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Album Review: Bob Marley & The Wailers Kaya [Deluxe Edition]
by Larson Sutton
Bob Marley & The Wailers’ Kaya celebrated its 35th birthday with a release of a deluxe, two-disc edition of the 1978 album. Remastered and including the Smile Jamaica bonus track, plus a second disc concert recording taken from the subsequent tour, a July 7, 1978 stop at Ahoy Hallen in Rotterdam, Netherlands, the set also contains rare photos, lyrics, and essay detailing the history behind the collection. Considered by many to be Marley’s ‘love’ record, it is the fifth of his Island studio catalog to receive the deluxe treatment.
A bit of a left turn from the monumental Exodus that preceded it, Kaya was decidedly less revolutionary both literally and figuratively in its tone and content. Focusing on the affection Marley had for the marijuana plant on the title track and the Easy Skanking opener, listeners were greeted with a more reflective and relaxed Rasta. Hard to imagine that Marley was not still feeling the effects of the assassination attempt on him two years prior and the growing political violence in Jamaica, he offered instead a lighter side loaded with love, both realized and forlorn, and as always spiritual hope. Even on weighty fare like Crisis and Time Will Tell, the singer isn’t as suggestive in promoting action, but almost relieved in letting Jah sort it out. The Smile Jamaica bonus cut, originally issued in Jamaica in 1976, then as a B-side to Satisfy My Soul in 1978, keeps with the positive sentiment, flowing somewhat naturally despite being added on.
The second disc is the real prize. A 13-song live set (though regrettably not the entire show), it captures Marley’s touring unit, the Wailers, in all its glory. Well-honed over several previous jaunts, the group sizzles through the hour-plus evening, following the leader near-flawlessly through slight arrangement shifts and improvised vocals. Junior Marvin’s guitar work is lively, almost feverish, with pleading bends on Heathen and the rattling rhythm of Exodus. Marley’s voice showing more of his latter-career grain affects beautifully a cathartic reading of No Woman, No Cry, while lifting the charged Easy Skanking, here noticeably faster than in-studio. There is a false start on Is This Love, quickly rectified, but it’s the source audio that attracts the most criticism. Rather than achieving the same sonic brilliance and dimension as previous live Marley recordings in the Island canon, this appears to lack the multi-tracked attention or overall balance. Instead, there is a thin, almost transmitted quality to it that some bootlegs of the same show surpass in fidelity. Perhaps the available material limited the ability to attain higher quality.
Kaya, like its deluxe edition ancestors, delivers more completely the Bob Marley & The Wailers of that date in time. Those that were previously satisfied with the 2001 definitive remaster should find incentive to revisit based on the inclusion of the live second disc. They will find a concert recording that despite its less-than-optimum audio quality still carries with it the unique qualities of its creators; a man and his band best displayed onstage and in the moment.
Bob Marley – Kaya – Deluxe Edition
2CD / DIGITAL RELEASE [Island]
Release date: 4/23/2013
01. Easy Skanking
03. Is This Love
04. Sun Is Shining
05. Satisfy My Soul
06. She’s Gone
07. Misty Morning
09. Running Away
10. Time Will Tell
11. Smile Jamaica [Bonus Track]
CD2 – Live in Rotterdam 1978
01. Positive Vibration
02. The Heathen
03. Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)
04. Concrete Jungle
05. Rebel Music (3 O’ Clock Road Block)
06. War/No More Trouble
07. I Shot The Sheriff
08. No Woman No Cry
09. Is This Love
11. Easy Skanking
12. Get Up, Stand Up
Packaged with the original artwork, Kaya: 35th Anniversary Deluxe Edition will come with a 23-page booklet that includes lyrics, rare photos, plus extensive liner notes.