Friday, 1 June 2018
Bob Marley & The Wailers - Kaya (1978)
Released March 1978
Recorded at Island Studios, London
This is Bob Marley & The Wailers’ most laid-back, easy going album, lacking the militancy that would be present on several songs on all the previous albums. The songs on here are about chilling out in the sun, letting in love, feeling romantic and smoking large quantities of marijuana (“kaya”).The album begins with the catchy, melodic “Easy Skanking” with its “excuse me while I light my spliff” exhortation, and continues in the same vein, so to speak, with a hymn to the qualities of the said kaya in the title track. This is a track resurrected from the old early 70s pre-fame days.
The sound quality and instrumental delivery from The Wailers is excellent on the album - crystal clear percussion and some deep, bassy semi-dub parts. The instantly recognisable hit single, “Is This Love” is up next and is the standout track, for reasons that don’t really need explaining. It has a great melody and hook, together with a singalong chorus. It is impossible to play this on a summer’s day and not feel lifted. Similarly, “Sun Is Shining” just has that relaxing 80 degrees plus shuffling, real hot summer groove. These tracks just don’t have the same effect on a cold day in January. This is also a track from days gone by.
“Satisfy My Soul”, another resurrection, is a jolly number about Bob feeling good, like a sweepstakes winner, because he is so “loved-up”. It has a great horns introduction and a sweet skanking rhythm. So ends the old “side one”. The old “side two” sees a drop in quality, in my opinion. I know the tracks were not recorded in any sort of order, but it genuinely seems as if Marley’s voice is deteriorating as the album progresses. Maybe it is just that the last crop of songs are somewhat mournful - the yearning, sad “She’s Gone”, and the chunky rhythms of the aptly-titled “Misty Morning”, which is something of a foggily-rendered song. Apparently this batch of songs were indeed recorded at the same session, however, almost as “live” ganja-fuelled jams. Maybe the distracted nature of the vocals is no coincidence. “Crisis” is a heavy-ish rootsy skank, probably the rootsiest cut on the album.
“Running Away” is a stark recording, a bit like “Sun Is Shining” in that respect. “Running Away” is repeated, mantra-like throughout most of the song and Marley’s voice, by the end, sounds like he is about to expire. He sounds completely out of it by now, to be honest. Nice female backing vocals and horn backing on this one.
As on “Burnin’” and “Natty Dread”, the album ends with a bongo-driven rastaman chant-like number in “Time Will Tell”. Some nice wah-wah guitar on it too.
Less instant than “Exodus”, this album is, in some ways, more interesting because of it.