Wailers still be there- Bob Marley and the Wailers’ “Punky Reggae Party”
The Jam, The Damned, The Clash
Wailers still be there
Dr. Feelgood too, ooh
No boring all farts will be there
Yeah, it's the punky reggae party"
It’s really a shame that reggae has been so easily co-opted by modern-day hippies since the decline of the third wave. Virtually gone are the days of “Take Warning,” “Racist World” and “The Guns of Brixton.” The current popular conception of reggae seems to compel a foundation of cliché and caricaturistic themes of peace, love, and a fundamental obsession with marijuana. Acts like Wookiefoot, Jah Roots and John Butler Trio have hijacked the upstroke and watered down the message of rebellion and upheaval the genre’s originators so actively promoted. But it hasn’t always been hemp and dreadlocks at the root of the attraction. Black Culture, White Youth: The Reggae Tradition from JA to the UK by Middlesex University professor Dr. Simon Jones chronicles the link and camaraderie between punk pioneers like Joe Strummer, Johnny Rotten and Patti Smith and reggae greats like Bob Marley, Lee Perry and Junior Murvin, brought about by a common feeling of alienation, fed up with poverty and ready to do something about it, all under the watchful control tower of DJ Don Letts.
And that, my friends, is exactly why it’s such a travesty that there are no reviews of Bob Marley and the Wailers on PunkNews. In 1998TIME magazine decorated Exodus as the “best music album of the 20th century.” And since the first music record was released in 1909, that effectively makes Exodus the greatest album of all time…according to TIME. But what does PunkNews think?
In many ways, Exodus is Bob Marley’s most accessible album. Following Rastaman Vibration, which had no major hits, Exodus packed instant classics like “Three Little Birds,” “Jamming,” “Waiting in Vain” and a retooled form of “One Love,” which was initially a ska tune from the Wailing Wailers’ debut singles collection, meant to unite Jamaicans and the African independence movement. By the time it made it to the Exodus sessions, the song had taken on more of a global connotation as the Cold War, apartheid and worldwide economic downturn loomed overhead. The song’s upbeat melody and stirring message stood in stark contrast to the political landscape of the time, and by the turn of the century, the BBC chose “One Love” as its Song of the Millennium. Relatively light on the surface (except for perhaps “Waiting in Vain,” which exerts a level of aggravation and the frustrated crooning of “Ooh girl” later picked up by Brad Nowell for Sublime’s “Boss DJ”), these songs helped propel Exodus to the top of the charts both in the U.S. and the U.K., and helped secure Marley’s role as an international superstar. Interestingly enough, all the hits are found on side two.
The first side shows a much more spiritually-involved Marley, anchored by the eerie calm of “Natural Mystic” that opens the album with Carlton Barrett’s trademark one-drop rhythm and clean upstrokes while Marley whispers, “There’s a natural mystic blowing through the air / If you listen carefully now you will hear / This could be the first trumpet / Might as well be the last / Many more will have to suffer / Many more will have to die / Don’t ask me why.” This is certainly a bleaker picture painted than the eternal optimism of tracks like “Three Little Birds,” and is perhaps why the former precedes the latter. Another of side one’s gems is “So Much Things to Say,” which transcends the barrier between politics and religion, as Marley professes his spiritual convictions while mourning the persecution of black rights activist Marcus Garvey. But perhaps the cornerstone of the first side -- or even the album as a thematically unified whole -- is the nearly eight-minute title track, “Exodus,” anchored by Aston “Family Man” Barrett’s funky, soulful bass groove under Marley’s call for sacrosanct passage to a better life: “We’re leaving Babylon / We’re going to the fatherland.”
Flush with the bonus tracks “Punky Reggae Party” and an extended version of the hit “Jamming,” as well as noticeably improved sound quality, the 2001 Definitive Remasters Exodus only makes a perfect album even better. Don’t let hippies, frat boys or mediocre Will Smith movies ruin it for you; Exodus is a musical masterpiece.