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Bob Marley and the Wailers - Soul Rebels Print E-mail
Tuesday, 16 November 2004

Bob Marley and the Wailers

Soul Rebels
format: DualDisc
label: Silverline
release year: 2004
performance: 7.5
sound 5
reviewed by: Charles Andrews

Image This is not new music from the Rasta Prophet, and I say that of necessity because even though Bob Marley’s been gone 23 years, there’s no telling what might pop up tomorrow. L.A. Marley authority Roger Steffens co-produced a triple-triple-double CD release on the JAD label a few years back (three more were subsequently added) of individual tracks that were unheard outside Jamaica. Marley sang and played and composed nearly every waking moment, it seems, and if he wasn’t recording it, someone else was. Steffens’ JAD material (now sadly out of print) was stunningly revelatory in its consistent superb quality of material. While most top artists’ earlier work is something they hide from, Marley had a creative wellspring that was not only continuous but potent.

So this Silverline dual disc is music we’ve heard before, but for all the Wailers repackaging that goes on, this is a pretty essential one. Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny (Livingston) Wailer teamed with visionary producer Lee “Scratch” Perry and some wicked players for sessions throughout 1970 and into ’71 that literally changed the face of world music. Though achieving some success in their tiny, impoverished island home after forming in 1964, it wasn’t until these recordings were turned into Soul Rebels by Perry and released in England by Trojan that The Wailers were heard beyond the shores of Jamaica. It was their first true album rather than singles collection, and the first released under the name of Bob Marley and The Wailers.

For most Americans who came to know The Wailers no earlier than Island’s Catch A Fire, if not several albums later, this material will take some adjustment. By Catch A Fire and Burnin’, The Wailers had become a studio-savvy, well-produced muscular outfit with their own voice. But all Jamaican music was inspired by the American music drifting across the sea to their radios, and Marley’s material and presentation was directly influenced by James Brown, Sam Cooke, New Orleans, Motown, the Temptations, Bobby Darin, you name it. But listen to that voice, that inspired phrasing: if Marley had been laboring in the U.S., he probably would have already been a star.

These recordings also show the early emergence of Tosh and Wailer as lead singers. Both went on to successful solo careers after Marley’s death at age 36, and surviving Wailer Bunny continues to make terrific records today.

This CD adds 10 songs to the original Soul Rebels release, all material recorded at the same time, mostly “versions” (vocal removed) of the original cuts, plus a few crucial future staples like “Downpressor” and “Dreamland.” Some slightly later Perry-Wailer sessions became Soul Revolution, amazingly rejected by Trojan for the U.K. because they thought Marley’s appeal was limited to expatriate Jamaicans -- so wrong! Say thank you, Chris Blackwell (Island Records).

The DVD “extras” here are pretty bare bones. The 5.1 surround sound content (the additional 10 cuts) is much cleaner and expansive, but it’s a far cry from what we get from studios not in Jamaica, 30 years later. The DVD Launcher software through which everything is accessible (online) is a drag, and you have to register to get anything. C’mon, I bought the disc, just give it to me. Good liner notes, no videos, just a series of 17 no-info black and white photos of Marley. The best feature is the track downloader, through which you can easily and instantly rip all 22 cuts in either m4a or wma formats.

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