at times. The other bonus track, “Punky Reggae Party”, sounds similar to what the Clash were doing on its Sandanista album, mixing both British and Jamaican rhythms. Produced by Lee Perry, the song even mentions the Clash as well as the Jam and the Damned.
Another trait of the songs is that while all were recorded in the 1970s except for the stunning “Redemption Song”, recently performed by Wyclef Jean at the America: A Tribute To Heroes telethon, the songs don’t have the sounds of most seventies albums. The various touches of organs and guitar effects are minimal, except for a brief instance near the finish of “Stir It Up”. “One Love/People Get Ready”, “Jamming” and “I Shot the Sheriff” are other gems found here, making it difficult to select highlights from a highlights heavy record.
Disc Two contains several remixes released as singles throughout 1984 and 1985. While there are five various remixers contained on the record, there are mainly two which are of significance. Julian Mendelsohn and Eric “E.T.” Thorngren are responsible for the bulk, including “Jamming”, “Coming in from the Cold”, “Could You Be Loved” and “Exodus”. Together here as a complete set for the first time, the songs aren’t the contemporary idea of a “remix” but more just a slightly altered version to near perfection songs. “One Love/People Get Ready” is presented here in extended and dubbed version, but nothing particularly of note can be discerned aside from the obvious treatments. Only “Lively Up Yourself” is the collector’s gem, previously unreleased. Most of the songs tend to go one to two minutes over the original song.
A small bonus is also in the album’s presentation with lyrics, liner notes and picture-heavy sleeves. Much information is provided along with several unreleased photos and personal pictures, which creates a sense of completeness. On the whole this album is one of the few you can play start to finish and repeat. A great collection and a layman’s substitute for Prozac all rolled into one.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/marleybob-legend/