Friday, 1 June 2018

Bob Marley & The Wailers - Rastaman Vibration (1976)


Released April 1976

Recorded at Harry J's, Kingston, Jamaica

The previous year’s live album had put Bob Marley fully into the “mainstream” and his releases now catered for not only a Jamaican audience, but a predominantly white “rock” group of followers in the UK, the USA and Europe. He was now on the way to becoming a global music figure.


1. Positive Vibration
2. Roots, Rock, Reggae
3. Johnny Was
4. Cry To Me
5. Want More
6. Crazy Baldhead
7. Who The Cap Fit
8. Night Shift
9. War
10. Rat Race

“Rastaman Vibration”, however, is a surprisingly uncommercial, often low-key album. It is fervent in its roots approach and is still pretty credible in its roots authenticity. Indeed, the album’s opener, the laid-back rasta exhortation to be positive in the name of Jah, “Positive Vibration”, is hardly the commercial lead-off many were expecting. It was a call-out to the faithful, a call to prayer. “Roots, Rock, Reggae” continued this theme, this time bringing reggae music into the mix, Marley asking the radio stations in the USA to “play I on the r’n’b”. “Johnny Was”, later covered successfully by Northern Irish punk band Stiff Little Fingers is far less anthemic than that version, here it is a justifiable sad lament.

“Cry To Me” is another of Marley’s regular re-recordings of some of his earlier material, this one dating from 1966. As also is “Who The Cap Fit”, a re-working of 1971’s “Man To Man”. The versions here are the better ones, to be honest. Recording technology and a more confident band ensure that. “Want More” had an air of the dubby sound that was used on the earlier “Soul Rebels” album, showing Marley had not left dub stylings behind.

The album’s militant songs - “Crazy Baldhead” (using some verses from 1967’s “Freedom Time”), “Night Shift”, “Rat Race” and “War” are the cornerstones of the album, showing once again that alongside the rasta devotional material, a fighting soul healthily co-exists. This would never change, despite the commercial, most poppy success that some later songs would bring.

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