October: Catch a Fire – Bob Marley and the Wailers

Please may I introduce ‘Catch a Fire’ by Bob Marley and The Wailers. Technically, the first album released by the band (Previous releases were released under the name ‘The Wailers’ without the pre-fix of ‘Bob’ … but just to make it confusing the album was released in 1973 by ‘The Wailers’ and in 1974 by ‘Bob Marley and the Wailers’- good Music Quiz knowledge).

‘Catch a Fire’ means attracting a wrath or ‘catching hell’ in Jamaican patois. The line comes from the song ‘Slave Driver’ and is meant in revenge or retribution for the crimes of slavery. Bob Marley has come to represent positive struggle. His image and music have been adopted globally often by oppressed minorities who take his message and make it their own; Maoris’ in New Zealand, Tamils in Sri Lanka, rich white kids whose parents aren’t around enough.

The album was released in 1973 (and then re-released in 1974) and was their first release on Island Records. The Island Records link here is significant. Chris Blackwell (Record Exec and Producer) was interested in selling Reggae to rock audiences. Island, until that point dealt almost solely in rock music. Blackwell described Rock as ‘Rebel Music’ and saw the link between what the Wailers were presenting and this definition.

Whilst the album does have significant cross-over appeal to rock audiences it is still a reggae album rather than a cross-over album which some of the later output could be described as. This is one of the reasons that I have chosen this as my album for October. It catches the band in transition but a transition that produces a consistent and complete sound rather than a work in progress.

Another reason that I have chosen this is that the ‘Legend’ greatest hits album only has one track from Catch A Fire, Stir It Up. While it is impossible to have never heard many of the tracks on this album they will I hope, be relatively fresh to your ears.

Probably the biggest reason for me choosing this is its place in my life. I ‘use’ music. I use it is a potent influencer on my mood and well being. I ‘use’ reggae for calmness, for positivity and for feeling warm. ‘Catch a Fire’ is generally held up as one of, if not the best reggae album of all time. It is often in peoples Top 100 / 50 / whatever albums of all time. This is right. This is not exaggeration.

I hope that you get from this album what I do. I would be interested when you listen to it. What drives you to it (if at all). I would be interested if you can get over the massive pre-conceptions that come with an artist as widely known and reputed as Bob and the Wailers.

If you get the chance then please watcht the documentary that I’ve put up top. Its 50 mins long and will serve as an excellent introduction to the album. Albums are on the way, estimated delivery 1st Oct.

As always, listen without prejudice. And prejudice in this instance means ignore the annoying students you knew at Uni who sat and smoked weed to Legend. Ignore rich white kids with dreads. Ignore the fact that Bob Marley is a global icon and therefore an opinion on him will already be formed in your head. You may nod your head while listening. You may not say ‘skanking’ or ‘riddim’ at any point.

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September’s Album: REMAIN IN LIGHT

So. We’re kicking off a 4 month classic album stint with Talking Heads. Ah, Talking Heads. The band that everyone knows but no one knows. The band who’ve influenced everyone and yet so many people are a bit wary of. I think it’s the fault of the A word.

ART. It’s that rock meets art thing. Maybe Bowie has that reputation too. And when people here about art-rock, they start thinking about concept albums or high-minded dense songs with no tunes or lyrics about Tibet or women in art galleries with dark lipstick and loud voices. And you end up thinking THIS ISN’T ROCK MUSIC. Where’s the sex? Where’s the grit? Where’s the dirt? WHERE’S THE FUN?

Choosing a TH album was always going to be tricky – like Bowie, they’ve had a long career in many guises. And as with my Bowie choice, I could probably have gone for something ‘easier’. Their debut, Talking Heads 77 is probably their most poppy, or perhaps their swansong Naked. But you want the best, right? Well I reckon you’re looking at it right here.

OK. Two rules to this album:
1) You read the Wikipedia page about it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remain_in_light
2) You listen to the whole thing 3 times before responding.

Why? Well, it’s an album you need to invest in, like so many of the best are. And the unusually excellent Wikipedia gives you a really fantastic sense of how this album came about. This is a band who were pushing at the musical straitjacket they’d made for themselves and suddenly found a whole new sound. I still think that marriage of African rhythms and the edgy New York paranoia of the band is so fresh, it’s startling. It was a sonic leap forward like nothing else for the band and that sense of excitement comes right off the songs.

The other interesting thing to note is the presence of Eno. He’s such an influence on this album. What a presence he was in the 70s and 80s on so many musicians, pushing them into new territories. He is of course the link to Bowie, with whom he also worked during his Berlin period.

Before I fell for this album, I knew Once In A Lifetime but none of the rest of the album – maybe as you do right now. You’d think there was nothing to add about the incredible awesomness of that song, an astonishing record that manages to be a party favourite that questions your entire existence. But when I first heard in the *context* or the rest of the album, I suddenly got it in an entirely different light.

I hope you too find the light and remain in it. 😉

Twin Shadow – Confess

OK. So … nobody needs to hear much more about how much I love this guy. ‘Forget’ the album that I sent you all some time ago is way up in my top albums of … well, ever. I was excited and nervous when his 2nd effort ‘Confess’ came out. To be honest. I was not a huge fan. It was very competent. It sounded nice. It was very ‘good’ but for me didn’t have that tug of emotion that the first had. I love debuts. I am a sucker for them. Forget was an amazing debut. Confess sounded a little ‘by the numbers’ in comparison. (i) myriad 80s influence – check (ii) relaxed tone awesome voice – check etc etc

However, I kept playing it. Purely out of loyalty. I played it and played and played it some more. Then one day I woke up and it was under my skin almost as much as the first.

‘Give it some time’ is the biggest cop out when reviewing/recommending music as most things get better with time … but not this much better.