“It’s true. There are still people out there who haven’t heard Bob Marley’s Redemption Song, not even a cover version. And that’s a problem. Because we all need redemption, because we’ve all got slavery in us one way or another. Unless you’re one of those grey alien types who’ve been lording it over ALL humanity since the days of Atlantis. In which case, F*** You. To everybody else though, if you haven’t heard Redemption Song, why not? Because it’s Bob Marley’s last song, and it’s his best (assuming this list is accurate).
If you have heard Redemption Song, then I suspect it requires no justification. Because even if you’re sick of all the white rastas out there, all their tofu stir fries and b.o. (because if you don’t eat meat, man, you don’t stink). Even if (and a million other ifs, because let’s face it, the Bob Marley legacy is hardly a secret anymore, anywhere – bigger than the Beatles once you get outside the Euro-western empires). Even F***ing If – well, you know that Redemption Song transcends all that. Because we all need redemption. We’ve all got slavery in us one way or another. Am I allowed to say that? I just did. Twice.” (Philip Random)
“Two in a row from Parliament’s 1975 Mothership Connection, because sometimes more is more. And if you can only own one Parliament album, Mothership‘s probably the one. But of course, what you really want to do is catch them live, which I did on TV back in 1976 one of those Friday night concert shows they used to have. It was one of the tours where they had an actual spaceship land on stage, great clouds of smoke and lights, and, of course, the music itself care of a band umpteen strong and powerful. Like an alien invasion straight to the marrow of my narrow, white bread suburban soul. And thus my universe was changed. But good luck actually finding any of the records down at the local mall. Cool funk just didn’t travel that far north and west in the mid-70s. In fact, it would take me decades to finally track down a vinyl copy of Mothership Connection, some things being well worth waiting (and searching) for.” (Philip Random)
“The gods must have had me in mind with America is Waiting, side one track one of My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, Brian Eno and David Byrne messing with African beats and rhythms, disembodied voices, all manner of weird noises, everything coming together to call down the venal soullessness of Ronald Reagan’s America, like the atmosphere itself was speaking to my concerns. How could all this not go well with the copious quantities of LSD that were bubbling around at the time? But the drugs wore off eventually. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts didn’t, never has. Others may have used samples before, merged noise and rhythm and all manner of exotic tangents and textures. But once Misters Eno and Byrne had done their bit, this sort of stuff was emphatically here to stay, part of the firmament.” (Philip Random)
The entirety of Talking Heads’ third album Fear of Music is essential, but I Zimbra stands out for broad hint it offers of what would happen if Talking Heads (at the vigorous encouragement of their producer Brian Eno) were to maybe leave the whole punk/new wave thing behind, take a wild dive into the whole world, Africa in particular. Shrug it all off as cultural appropriation as some have over the years, but things were different then, the world was bigger, our maps magnitudes less complete. And anyway, things seem to be correcting of late.
Track one, side one of the first Guadalcanal Diary album is pumped up, countrified fun. Philip Random is pretty sure it’s about a movie he saw as a little kid. “Something to do with American cowboys going to the Congo (or wherever), killing natives, other fun stuff. By which I mean, horrific. Which unfortunately was pretty standard in my early days of TV watching (the 1960s). White men killing non-white men, served up as rousing adventure. Anyway, it’s a great song from a highly overlooked so-called jangle-pop outfit.” (Philip Random)
Take a speech from recently deceased Haile Selassie (Emperor of Ethiopia, living incarnation of God if you happened to be Rastafarian) and turn it into a song. It doesn’t sound like it should work. But in Bob Marley’s hands, it goes way beyond mere tribute, gets close to the stuff of actual transcendence, obliterating all borders, all boundaries, all negation. Everywhere is War.
John Kongos, who isn’t known for much else, loops up some genuine African drumming (way before it was the thing to do) lays a groovy pop song on top and cracks the British Top 5 at a time (1971) when that was simply not an easy thing to do. Philip Random recalls first hearing it on his second trip to Britain. “Mid-90s. well on my way to getting drunk at a very old pub in Nottingham. My immediate thought was wow, somebody’s done a helluva job with that Happy Mondays song. I had it backwards, of course.”
“African Head Charge were nothing if not truth in advertising. Or as I once heard it put, ‘it’s like Africa on acid, except you’re at least ten thousand miles from Africa, so what is it really?.’ What they were was a loose sort of psychedelic dub outfit formed by London based percussionist Bonjo Iyabinghi Noah in the early 1980s, with Adrian Sherwood at the mixing board, having fun with frequencies, noise, rhythm and razor blades (which is how they used to edit audio in those days – direct application of sharpened metal to electromagnetic tape). Depth Charge is pure truth in advertising. It goes deep and the slightest contact leaves you with at least a bit of burn.” (Philip Random)