The Skinny: Legend is the best selling reggae record of all time, with approximately 28 million copies sold world wide. These are essential tunes — all 14 were Top 40 hits in either the UK or the US (or both). You’ve heard them all a million times, but if you don’t have any Bob in your collection, this collection must be in your collection. It’s the perfect point of embarkation on a journey deeper into his catalog. Just right for jukeboxes — all these tracks will earn.
Sounds like: OK, it’s more like everything reggae or ska or rocksteady sounds like this…
Deeper Thoughts: Listening to this disc, I am now repentant, and born again with Jah love. I am so sick of all these songs that I really didn’t even want to listen to this disc. But listening critically to all these amazing tunes in succession, I realized that I’ve never really listened to Bob Marley; I’ve only heard him. I’ve lumped him together with Jimmy Buffet as stuff white people like for the soundtrack to their cheesy beach theme parties. “Is This Love” is a passionate ode to nascent love. “No Woman No Cry,” here captured live in London in ’75, suggests the immersive power of a live Marley show. “Could You be Loved” has an organic sound that feels like it’s always been here. “Three Little Birds” sounds like it invented the off-beat “chick-a” guitar rhythm. “Buffalo Soldier” has a great lyric that reminds us of the systemic racism that permeates American culture. I love the auxiliary percussion in “Get Up Stand Up,” and the aggressive gang vocal is a powerful call to action that has transcended its time. “Stir it Up” is the laid-back groove I’ve always dreamed of, with its drifting, dreamy vocal and the wah-wah guitar tickling the bass melody — seductive. On “One Love” the I Threes set the standard for female support vocal. And try not to air bass to the swaying, hypnotic “Exodus.” And that’s not all. Act now!
The Sonics: It’s a mass produced disc from the 80s, so it does thin out at times, but I have been pleasantly surprised at how satisfying it sounds. I rocked it in the car, on ‘phones and through my loudspeakers and ended up listening to the whole thing every time. Since it’s a compilation, there’s some variation track to track, but that doesn’t detract from the experience. There’s enough presence on this disc to fill your whole house with Jah love.