We didn’t have to wait long for more reggae, and today is a perfect example of how subjective lists can be. I even had to double-check this. You may recall that yesterday’s album, “Heart of the Congos”, was voted the #1 reggae album of all time. Just one day later, we have a spectacular collection that is not a compilation album that didn’t even crack the Top 10. “Exodus”, by Bob Marley & The Wailers, is literally packed with some of his best work, including well-known classics and lesser-known gems. It is rated #71 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, so there is that.
Side one is the less hit-laden of the two, but there are some beautiful songs on this first half. The opener, “Natural Mystic”, followed by “So Much Things to Say” and “Guiltiness” are a three-song intro that showcase the funkiness and high production quality of this album. I don’t love “The Heathen”, it is a bit too redundant for me, but we head into familiar territory on the last song of side one, the powerful title track.
Listening to side two, you may think you have accidentally dialed up “Legend”, his greatest hits collection. We open with “Jamming”, which then takes us to “Waiting In Vain”. A slightly deeper cut, but really a great song, we then have “Turn Your Lights Down Low”, and then the album closes out with “Three Little Birds” and the medley of “One Love/People Get Ready”. Who is to say what is great and what isn’t, but for my money, this has to be the most impactful album recorded by Bob Marley or any other reggae artist. It just isn’t really even close; this one is absolutely spectacular.
1977 marked the beginning of troubled times for Bob Marley. After a thankfully unsuccessful assassination attempt at the end of 1976, Marley was first diagnosed with melanoma, the cancer he left mostly untreated, which then metastasized and ultimately took his life in 1981. While he would tour and record as much as possible over these last four years, “Exodus” represents the highest point of an unmatched career as the king of Jamaican reggae. His music is a gift to all of us, and remains a consistent part of my life to this day.