1976, Music

Blackheart Man (1976) by Bunny Wailer

When I first heard Peter Tosh’s solo stuff, it was a revelation. I couldn’t believe how much more I liked it than the Wailers. And I sort of stupidly assumed that it was specifically Tosh I liked and the Wailers I didn’t like so much. I already knew I liked Tosh’s Wailers songs more than Marley’s. And so I discovered an album full of Tosh songs was better, for me, than an album mostly made up of Marley songs and co-writes. But thought nothing of Bunny; in part because of the pre-split Wailers albums I had heard at the time had very little songwriting from Bunny (as far as I can remember). This is a very long way of saying I was wrong to believe Tosh was the best talent in the group, with no other contenders.

Bunny is, like Tosh, a more interesting and more diverse songwriter than Marley. I don’t think Bunny is quite on Tosh’s level, based on this one album, but he’s pretty good as reggae songwriters go, at least when it comes lyric quality and diversity. (To make a point I always make: neither Tosh nor Bunny has anything on Marley when it comes to melody. But that should be obvious.) The songs on this record are remarkably diverse musically for mid ’70s reggae.

The band is nice and big, and relatively sonically diverse as well. It’s actually a bunch of different players, but the sound is pretty consistent even with that relative sonic diversity. (There are numerous guitarists credited, for example, but I don’t really hear too much variation.) Bunny himself is a pretty decent performer. He’s not Marley, but who is? Still, he’s compelling enough and I’d argue more so than a number of other ’70s reggae stars.

I quite like the mix on this one. And I don’t always feel that way about ’70s reggae records. You can hear a lot of differentiation in the instruments and sometimes it can be just a vague haze of sound.

Anyway, I think this is one of the best reggae albums of the ’70s not least because Bunny Wailer is a way better songwriter than I imagined but particularly because, as ’70s reggae albums go, there is a lot of stylistic diversity.


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