Friday, July 24, 2009

FDF Volume 2: Issue 151 - Bob Marley & The Wailers = Babylon By Bus

By: March

Album - Babylon By Bus
Artist - Bob Marley & The Wailers
Key Players - Bob Marley - lead vocals, rhythm guitar, Carlton Barrett - drums, Aston "Family Man" Barrett - bass, Tyrone "Organ D" Downie - keyboards, Junior Marvin - lead guitar, Alvin "Seeco" Patterson - percussion, Al Anderson - lead guitar, Earl "Wire" Lindo - keyboards. Rita Marley - backing vocals, Marcia Griffiths - backing vocals, Judy Mowatt - backing vocals

Produced By - Bob Marley & The Wailers, Chris Blackwell and Jack Nuber.

Release Date - November 10, 1978

What caused me to blow off the dust? - It is rare for me to do a live album as a review. After last weeks review had a very mixed reaction I figured I'd go a little more "universally liked" artist to try and win back my readers! Also, a guy I play hockey with put the bug in my ear on this one..(thanks Dave)

Overview - This album was recorded in 1978 while on tour for the "Kaya" album. Recorded mostly in Paris, this record captures Bob Marley and his band the Wailers in fine form. The vinyl release was spread out over two records and the album cover featured a bus, with cut out windows that purchaser could "rotate" due to their being four sides of art to place in the window. This was the second live album to be released and came after over eight studio releases. It catches them in fine form.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) -

the audience sings in elation whengiven the chance

A chatty Marley greets an enthusiastic audience and before you know it the drum clicks off, the audience is cheering, clapping along and the choppy guitar begins. "Positive Vibration". The bass is solid, and has just the vibe. Bob sings and gets the responses from the three backing singers. The music is full of quick keyboard runs, wah wah guitars and Bob giving it his all. When you listen, you wonder how hard he physically sang. He doesn't sound like he is pushing himself, but sounds very full. There is an instrumental breakdown w/the drums and percussion and the ladies sing over that as well before the return to the verse and the song winds down. Shouting "Are you ready" the crowd once again gets fired up "Punky Reggae Party". The Marley and Lee Perry penned track is a more uptempo affair than the prior track. Its got an infectious bounce to it. The audience sings in elation given any chance and Bob is in command of this version. The drums are up in the mix with that piccolo snare sound (a real high "twap" sound on the drum). If you legs don't bounce on this version there is little Bob can do to fix that, it just takes you over. The audience once again claps along as the ladies start off "Exodus". Bob has a little "gruff" in his voice but the vibe of the track once more is infectious. One of this trademark tracks get a glowing workout with some fun guitar fills tossed in for something a little out of the norm you may have recalled from Legend. As we "set the captives free" the band is even more urgent. The band has hard instrumental breaks, the ladies are pushing the song forward as the guitars and bass keep it locked down. There is no denying this band was not one tight unit. Carlton Barrett gets a little showcase on the drums. It is not a flashy solo, but just him locked into that tight groove as the band sits back. There are some keyboard fills and the band goes a little more hushed, but they swell back up for an explosive ending. "Stir It Up" follows. This version was recorded July 18 1975 at The Lyceum, London, England. The audio still sounds similar and the band equally as tight, you'd probably not notice unless you read the liner notes. Astons bass line is probably one of the big trademarks of this song, as is the three guitar chords that resonate throughout. The percussion kicks back as the keyboards get a showcase here. A trademark and smile inducing track for sure. Another track taken from another venue (recorded in 76, Hammersmith Odeon, London England) is the Rita Marley penned "Rat Race". One of the shortest songs on the record at 3:25. It opens with the ladies singing the song title a few times before Bob comes in and offers the calming voice as always. The song is not overly interesting, its not terrible but it never gets really going anywhere (at least to me). "Concrete Jungle" begins with one of the first real guitar solos on the record. The guitar goes, whole the drums keep time and the deep bass notes accentuate the feel. The keyboards get a little krunky at times and the drums have that trade mark thwap to them. The song is sort of a mid tempo track for the band. Its still fun, but not as lively as some of the other tracks. "Kinky Reggae" keeps the vibe going, the tracking of this record is really great, as the songs fit perfectly in sequence. This song is still on the mid-tempo side for Marley but still strong. The familiar groove of "Lively Up Yourself" is treated with a more guitar based intro. Bob chants to the audience and gets a rousing response each time. The band locks into a groove and his head down and off to the races. The keyboards are showcased, one playing a rolling lead, while the other locks in with the bass. No reason to not see this one as a classic from the band. Bob warns us to "never get caught in a road block" as "Rebel Music (3 O'Clock Roadblock)" begins. The backing vocalists are back in, and in fine form. The band is locked into their groove. Later in the song Bob sings with a certain "edge" and really bears down vocally, but he will quickly soar back into his usual style. There is a quick guitar solo towards the end of the track that is not overly flashy and is just the right length. The band sounds serious (well more than usual on "War / No More Trouble". They have crisp back beats and the bass gets chugging along before hitting it's groove. The ladies offer short bursts of vocals as Bob sings the verses. It sort of feels a little "samey" and doesn't really seem to break the mold they had laid at the out set. The audience is particularly rowdy on "Is This Love". The song is the second longest on the record (behind Exodus) and the band really spreads our for a spirited version that really is watershed moment on the record. Bob sounds great, the backing vocals are perfect and the band is really locked in. People often say James Brown's band was the tightest band ever, and I never really put much stock in the Wailers (sure I thought they were good) but man..they are real good. "Heathen" seems to cool it down again. Once more Bob has nice interplay with the backing vocalists and the guitar solo tossed out is the most aggressive on the record. It comes back once more later in the track, but the band remains pretty calm behind it all. The record wraps up with the wildly popular "Jamming". Is there really much this reviewer needs to say about it? There is an musical interlude about 2:35 in that lets the drums, percussion and bass roll. As the song begins to hit its climax you can feel the energy that it really was the show closer. Band intros, lots of cheering, guitar solos and ravenous hand clapping but the audience along to the beat. What I have found it it appears that this was likely NOT the set closer, it actually likely had 4 songs follow it. Still a great album closer none the less.

Where are they now?
Bob Marley died in a Miami Hospital on May 11, 1981 from melanoma that had spread from his lungs to his brain. Aston "Family Man" Barrett is the father of (at least) 52 children and Barrett tours with, and leads "The Wailers Band" to this day. Carlton Barrett, who was brothers with Aston was shot and killed on April 17, 1987 he was 36 years old. Junior Marvin carried on the band name releasing material under the name The Wailers Band. After doing this for a few years he left for Brazil where he lived and worked as a session musician. In 2009 he toured with/under the moniker The Original Wailers. Al Anderson continues work as a session musician. Rita Marley, the widow of Marley, works to retain his legacy, some say, not doing the best of jobs. Marcia Griffiths wrote the song "Electric Boogie" released in 1976 and re-released in 1989, made the Electric Slide, a line dance, an international dance craze. It remains the highest-selling single by a female Reggae singer of all time. Judy Mowatt converted to Christianity and has released some Gospel Records. Tyrone "Organ D" Downie lives in France, Earl "Wire" Lindo in London. An update on Alvin "Seeco" Patterson was unknown.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) - I never saw Bob Marley live. I actually only know one person that had seen him live. Odd.

FDF Overall Take - Considering his best of collection "Legend" sells a few million copies a year there are fans out there, and will always be. That collection sells well for very good reason and is a terrific look at his musical legacy. Hearing Bob live is really a lot of fun and there are bunch of songs even the most casual of fans would recognize. Since you probably have Legend, get this. Well worth giving it the old front to back treatment.

The Official site here, a long Wiki entry and of course, a myspace page.

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

The mp3s have been removed...
Stir It Up

Tracks taken from "Babylon By Bus" which you can buy here.

Disclaimer - For the most part songs listed you can find on iTunes or your local cd shop. The idea is to give you a little taste of the music. Please support the artist buy purchasing some of their work. Songs are posted for about 1 week but can and will be removed at the request of the artist, band, band management etc. If you are one of those persons contact me via the email link in the profile and they will be removed as soon as we are made aware of the request.


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