Thursday, 2 August 2018
Bob Marley & The Wailers - Uprising (1980)
Released June 1980
Recorded at Tuff Gong Studios, Kingston Jamaica
Bob Marley's last studio album before his tragic demise is a melodic merging of aware, political material with a lighter skanking beat as opposed to the traditional roots, Rasta heavier beat. Al Anderson's electric guitar is used a lot too, emphasising the close relationship Marley always had with the electric guitar and how he was prepared to use it in a situation very different from its usual rock setting. Marley's reggae was often considerably enhanced by his use of electric guitar.
1. Coming In From The Cold
2. Real Situation
3. Bad Card
4. We And Them
6. Zion Train
7. Pimper's Paradise
8. Could You Be Loved
9. Forever Loving Jah
10. Redemption Song
"Coming In From The Cold" has a slightly wheezing, croaky Marley singing over a very catchy, shuffling, strummed electric guitar rhythm. The instant appeal continues on the equally singalong and endearing, almost commercial "Real Situation". "Bad Card" is a shortish but addictive groove that grows on you. There is a real energetic tunefulness and harmony about the material on here. It is light but carrying a real sad tone to Marley's voice. "We And Them" deals with social inequality, over a gentle shuffle with some lilting wah-wah guitar. "We no have no friends inna high society..." bemoans Marley. I wouldn't worry about it, Bob. Did you really want their friendship? "Work" is a bluesy, militant skank, a condemnation of anyone idling away their time, or Jah's time, no doubt. Marley has become a spokesman for the sensible, older generation, all of a sudden, intolerant of laziness. A bit like The Rolling Stones on "Hang Fire". It is longer than the lighter tracks that came before it, and that seems quite suitable for such a solemn declaration. "If you ain't got nothing to do - work". sings Marley, as if hectoring some surly kids in the tenement yard. How things change.
"Zion Train" is the now ubiquitous Rasta devotional song. There is a cool rhythm on it, though, and some killer guitar. There is just a great feel to this, as indeed there is to the whole album. It has a real "breath of fresh air" feel about it. "Pimpers' Paradise" has Marley sadly telling the tale of a fallen woman over some harmonious I-Threes backing vocals. It is a most agreeable, engaging song yet it tells such a forlorn story. It was unusual to hear Marley crticising a woman so blatantly, but he was also condemning the men who exploited her. "I'm sorry for the victim..." he sings.
"Could You Be Loved" was the big hit single from the album - shuffling and catchy, almost dance/disco-ish in its cross-over appeal. It doesn't really fit in with the ambience and musical theme of the rest of the album. "Forever Loving Jah" sees a return to the slower-paced skanking that populates the album overall. It has vibes of the "Kaya" album in its sleepy, laconic mood, as if the ganja is kicking in.
"Redemption Song" is a magnificent oddity. Not reggae at all in this form. It is a haunting, emotive, heartbreaking ballad sung out against a lightly strummed, folky acoustic guitar. Along with Jimmy Cliff's "Many Rivers To Cross", it is a non-reggae reggae classic. The full band version, played as a proper reggae song, is included as a bonus track, and, while truly excellent too, with some Rasta drumming and dub undertones, nothing quite matches the evocative, raw feel of this. It was the last track on Bob Marley's last "living" studio album. A fitting epitaph.
Many years later, I visited Bob Marley's mausoleum in Jamaica. It was a touching moment for me to lay my hands on his sarcophagus and say a quiet "thank you". RIP.