I am on record as saying the best songwriter in the Wailers was Peter Tosh and, a few Marley solo albums later, I’m not sure I have changed my mind. But this record, the first without Tosh I believe, is definitely doing more than some of his later records to convince me I might have been a little harsh to Marley.
Or maybe I’m just getting used to Marley as a songwriter now and my standards are lowering, or adjusting or he’s speaking to me more. Because it feels like this is a stronger set of songs than some of his later records. And I’m not sure that’s actually reality, it might just be my perception. (My understanding is, despite the credits, he wrote all the songs on this record. FYI.)
One of the things I struggle with when listening to reggae is I never know how to evaluate the performances. I’ve listened to oh, I don’t know, 15 or more ’70s reggae albums at this point, and it’s pretty rare that I notice a huge difference in the arrangements and production unless the record is super dubby. That makes it hard for me to evaluate each record and I just don’t have the time to, say, listen to every Wailers record in a row three times. So I find myself listening to this one, thinking it sounds like Bob Marley and the Wailers and having no idea whether or not I think it sounds better or worse than the other Wailers records I’ve heard.
So I’ll stick with the songs. I think it’s one of Marley’s better sets, far as I can remember, especially in terms of lyrics, because it’s not just about getting laid and occasionally rebelling. (Some of Marley’s records have far too many songs about sex on them, for my liking. That is not the side of Bob Marley I enjoy.)