4. redemption song

“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).

(Photo: Mike Prior Redferns/Getty Images)

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)

141. soul fire

“In which Lee Scratch Perry (aka Rainford Hugh Perry), the maddest mix-doctor of them all, nails us with a powerful ember of soul fire ††that manages to be equal parts easy and strange. Because it’s roots reggae (always an easy groove) and it concerns the human soul (always strange). Doesn’t matter if you’re in feverishly hot Trenchtown, Jamaica, or just some pointless suburb at the north-western edge of the crumbling civilization known as Babylon. It’s all humanity if you drill deep enough.” (Philip Random)

(image source)

165. soul rebel

“With a small handful of exceptions, the very best Bob Marley is the very early Bob Marley, the stuff he recorded long before we, the godless multitudes of greater Babylon, had a clue that he even existed, when he was still just some struggling Jamaican local trying to believe in his soul. In particular, you’ve gotta love what he did with the singularly unsane Lee Scratch Perry in the producer’s chair. I do anyway, the two of them (and the band, of course) exploring far darker, edgier realms of soul and rebellion than what would eventually come to hog all the space on the Greatest Hits albums, get hippies dancing around bonfires, pretending they’re little birds.” (Philip Random)

(photo: Esther Anderson)

308. crazy baldheads

“I believe that’s us Bob Marley is howling about here, our dads and granddads and uncles anyway – the crazy baldhead agents of colonial Babylon doing the devil’s work, making a mess of every beautiful thing in creation. Found on 1976’s Rastaman Vibration, the first Marley and the Wailers album to crack the American top ten. The times were a-changing. And you could dance to it.” (Philip Random)

BobMarley-1976-live

598. concrete jungle

“The release date for Catch A Fire says 1973 but I didn’t have the right ears for Bob Marley and the Wailers (and reggae in general for that matter) until at least 1980. And Concrete Jungle was pivotal in that evolution, and marijuana. By which I mean, Old Ted (one of my more dependable dealers at the time) insisted that I get high on some particularly effective herb, and listen to Catch A Fire with him. ‘Because marijuana will never be free until Jamaica is free.’ Which sounds a bit vague now but trust me, it made profound sense then. And it all started with Concrete Jungle, first track on the album, one of the best bands ever in all creation, slowly slipping things into gear for a revelatory journey through the concrete and shadows of Babylon and beyond.” (Philip Random)

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779. Babylon System

“I was just starting to take Bob Marley seriously when he died in 1981. So a comparatively obscure album cut like Babylon System didn’t find me until the 1990s sometime. Which was as good a time as any for an outside opinion on the evils inherent in the vampiric empire I was inextricably part of, by the very nature of where and when I was born, not to mention the pale shade of my skin. Sucking the blood of the children and the sufferers day by day.” (Philip Random)

BobMarley-1979

1041. Babylon

It’s 1969 and Malcolm John Rebennack (aka Dr. John) is deep into his Night Tripper phase with Babylon (both song and album) hitting as a strange and delirious warning of great trials and tribulations to come. Babylon being the great city-state of Ancient Mesopotamia that lasted more than two thousand years before finally dissolving into the sands of time. Babylon being the root of the word babble, that state in language acquisition, during which an infant appears to be experimenting with uttering all the weird and wonderful sounds of language, but not yet producing any recognizable words – confusion in a word, but not without a purpose.