As I picked my list of albums, I intentionally stayed away from compilation albums, unless those were the only way to catch all of an artist’s major contributions, particularly before albums became a thing. With a “Legend” like Bob Marley, who I am including most of his major releases from the 1970s, I may not have included today’s album. However, there are two very good reasons why it is here. One, it is rated #48 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of Time, so by process, it has to be here. And to be fair, the album “Legend – The Best of Bob Marley And The Wailers” is one of the most significant and well-known compilation albums of all time. For probably 95% (or more) of casual or beginner reggae fans, and you certainly could have lumped me in with this at one point, “Legend” was the point of entry and the one album or CD that we all owned.
Many of these songs are on albums we have already addressed, and I’m guessing there are more still to come. This collection ultimately wasn’t released for the first time until 1984, but I chose to insert it here, during the height of his great run of records. Even the most novice of reggae fans will probably recognize almost every song on this record, and rightly so. Even to this day, on a beautiful day like today as I was overlooking the waves, Marley is required listening for me as I approach the ocean breeze with a happy heart. The mix of songs has evolved slightly over years with subsequent updates and releases, but the basic lineup is relatively unchanged.
The vibe opens so smoothly, with “Is This Love”, and then we move right into a live version of “No Woman, No Cry”. The tight and crisp “Could You Be Loved” comes next, followed by one of his sweetest and happiest songs, “Three Little Birds”. The anthemic “Buffalo Soldier” comes next, and then we have one of my personal favorites, the militant “Get Up, Stand Up” which has a great verse from Peter Tosh.
The perfect chord sequence opening of “Stir It Up” then leads us into “One Love / People Get Ready”, perhaps the most replayed and covered collection of reggae we have ever heard. Marley’s original (yes, original!) version of “I Shot The Sheriff” comes next, and this album just never loses pace with greatness. As if everything I have already cited wasn’t spectacular enough, the last five songs are the gorgeous “Waiting In Vain”, the hopeful “Redemption Song”, the groovy “Satisfy My Soul”, the powerful “Exodus”, and perhaps his signature song above all the others, the perfect track to close it out, “Jamming”. On the version I streamed today, “Easy Skanking” and “Punky Reggae Party”, two songs relatively new to me, are also in the track list, but I focused primarily on the 14 tracks from the original “Legend” release.
Greatest hits albums are intended to be just that, the very best of an artist’s many creations over a long and remarkable career. True to the name, this album and Bob Marley himself were and are legends who exemplify not only an entire genre of music, but still serve today as the cultural icon of an entire nation.