Monday, October 09, 2006

Marley's Ghost

Leading on (fairly) smoothly from Vivien Goldman below, we now turn to Mr. Robert Nesta Marley. I don't own very much by The Wailers, for the same reason that I own hardly any Beatles records. You don't really need to own them. Their music is everywhere anyway; it's totally permeated Western culture. Just go to any cafe in Amsterdam, and see what I mean. Despite this, I've fallen fairly heavily for Dreams of Freedom: Ambient Translations of Bob Marley in Dub.

A reworking of all the songs that have lost much of their meaning through incessant repetition (e.g. No Woman No Cry, One Love, Is This Love), this particular delight was brought into the world courtesy of Chris Blackwell and Bill Laswell. It works precisely because Marley's voice has been pushed way back in the mix, or in most cases totally eliminated from the songs. Not that there's anything wrong with his voice, of course. It's just that it's so familiar, it has to be removed to make the songs once more unfamiliar. Instead the songs are rendered as ambient instrumentals punctuated by the I-Threes' heavenly vocals, here brought to the forefront of the soundstage (blimey, I nearly went a bit "What Hi-Fi" for a second there). The contributions of Bunny Wailer, Aston Barrett*, Carlton Barrett et al are boosted and augmented by the Material usual suspects, in this case Karl Berger on string arrangements, Aiyb Dieng on percussion and Tetsu Inoue doing whatever he does with his electronics gubbins.

Laswell really is the patron saint of Irk The Purists, managing to enthrall and exasperate in equal measure. There were groans when this album was announced, and this piece from '97 summarises some of the objections. Undaunted, he went on to remix Miles Davis and Carlos Santana to similar opprobrium, especially in the case of Miles. Jazzers, it seems, are the biggest purists of all. Those of you, though, who disdain those record-rack dividers (rock/rap/r&B/heavy metal etc.) as much as I do can enjoy a couple of snippets of the album below.

BTW, the tracks have a very abrupt start and end, as the album is one seamless mix with no pauses between tracks. Just so you know.

Download Waiting in Vain (ambient dub)

Download Exodus (ambient dub) (deleted Feb 2007--sorry!)

Buy Dreams of Freedom

*Incidentally, has anyone else noticed that Aston "Family Man" Barrett has been written out of the Wailers story at the official Marley site? Try going to here, and then take a look at this to see what I mean. I know he tried to sue the estate and all but, c'mon, what's with this Stalinist airbrushing of history? The guy's got enough problems remembering the birthdays of his 52 kids! At least give him his props, even if he's not getting any more moolah.

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