Bob Marley and the Wailers released their first major-label album in 1973, when Catch a Fire was distributed by Island Records. Marley would release every subsequent album in his career through the Island label.
Catch a Fire was recorded in Jamaica, after Marley received an advance from producer Chris Blackwell to help him and the band — flat broke — travel back home after a tour of Great Britain. Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer recorded seven new tunes penned by Marley, plus rerecorded two Tosh songs previously released on other albums (‘400 Years,’ ‘Stop That Train’).
1971 saw the release of Bob Marley’s fourth studio album, The Best of the Wailers, and again, the title is confusing. This was not a greatest hits package, but a 10-song collection of all-new recordings.
And if it feels like a throwback compared to the two albums preceding it, that’s because the tracks were recorded a year and a half earlier, before Marley and the Wailers joined forces with producer Lee “Scratch” Perry.
The confusingly titled Soul Revolution Part II, released in 1971, was Bob Marley’s third release, and the second produced by Lee “Scratch” Perry. There is no Soul Revolution Part I, though a companion album to Part II was released stripped of vocals and featuring only the “dub” music tracks.
This album moves Marley and the Wailers closer to the traditional reggae sound I associate with them, and a little farther from the R&B and rocksteady sounds of their earlier work.
1970’s Soul Rebels was Bob Marley’s second full-length release, but the first that was recorded as a proper album. Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer were produced by dub music pioneer Lee “Scratch” Perry, whose minimalist style was a perfect accompaniment to the trio’s harmonies.
Soul Rebels was the first album released under the name Bob Marley and the Wailers, a decision that reportedly caused friction in the band.
I’ve been wanting to do another one of my artist deep dives, wherein I listen to every album by an artist I know only casually. My first three deep dives covered Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, and Madonna. I found all three very rewarding.
I’ve settled on Bob Marley for the next one, which kicks off today. Apart from the mega-selling greatest hits collection Legend, I have never heard a Marley album all the way through, and I’m excited to learn more about the man and his music.
Along with The Wailers, Marley released 13 studio albums between 1965 and 1983. I’ll feature songs from each of them over the next three weeks.