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CD Review: Bob Marley and the Wailers – One Love At Studio One: 1964-1966

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If you want more of Bob Marley and the Wailers and are ready to get to the root of “roots” music, then the One Love CD is just what you are looking for. This is BM&W before they ripped open the world to the sweet, hard-driven beat of reggae music. This double CD gives us a chance to hear what Bob and the boys sounded like back when they were fresh and still a little raw. By the early sixties, the group was well rehearsed and trained by Joe Higgs, a major Jamaican music star. Bob himself was pretty well known in the Jamaican music industry, writing four tracks for Leslie Kong’s Beverley’s label, another major Jamaican star power player. In the summer of ’64, BM&W was ready to record, and this CD has 41 tracks ready for you to hear.

First off, this isn’t a “best-of” or a mixes disc, or any of that shit. During these recordings, the band had taken to the Rastafarian religion and culture, evident in the first song on disc one, “This Train,” which was previously unreleased. First recorded in 1927 by the Biddleville Quintet, “This Train” is steeped in the praises of Jesus, of which Rastafarian beliefs are embodied. The second track is “Simmer Down.” Here you find the beat and root of reggae, rocksteady, which is a blend of ska and R&B. It was BM&W’s first release and their first big hit. Rocksteady had a huge influence on BM&W, as this CD testifies to that.

The next few songs are total rocksteady beats, with the horns mixing with vocals, you get the feeling of being in those dank dance halls in Kingston or maybe its just the haze I’m sitting through while listening. You will also notice that Bob doesn’t sing all the songs. Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, and Junior Braithwaite all contribute. Peter takes a page from Rasta with “Amen” and Junior hits it with “Habits.” The rocksteady beat adds to the Rasta gospel songs, giving them an energy and pace different than others of the time.

This double-disc set is filled with little treasures and the liner notes are great. They give a story behind almost all the songs, which is pretty cool. Kind of gives you an insight into what was happening at the time of the recordings. Let it be known that there are ten previously unreleased tracks, six on the first disc and four on the second; seven of which are alternate takes.

Not all the songs are Wailers originals; there are a few covers. The discs themselves lay out the songs chronologically according to the liner notes, but “This Train” is first and was done in ’65 while “Simmer Down” was laid down to vinyl in ’64. Hmm, maybe it’s just the haze they are sitting through. Who cares? This collection is awesome for someone like myself, who is dedicated to the reggae beat, and all its roots. Yet, not all the songs are dancehall songs either. Bob busted out the love ballads early and you can feel them through songs like “I’m Still Waiting” and “Lonesome Feelings,” which is more of a weeping request for help from the Almighty. Bob pours out his heart here, and he’s only in his twenties.

The elements of Rasta gospel and rocksteady were a staple for BM&W and after adding the rhythmic Island sounds, reggae seemed to be a natural hit, and not just in Jamaica. Nowadays when we think of Bob Marley and the Wailers, the first thing that comes to mind is – besides that, we think of that driving reggae beat, and now with this collection you can really get a feel where that initial drive came from. One Love has more roots than an oak tree. Even the title track, “One Love,” is a lot different then what you will hear on the radio or on Legend. It may not be reggae, but it does rocksteady.

Jah love, Babies.

Written by Fumo Verde

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS