Tuesday, August 28, 2007

No. 123: Catch A Fire

(First-pressing cover)

Band: The Wailers
Album: Catch A Fire
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: The first major label Wailers record, the record was one of the records (along with the soundtrack to "The Harder They Fall") that brought reggae to the United States.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: "Catch A Fire" is considered a Marley record and it's not really one. It's a Wailers record. That doesn't make it bad -- in fact, it's quite great -- but it doesn't make it a Marley record.
Best song: "Stir It Up" is probably the most famous, but the opener, "Concrete Jungle," is protest music at its best.
Worst song: "Baby We've Got A Date" isn't great.
Is it awesome?: Yes, absolutely.

Like the soundtrack to "The Harder They Come," the first major label Wailers record showed the world what Jamaica's most famous export (OK, second-most famous export) had to offer. In addition to the syncopation and Caribbean percussion, Bob Marley and Peter Tosh (the band's principle songwriters) also showcased the protest music strikingly absent in most American songwriting of the 1970s.

The album begins with a band in "Concrete Jungle," a polemic against the urban ghettos so evident in the Kingston the Wailers were so familiar with. "400 Years"
and "Slave Driver" both lament the African-Jamaican experience, while "No More Trouble" speaks of the same crime that occupies "Concrete Jungle" (and other reggae of the time).

"Stir It Up" is the popular song from "Catch A Fire" and it's a wonderful love song. "Kinky Reggae" and "Baby We've Got A Date (Rock It Baby)" are both the roots reggae that a lot of modern audiences are unfamiliar.

Still, the protest music that makes the record. The Wailers' Rastafarian influences tinge the protest stuff with optimism in "High Tide or Low Tide" and "All Day All Night," both great songs. This is the greatness that Tosh and Marley were known for. This is a must-have.

No comments: