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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Bob Marley and The Wailers, "Exodus"

Bob Marley and The Wailers
Island (1977
1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die + 1000 Recordings You Should Hear Before You Die

Bob Marley was always a spiritual guy, but as his career progressed, items of a more metaphysical meaning came to the forefront in his music, slightly nudging political messages to the side. The difference between “Exodus,” his most renowned album, and “Natty Dread,” the last album of his we looked at, is evident. The three year separation between the two albums, and probably his 1976 assassination attempt, had altered his outlook.

Marley of course hadn’t completely forgotten his political beginnings. But writer Michael Woodsworth of “1001 Records” is off base when he refers to side-one as “heavily political.” Political it may be, but heavily? Not so much. Songs like “So Much Things To Say” and “Guiltiness” discuss politics on Earth, but look at the ultimate goals from a religious standpoint. Whereas “Them Belly Full” on “Natty Dread” talks about combating hunger with government overthrow, “Guiltiness” talks of the wicked men in power eating of “the bread of sorrow.” In other words, as opposed to being overthrown, now they’ve got hell to worry about it in Marley’s eyes.

The sound of the Wailers also evolved during the three year gap. Sure, the basic elements of reggae music are there, but some new sounds find their way into the tracks as well. Most notable is the title track, a seven-plus minute song that is interestingly disco in its approach. Guitarist Junior Marvin playing a scratchy riff, an electric organ, horns, and the use of wah-effects add to the feel. Marley’s lyrics however, again focus on very non-disco themes. The song most likely is in reference to the call for people of African descent to return to their native land. Referring to such a journey as an “Exodus” makes it rather religious as well.

Unfortunately, the album is better known for the more stereotypical frat-brother fare, such as the laid back “Jamming” and “Three Little Birds.” These songs are still pretty good, featuring the skank-guitar style typical of reggae, and feature Marley in the relaxed state of mind that he is too often generalized as expressing. “Exodus” combines Marley’s political and spiritual sides nicely, and tracks focusing on these issues are the ones listeners should look for.

INTERESTING FACT: John Grogan, the author of "Marley & Me," named the dog as such after hearing "One Love/People Get Ready" from the "Exodus" album on the radio.

"Natural Mystic" (YouTube doesn't have a single damn original version of "Exodus," so you'll have to deal with this track from the album. It's still pretty good though.)

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