21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Blistering Genius - a sometimes overlooked Bob album,
This review is from: Survival (Audio CD)
In the interest of full disclosure, I admit to being a Jamiacan music fanatic, love everything from Mento to hardcore Dancehall.
And this is not my very favorite Bob album (thats reserved for Catch a Fire - you know what they say: you never forget your first)BUT: Survival is an absolute brilliant piece of music-making. From the clarion call of the opening track to "Wake up and Live, ya'll - wake up and live...." to the repeated admonition to "tell the children the truth" in Babylon System, the lyrics on this album are Bob at his very best: passionate, angry, caring, concerned, moving, persuasive, original: with an almost Biblical authority and a heartfelt authenticity that makes you feel as if Bob is speaking directly to YOU, straight outta Yard. Marley's ability to truly connect through these lyrics with everyone (from subarban white Americans to Moari tribespeople and everyone in between) while remaining true to himself and his heritage as a jamaican and member of the african diaspora is on bravura display throughout. For example: 'they bribe us with their guns, spare parts and money... and if you want to get some food, your brother's got to be your enemy..." A more succint and pointed description and indictment of superpower "realpolitik" foriegn policies would be harder to imagine.
And that's just the lyrics. The riddims between Bob, Carly and Familyman on this collection are SO hard, SO right & tight, SO in the pocket, it's hard to describe without simply throwing superlatives at it in a lame attempt to put into words what must be heard to be understood. The album makes extensive yet tasteful use of additional percussion (i.e. the african agogo bells in Ride Natty Ride) throughout, musically reflecting and enhancing the albums' lyrical focus on afrocentric concerns.
The saxaphone is also very heavily used, and it comes off great: I don't know who the soloist is, but he makes that horn growl and wail like a slave under the whip.
Another high point of the collection is the general songwriting. The melodies and structures of the songs reflect Bob's place as one of THE PREMIER pop songwriters ever - up there in Lennon/McCartney, Leiber/Stoller, Goffin/King, Rogers/Hart, territory - he drops out the 3-4 minute gem as naturally as breathing. Ever notice how Bob had distinct verse, chorus AND bridge sections in his mature output...? And still maintains the intergrity of the reggae form.
This album is worth repeated listening for Bob fans, reggae fans, pop music fans, and any lover of music with open ears. If anyone ever argues against Bob's place in music (i.e. he ONLY did reggae, his songs are simple, reggae is all the same, his lyrics stink, he was too "pop", he wasn't "pop" enough, etc), throw this on, adjust the bass up a notch or two and CRANK it.
If they don't change their mind, then they don't know anything about music...
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Initial post: Jan 25, 2014 1:45:27 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 26, 2014 9:38:24 PM PST
Mark Richer says:
So glad you wrote this review, because I would've written about the same thing (though this is my fave Marley album). Also, sorry to nitpick but Catch a Fire is a Wailers album (not BM&W) - it (and Burnin') were released as Wailers albums, though later releases of Catch a Fire are credited to BM&W, it's not something that Peter and Bunny agree(d) with.
But if you think of it that way, you can have two faves!
I also can't think of a better written, succinct indictment of global politics than Babylon System: "building church and university ... deceiving the people continually ... graduating thieves and murderers" - you mentioned "guns, spare parts, and money" from Ambush in the Night. I also agree about the album's rhythm. Back when I had access to a mixer, I made a tape isolating drum and bass. Drum and bass! (the album starts with Marley's spoken request "lickle more drums." Like all Wailers/Marley albums these are some amazing grooves! I especially like Wake up and Live! - most especially the minute starting before the first "Riiiiiise! Ye mighty people!" It still gives me chills, even though I've listened to it a billion times.
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