Bob Marley and The Wailers | Exodus – Lost Gem

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Time magazine called it the best album of the 20th century. Pulsating on political themes and sweet boding reggae rhythms, Bob Marley’s Exodus resonates with the kind of passion that any artist worth his or her weight in gold records could but only dream of aspiring to. For the Jamaican musician, the journey was strewn with struggle, chaos and oppression. Marley and the Wailers emerged from Trenchtown with nothing more than a desire to create music and a spirit to move mountains. After a succession of near misses and personnel changes, the original core members splintered. Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh left after the Island debut, Catch A Fire. But Marley’s vision stayed intact and the Wailers carried on. From there, it was a matter of Marley’s brand of reggae music angling for airplay on formats that couldn’t quite grasp its tropical and carefree ambiance. That and a belief that held precedence over Bob Marley’s every move.

One can only delve so far into Marley’s Rastafarian Movement Of Jah People creed before they see the simplicity of the message. As a rule, reggae in its most visceral form is merely dictating the virtues of peace, love and piety. Unfortunately, during social upheavals in the mid 70s, the message wasn’t registering with everyone. Opposition factions were stirred up by Marley’s political affiliations. Shortly after an assassination attempt that injured the singer, his wife Rita, and manager Don Taylor, Marley took flight from Jamaica. He eventually landed in England where he assembled the remaining Wailers and the I Threes, the trio of backup singers that included Rita, to record Exodus. While some tunes were reportedly already in the can from previous sessions in Jamaica, most of the album was made in London — where Marley was already being immortalized by the likes of Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, and the Police.

With a combination of ska and rock Steady rhythms and elements of African/Jamaican folk traditions, Marley traverses the calming melodies of “Natural Mystic,” announcing his arrival and assuring his followers, “if you listen carefully now, you will hear…” His defiance on “Guiltiness” and “The Heathen” reaffirms his convictions. The real thrust, of course, comes rifling through on the title track, an intoxicating groove that managed to dent the R&B charts in the States — a clear-cut resolution to rise up and “Move!” Once the revolution is over, it’s a matter of dodging the bullets during the joyous celebration of “Jamming.” By the time “One Love/People Get Ready” finishes off the album, Marley’s call for love and unity almost seem compulsory.  Fortunately, there’s a lot more of where that came from with subsequent reissues of Exodus, including a 2017 40th anniversary box set that features a crisp remastering of the original album, oodles of extras comprising alternate tracks, additional singles, and a selection of live material recorded at the Rainbow Theatre in London on June 1, 3 and 4, 1977, during the Exodus European tour.

~ Shawn Perry

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