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World Music CD Reviews Reggae & Caribbean

BOB MARLEY AND THE WAILERS

By Tom Orr
Published September 8, 2005

Catch A Fire
Island/Mango

It’s simple: If you own Bob Marley and the Wailers’ Catch A Fire, whether in its original form or the recent enhanced re-release, you own one of the great reggae albums. Its 1972 arrival signaled the beginning of reggae as a true international force and the emergence of Marley as a planetary icon. The songs were revelatory, showing the original Marley/Peter Tosh/Bunny Livingstone harmonic triumvirate at peak strength. Ominous opener “Concrete Jungle” still sets the tone perfectly for what follows, including the aching lament of “Slave Driver,” Tosh’s commanding lead vocals on “400 Years” and “Stop That Train,” the sensuality of “Stir it Up” and the apocalyptic imagery of the often-overlooked “Midnight Ravers” (which also utilized Indian tabla drums in an unassuming early example of global fusion). Island Records founder Chris Blackwell knew he was onto something special with the Wailers and gave the disc the right degree of rock/pop touches, like the guitar solos by the long-uncredited Muscle Shoals session man Wayne Perkins. Catch A Fire was, is and ever shall be a landmark in reggae history.