Monday, February 16, 2009

February 16: Bob Marley & The Wailers, "Exodus"

Artist: Bob Marley & The Wailers
Album: Exodus
Year: 1977
Label: Tuff Gong

In recent years, the music of Robert Nesta Marley has almost become cliche. Thanks to advertising campaigns, most people no longer remember that he was perhaps the finest protest song writer ever. Along with his backing band, The Wailers, he created one of the greatest records ever with 1977's Exodus.

The title can be seen as quite intentional as the record was recorded a few short weeks after a nearly successful attempt to take the life of Marley. Exodus is understandably somewhat more reflective than a majority of the Bob Marley catalog, and it would also be his only recording for nearly three years. Even though some of the songs are more introspective and personal, the title track is as good a "statement" song as has ever been recorded. Two of Marley's most beloved songs are also found on this album, "Three Little Birds" and "One Love/People Get Ready."

The record slowly fades in, with the familiar "ska" sound beaming rhythmically from the guitar of Mr. Marley himself. The record then turns starkly political with the duo of "So Much Things To Say" and "Guiltiness." This pairing of songs shows just how brilliant a lyricist lived inside Marley. Both songs speak of ways in which Jamaicans and African-Americans had been oppressed over the years and how one must be careful not to forget their past. Along with this theme, there is also an overlying theme of the need for strong community. This is emphasized with the immortal line, "...when the rain falls, it don't fall on one mans' house..."

Musically, the record is everything that reggae is supposed to be. Laid back, rhythmically strict sounds, with a small horn section to fill in the gaps. Much like the blues, even when singing of loss and trouble, the music still has an ironically care free vibe. As is always the case, when Bob Marley needs a bit of "extra firepower," he calls upon the finest backing vocalists ever, the I-Threes. When his voice blends with theirs, it is absolute perfection.

Moods from relaxing under the sun, to marching for your rights are all flawlessly conveyed throughout Exodus. While a bit restrained, Bob Marley is still able to pen simple, timeless lyrics and places them perfectly over the smooth, chilled-out music that is reggae. While many people look to Bob Dylan as the "best" protest song writer, many (including I), would argue that Bob Marley is far more deserving of the title. Named the best album of 1977 by countless magazines, Exodus is a key album for any and every collection.

Standout tracks: "So Much Things To Say," "Exodus," and "Turn Your Lights Down Low."

No comments: