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.