Re­mem­ber­ing Mar­ley’s Ex­o­dus, 40 years on

On the al­bum, Mar­ley be­come much more than the dread­locked Rasta of pop­u­lar renown

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC - JIM CAR­ROLL

Some pic­tures are worth a thou­sand words. One of the pho­tos that ac­com­pa­nied re­cent pieces about Uruguay le­gal­is­ing the sale of mar­i­juana fea­tured three dudes light­ing up at a protest in Mon­te­v­ideo. Pre­dictably, two of the three are wear­ing Bob Mar­ley T-shirts.

For many, this is com­pletely on brand. The Ja­maican singer may have been a global su­per­star, but he also re­mains a sort of short­hand for re­bel­lious youths ev­ery­where. Smok­ing dope, lis­ten­ing to Mar­ley and look­ing to over­throw the sys­tem seem to go hand in hand.

Such sym­bi­otics nat­u­rally ig­nore Mar­ley’s mu­si­cal legacy. It’s 40 years this week since the re­lease of Ex­o­dus, the al­bum which re­mains key to as­sess­ing his skills as a pop per­former. Other al­bums such as Ar­rival or

Sur­vival may have had more po­lit­i­cal fire in their belly, but

Ex­o­dus was Mar­ley flex­ing his pop mus­cles.

What’s strik­ing about Mar­ley is how much of an al­bum artist he was. Cer­tainly, it’s this which Is­land boss Chris Black­well al­ways cred­ited with help­ing him be­come an in­ter­na­tional star. And you could make a good ar­gu­ment that Ex­o­dus is top of the list when it comes to his song­writ­ing.

Ex­o­dus has a nasty back story but one that is piv­otal in the Mar­ley nar­ra­tive. The pre­vi­ous De­cem­ber, Mar­ley was set to play the Smile Ja­maica con­cert at Kingston Race­course, which had been or­gan­ised by the of­fice of the coun­try’s prime min­is­ter Michael Manley. Two days be­fore the show, Mar­ley, his wife Rita and his man­ager Don Tay­lor were fired on by gun­men at the singer’s house on Hope Road.

There are many the­o­ries about who was be­hind the hit – from in­di­vid­u­als at­tached to the ri­val Ja­maican Labour Party to var­i­ous crim­i­nal in­ter­ests – but two days later, Mar­ley played the show in front of 80,000 peo­ple de­spite his in­juries.

The as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt saw Mar­ley move to Lon­don and it was there that he recorded

Ex­o­dus. Per­haps it was that sense of tak­ing stock and re­al­is­ing that he was lucky to be alive that ac­counts for the mel­low vibes on the al­bum. It’s songs such as One Love and

Three Lit­tle Birds which set the tone as much as the ti­tle track. Mar­ley seemed to feel that there

was enough drama go­ing on on his life and there was no need to re­turn to the right­eous mes­sages of I Shot the Sher­iff or War.

He’d a crack­ing band by his side. That mag­nif­i­cent rhythm sec­tion of As­ton Bar­rett (bass) and his brother Carl­ton (drums) pro­vide a beau­ti­fully pitched soundbed, while the lead gui­tar work of Ju­lian “Ju­nior” Mar­vin re­ally spot­lights tracks like So Much Things To Say.

Ex­o­dus also shows that Mar­ley could re­ally do pop. Re­mem­ber that his style of reg­gae wasn’t what dom­i­nated Ja­maica at the time and, in fact, it doesn’t sound a whole lot like any reg­gae that came be­fore.

Ex­o­dus is much more rooted in blues and soul and catches a trace of the rock that Mar­ley was be­gin­ning to pep­per through­out his ma­te­rial.

Even at a re­move of 40 years, it’s a record that still shines brightly and makes the case for Mar­ley to be viewed as much more than just the dread­locked Rasta of pop­u­lar renown.

Re­mem­ber that his style of reg­gae wasn’t re­ally what dom­i­nated Ja­maica at the time and, in fact, it doesn’t sound a whole lot like any reg­gae which came be­fore

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