Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Bob Marley
Songs Of Freedom


Released 1992 on Island
Reviewed by Le Samourai, 17/05/2002ce


The man, the myth, and yes, the legend - Bob Marley is Reggae music and Jamaica’s answer to James Brown, Bob Dylan, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X for that matter. It’s interesting to note that his popularity and his social conciousness have always seemed like an odd couple (at least to me anyway.) I’ve never known a time when he wasn’t popular with Caucasians, Blacks and other races. Yet as a Black man, I *still* can’t imagine any Caucasian or any non-Black person singing along to “Slave Driver”, “Burnin’ & Lootin”, "Buffalo Soldier", "Natty Dread", “Africa Unite” and “Zimbabwe” either. But maybe it's just me.

Still this is another *crucial* 4 CD box set (after James Brown’s Star Time) that you (regardless of skin color) must own. I almost bet that you probably have at least 10 percent of the songs here anyway. Back in the 1980’s, it seemed everyone owned a copy of Bob’s first “Best Of” package aptly titled Legend. That still is a killer disc but this seriously is *the* definitive look at the Marley catalog outside of just buying all his albums (which isn’t
a bad idea either but is a bit more expensive.)

Most interesting part of this box set for me is his early Ska
days. It’s almost hard to imagine that Bob and his fellow Wailers did Ska music as when I think of Ska now (unlike Reggae) I tend to think of Caucasian artists only like Madness, The Specials, The English Beat, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and No Doubt (even though The Specials, The Beat and ND (and I think the Bosstones) have non-Whites in their bands.) However, half of this disc is just some of the best Ska you’ll ever hear. The Reggae doesn’t really start on Disc 1 until Lee “Scratch” Perry joins in later on production and the tempos get slower yielding equally killer results.

Discs 2, 3 & 4 continue with classic album cuts and singles that made Bob Marley the social concious poet and loverman that he is known and loved worldwide for today. Most of what was on Legend (and more) is on here yet with a vastly improved sound. There are incredible outtakes that never made his proper albums (“High
Tide Or Low Tide” and “Iron Lion Zion” are just 2
examples.) Also, you should know that about half of your money from buying this box set will go to helping out destitute kids in Eithiopia.

Weird notes about this box set:For a deeply religious man (he was a devout Rastafarian afterall) Bob Marley could be contradictory. “Get Up Stand Up” is still a killer song but isn’t it a little strange for a religious man to criticize another religion that worships the same God his religion does? Remember these lyrics?:

Most people think
Great God will come from the sky
Take away everything
And make everybody feel high
But if you know what life is worth
You will look for yours on earth
And now you see the light
Gonna stand up for your rights

Remember Bob was a firm believer in a great God (known as Jah but from what I’ve read and heard is *still* the God Jesus worshipped) that (with help from herbal drugs) will make everybody feel “high” (well at least “better”) and live a truly morally righteous life. Again maybe it’s just me. It’s just as strange noting that Rastafarianism (if one thinks about it) is really a branch office of Christianity (just like Mormons or Baptists just (I think?) for Black people only.)
But can you imagine Billy Graham or *any* Mormon or Baptist sharing a spliff with Bob or any Rastafarian?

Also it’s even more strange to note that Eric Clapton, Barbara Streisand *and* Stiff Little Fingers have all
covered Marley songs (“I Shot The Sheriff”, “Guava Jelly” and “Johnny Was” respectively.)

Still, contradictions and strangeness aside (hey, we all have a little of both) Songs of Freedom is still well worth your time and money and is great music for Shamanistic meditations, parties or just sitting around at home.


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