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Music Review: Tribute to a Reggae Legend

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Bob Marley died May 11, 1981, at the age of 36. He died of malignant melanoma, a cancer that had spread throughout his body, finally attacking his lungs and brain. His last words to son Ziggy were, “Money Can’t Buy Life.” If it could, he might have lived forever. Tens of millions Bob Marley albums have been sold since his death 29 years ago.

Marley is still a popular artist on streaming reggae stations (e.g., AOL Radio, Pandora) and is responsible for music sales throughout the world as other artists continue to record his songs. The new Putumayo collection, Tribute to a Reggae Legend, includes an international gathering of performers from such far-flung places as Canada, Ghana, India, and Brazil.

There is no sense in comparing these covers to the originals. Only Marley is Marley, but every song in the collection can stand on its own as a fitting tribute to the man who put ska and reggae into the world’s vocabulary.

Reggae interpreted by the smooth vocalizations of Brazil’s Ceu provides the listener with a fusion of musical styles in “Concrete Jungle,” somehow making it sexier. The South African group Freshlyground utilizes native instruments in “Africa Unite,” giving it new dimension and a happy, hopeful sound.

Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars perform a buoyant rendition of “No Woman, No Cry,” one of Marley’s best known songs, and it inspires the listener to get off the seat and live the beat. Surely, the highlight of Tribute to a Reggae Legend is the last song, “One Love,” performed by the international group, “Playing for Change.” With featured artists from India, Nepal,  the United States, The Congo, South Africa, Israel, Italy, and Zimbabwe, the song remains true to its origins.

Other songs on Tribute to a Reggae Legend are “Is This Love” (Three Plus, Hawaii), “Do It Twice” (Robi Kahakalau, Hawaii), “Natural Mystic” (Rebelution, USA), “Could You Be Loved” (Carocol, Canada), “Sun is Shining” (Rocky Dawuni, Ghana), “Waiting in Vain: (Northern Lights featuring Jonathan Edwards, USA), “Mellow Mood” (Julie Crochetiere, Canada), and “Real Situation” (Funkadesi, USA/India).

Each rendition of Marley’s work is performed respectfully, sometimes joyously, but I just can’t avoid the urge to throw on a few Marley CDs when I’m done listening to these covers.

Bottom Line: Would I buy Tribute to a Reggae Legend? As a fan of both Bob Marley and Putumayo World Music, I would have to say “yes.” How could I resist?

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