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Grooving Kingston 12 (Jad Masters 1970-1972)

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Album Review

This is an attractive three-disc box set of material that Bob Marley & the Wailers recorded in the early '70s. Most of these tracks have been packaged countless times in different configurations, so there's really nothing new here, but Grooving Kingston 12 does have decent liner notes and musician credits, which is a rarity with most pre-Island releases of Marley material. The first disc collects early Jamaican singles released on the Wailers' own Tuff Gong label, along with the usual instrumental versions and DJ toasts. These are rough and raw recordings, full of a kind of nascent charm, with dominant horn arrangements, but aside from early versions of "Concrete Jungle" and "Soul Rebel" (here called "Run for Cover") and the beautiful melody of "Guava Jelly" (later a hit for Johnny Nash), most of these cuts play like sketches for a sound that isn't quite there yet. That sound arrives with banners flying, however, on the second disc, which features some of the best work the Wailers ever did. Working with producer Lee "Scratch" Perry at Randy's in Kingston, the Wailers recorded the songs that would make up the Trojan LPs Soul Rebels and African Herbsman, releases that redefined the direction and future of reggae. Again, there is nothing new here, since these songs have been reissued repeatedly in different combinations over the years, but the music is simply magnificent, a perfect pairing of the right musicians with the right producer at the right time. The final disc collects song demos Marley recorded for Danny Sims and Johnny Nash in Europe in 1971, along with a couple of late Tuff Gong singles, including another fine Perry track, "Sun Is Shining," and "Satisfy My Soul Babe," which points toward the kind of sound Marley would develop later at Island Records. The Sims demos are interesting for compositional and historical reasons, particularly the long solo acoustic medley Marley recorded in a hotel room in Sweden in 1971, but like almost everything else in this box, they have been issued countless times. There is one actual rarity here, the rather ordinary-sounding "Music Gonna Teach (aka Music Lesson)," which has gained some luster among Marley fans simply because few people have actually heard it. "Music Gonna Teach" aside, the tracks in this box set are hardly obscure or difficult to find, and most serious Marley devotees will already have them, although Grooving Kingston 12 offers the convenience of having them all in one package, and with decent annotation.


Born: 06 February 1945 in St. Ann, Jamaica

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s

Reggae's most transcendent and iconic figure, Bob Marley was the first Jamaican artist to achieve international superstardom, in the process introducing the music of his native island nation to the far-flung corners of the globe. Marley's music gave voice to the day-to-day struggles of the Jamaican experience, vividly capturing not only the plight of the country's impoverished and oppressed but also the devout spirituality that remains their source of strength. His songs of faith, devotion, and revolution...
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