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Having seen Bob Marley on the cover of seemingly every magazine in America with a cannabis giganticus planted in his mug finally puts you in mind of Robert De Niro's last words to Harvey Keitel's dealer/pimp in Taxi Driver: "Suck on this!"
Island gave Marley the big pushthe only push any reggae artist really got beyond a guaranteed tax write-offand now Marley and company are reaping the benefits of such monomaniacal zeal: Rastaman Vibration, the worst album he ever made until this one, hit the… Read More
Top Twenty, and last summer's Exodus finished in Billboard's Top Hundred LPs of 1977.
My bitterness may seem misdirected, even out of proportion. It's just one man's opinion, you understand, but for my money, Toots and the Maytals, who never got promoted properly, are the real heat waves from a Stax/Volt kitchen, whereas Marley (on Island, at least) always struck me as so laid back that he seemed almost MOR. Most white fans simply didn't agree. "Toots is a very old-fashioned performer," said one, and all felt that Marley was certainly the prophet incarnate of the Rastafarian scripture: the primest cut of all. (I wonder what that would make Winston "Burning Spear" Rodney? A revisionist?)
So, after becoming addicted to Toots and the Maytals, Burning Spear, et al., I dutifully went back to my Marley records and even bought the early Trojan imports, but it was no good. There were some great songs (which he kept recutting), but the delivery just seemed pallid. Rastaman Vibration was the last straw: an LP obviously calculated to break Disco Bob into the American Kleenex radio market full force, complete with chicklet vocal backups chirping, "Posi-tive!" and an opulent, palmthatch Tarzan-like press kit that would have made serviceable shelter for Gilligan and the Captain. Exodus simply seemed schizoid, one side no better than Rastaman Vibration outtakes, and the other a Rastafarian liturgy mouthing much righteousness but falling leagues short of the corrosive militance that led ex-Wailer Peter Tosh's concurrently released Equal Rights to go so far as to mention Palestinian guerrillas admiringly. (Tosh has just been dropped by Columbia.) Marley was clearly trying to have it both ways, but broadcasting the politics of Armageddon/liberation while dishing up potential Hall and Oates covers like "Waiting in Vain" is walking a mighty shaky tightrope. On Kaya, he falls off. Guess to which side.
This is quite possibly the blandest set of reggae music I have ever heard, including all the Engelbertisms of would-be crossover crooners like John Holt. It's pleasant enough if you just let it eddy along, but nothing on the ten cuts pulls you in like the hypnotic undertow of Burning Spear's Marcus Garvey, haunts like the best from The Harder They Come soundtrack or churns up the guts and heart like Toots and the Maytals. Musically, <