MUSIC REVIEW | Bob Marley and the Wailers – Catch a Fire (1973)

Sometimes, it’s hard not to judge a musician or band by their fans.  It took me a long, long time to ever give Metallica a chance, because their biggest fans seemed like the world’s biggest meatheads.  And when it comes to people I would never want to hang out with, the Metallica bogans rank just above the crusty, faux rasta, white bread, middle class stoner dicks who love Bob Marley.  It’s a terrible reason to avoid an artist, and I know that.  Which is why I’m trying to forget the stench of those posers, and finally give a Marley long player a listen, with Bob Marley and Wailers, Catch a Fire.

The soaring organs and harpsichord that open the album on Concrete Jungle are a great way to get you in the groove, before quickly giving way to the backbeat guitar and bass rolls I was expecting.  There’s no denying that reggae is amazingly effective at setting a certain kind of mood.  And I don’t know if Marley pioneered and defined this kind of vocal delivery, or if he was just really good at executing what others established before him, but his voice and how he uses it are just as essential to what I expect from reggae as the instruments.

I know it’s dismissive to say this of any band who is part of a clearly defined genre, but to my novice ears, there’s a certain sameness to every song on Catch a Fire.  But I don’t mean that as a criticism.  Reggae comes with a fairly narrow set of musical rules and a tight formula.  To deviate too far from those rules and formulae would make it no longer reggae.  The skill is in sticking to these rules, while still remaining fresh.

Then comes a song like Baby We’ve Got a Date.  I assume it’s just a victim of all the bad, cheap copies that have come since Marley’s time.  I have no doubt it was great in 1973, but I have heard too many watered down rip offs of this kind of song to be able to see past them.

Stir It Up however is the opposite.  No matter how many covers of this specific song, or how many attempts to wrote something in the same vein I may have had forced on me over the years, this is still a stone cold classic.

I can’t say anything on Catch a Fire surprised me in anyway.  But that ‘s not to say that I was disappointed or underwhelmed in anyway.  Reggae is just so well defined, and Marley is such a big part to that definition for the general public, that his sound has been ingrained in me long ago, without ever actively seeking it out.  I can see where reggae might have its place, but even the best bits of Catch a Fire just reiterated that I’ll always prefer ska, reggae’s snot nosed, hyperactive bastard child.

Bob Marley and the Wailers

One thought on “MUSIC REVIEW | Bob Marley and the Wailers – Catch a Fire (1973)

  1. “rank just above the crusty, faux rasta, white bread, middle class stoner dicks who love Bob Marley.”
    Any one we know? Isn’t it time you named names.

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