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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7 comments

  1. David Allison

    Really looking forward to this. Despite loving some old ska and calypso and a bit of dub, I’ve somehow managed to avoid seriously getting into reggae other than the odd Black Uhuru album. And – quite unfairly – I have awful memories of white rasta wanker student tosspots playing ‘Legend’ throughout university, and so I kept Bob at arm’s length. I still don’t own a single record by him and so I’m unlikely to know hardly anything on this.Can’t wait to hear it, without white rasta prejudice, naturally.

  2. Guy Hornsby

    Just burning this now to the mp3. I’m very much looking forward to this. I was a huge Bob fan when I was younger – standard public school, middle class white boy shiz really – and have a few of his albums, and used to love to listen Songs Of Freedom incessantly when I was uni. But bar the odd track, I’ve not really listened to him in 10 years really, so high fives Brother Joey.

  3. David Allison

    This was such a perfect choice. I’m *really* enjoying it. Of course, it turned out that I did know more songs than I thought (Stir It Up, Stop That Train, Slave Driver), but it was great to put them in their context.What I’ve realised is that I don’t *LISTEN* to Marley when I hear him. I had such a prejudice about the hippies and student fans that I turned my ears off the moment I hear his voice. This forced me to re-consider all that and listen for the first time.It’s a great album. The documentary really helped shape it – you get a sense of what an accomplished album it is, how hostile the West was to reggae and how carefully the band and Blackwell shaped the album so that it had that breakout potential. It’s packed full of great songs and it didn’t take me long to be drawn in. It’s sure not a difficult listen – when you actually take the time to listen.A nice addition to my music collection. Thanks Brother Joey.

  4. Nolan Kane

    I think it’s funny that you mention the documentary as after listening to this it’s now at the top of my list of things I want to see. I agree that much of the album I have heard but without knowing it. Even some random elements like there are a couple songs on here that Lauren Hill blantenly stole the cord compositions from on a few of the songs on her album (though she is married to Bob Marley son). Bob Amrley is a funy one as I have always rated him; though with the exception of legend I’ve never explored his albums. After this I think I will. Thank you very much for this brother Joseph. Yet another strong selection as we sprall through some lesser hyped classic albums.

  5. misterstory

    Morning chaps. Not had a chance to post. Glad you’re liking a bit of bob. Its a great addition to every music lovers collection if you ask me. I think all of the albums so far have been … all … I mean both! Nolan is correct, even if you don’t know the Wailers track so much of this has been sampled and Lauren Hill took a couple of ideas/samples off this for ‘The Miss-Education’.Good stuff. Glad you’re enjoying.

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