Tuff Gong / Island
I hate to drag my kids into reviews, but I'll do it in the interest of keeping this to the point. I've been playing this in the car a lot, and they've been riding in the back a few times while it's on.
Last night, I asked our five-year-old to stand up, to which she responded "Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights... Daddy, what are rights?"
It was sort of a dizzying moment, and probably the kind that ole Bob would have gotten a kick of. Marley (and this anthology of his work in particular) saw his share of top placement in "Best Music of the 20th Century" lists, and rightly so. Like American folk music, Marley's reggae was instantly approachable, and recognizable even when stripped down to a single acoustic guitar, or even a solitary melody -- classic material ripe for retelling. The spread of Marley's music has as much, if not more, to do with people singing his songs around a campfire as it does with radio airplay and album sales, and it's not every artist that can claim that.
But behind the usually bouncy and easy to learn melodies, Marley's voice was an intense experience, whether seducing, declaring love, or demanding freedom. In counterpoint to the simple singalong nature of the music, there was always a message of substance, and his uncompromising stand for what he believed in remains influential across every act professing to have a social conscience.
Legend is mostly indistinguishable in content to another Marley anthology released about a year ago. The remastering, though I'm sure is very nice, is about as relevant as leveling a slightly tilted Van Gogh -- the fire of this music is enough to consume any technical limitations of the time. Where Legend truly shines is its liner notes, which while not quite box-set quality, do provide some background and full lyrics.
This is undoubtedly one of those albums that is required to make any serious music collection complete. Bob Marley's message of peace, love and freedom -- delivered with a dignity that still resonates twenty-five years later -- is a must-hear. Admittedly, Legend is the pop Marley, and true fans of his body of work will quickly point out that in many ways, it's hardly representative. Still, its power is undeniable, and it's one of the few records I can call unquestionably essential.
Bob Marley: http://www.bobmarley.com/