Friday, 1 June 2018
Bob Marley & The Wailers - Natty Dread (1974)
Released October 1964
Recorded at Harry J's, Kingston, Jamaica
Now deprived of both Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, this was the first album credited to “Bob Marley And The Wailers”. It has to be said that it loses a little of the vibe of the first two albums, just slightly. Tosh’s ear for a melodic tune was a big miss.
As would be the case for the remainder of his career, Marley’s material could be broadly categorised as “rebellion, Rasta and romance”. Songs would fall mainly into one of the three categories (including “roots” in with “Rasta”).
On this album, “Lively Up Yourself”, “So Jah Seh” and “Natty Dread” express Marley’s growing Rasta consciousness, as his dreads grew longer, album cover by album cover. “Rebel Music (3 o’clock Road Block)” with its excellent harmonica parts, “Revolution”, “Talkin’ Blues”, with its acoustic guitar intro, and the hard-hitting “Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)” pull no punches in confronting social problems head on.
The romance/seduction is found in the rocksteady beat of “Bend Down Low”, with its “i-threes” backing vocals heralding something Marley would use a lot from now on, and the somewhat low-key undercooked original version of the later to become iconic “No Woman No Cry”.
Just as on “Catch A Fire”, other instruments are used to augment the traditional reggae of drums, bass and keyboards - acoustic guitar, lead rock guitar, saxophones, horns (such as on “Lively Up Yourself”) and the increasing use of multiple female backing vocals. It was something that worked well then and Marley continued it throughout his career.
After the seismic blast of the first two albums and the success that would follow with “Live”, “Rastaman Vibration”, “Exodus” and “Kaya”, this always had the feel of a “treading water” album, which is a bit of a shame, as it contains some good material. “Lively Up Yourself” is a Marley classic, full of laid-back skanking rhythm and an enthusiastic invocation to the faithful. “Them Belly Full” and “Rebel Music” show his indignant fire burning at its brightest.