Bob Marley – Catch a Fire

4 06 2010

Listened: Wednesday June 2

Until I bought Catch A Fire, similar to Pink Floyd, I dismissed Bob Marley as music for stoners. Which, like Pink Floyd, is not entirely inaccurate. All the songs they used to play on Live 105 when I was in high school were the feel-good stoner party anthems you find on the “best of”.

This album totally turned me around. I bought it used, quite cheaply, because I remembered hearing tape of vintage Paul and Linda McCartney saying that they loved it, and though I assume they were probably also stoned at the time, I respect their musical taste. The deluxe version includes 2 versions of the album – the longer, less produced, unreleased Jamaican version and the commercially released version. Both have their merits.

Critically, it showed me the best Marley songs are the challenging unpleasant songs about struggle and the travesties of history. Concrete Jungle is my favorite Marley song – a gripping picture of someone living in gritty circumstances but striving and knowing there is something better out there for him. The driving bass and guitar work only increases the appeal. Oh, the love and party songs are here – Baby We’ve Got a Date, Stir it Up, Kinky Reggae – which are catchy and fun, but then I’ll get pulled into the absolute spookiness of a song like Midnight Ravers (“I see 10,000 chariots, and they’re coming without horses. The riders they cover their face, so you could not make them out in smokey place”). Is this fantasy? History? The present? I don’t know, but it conjures up a great image.

I’ve gone on to collect other Bob albums as they’ve been remastered in deluxe versions, and they’ve only deepened my opinion that the stoner fetishism image really doesn’t give Bob the credit he’s due musically and especially lyrically.



3 responses

21 01 2011
Desmond Dekker & The Aces – Best Of Desmond Dekker « Emily's Albums A to Z

[…] he had a minor hit in England). It’s interesting to hear from this collection of songs where Bob Marley got some of his sound. Some of the very early Marley is of a similar musical style and the physical […]

22 04 2011
Donovan – The Essential Donovan « Emily's Albums A to Z

[…] flute for the melody). The most annoying of which I ever heard was an elevator music version of a Bob Marley song in Lunardi’s supermarket, which is a particular hellhole for jazzy versions of rock […]

30 08 2011
Jimmy Cliff – Jimmy Cliff « Emily's Albums A to Z

[…] gotten me through many roadblocks in my life. I would describe him as being the polar opposite of Bob Marley. Rather than the Marley political struggle and love songs, Jimmy sings about very personal […]

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