Thursday, May 23, 2013

Bob Marley and the Wailers - Confrontation

Today (May 23rd) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Confrontation, the final album from Bob Marley & the Wailers. Released posthumously two years after Marley’s death, it is a compilation of unreleased material and singles recorded while the Jamaican singer-songwriter was still living . The album went to number 55 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 31 on the US Billboard R&B chart, number 16 in Norway, number 14 in Austria, number 12 in New Zealand, number 6 in Sweden, and number 5 in the UK.

Side one opens with “Chant Down Babylon”, which ties in with the album artwork. The cover references the story of St. George and the Dragon with the dragon representing Babylon. Marley, in the role of St. George, slays the beast with his music.

The first single “Buffalo Soldier” went to number 71 on the US Billboard R&B chart, number 4 in the UK and number 3 in New Zealand. The song tells of the black US cavalry regiments who fought during the Indian Wars during the mid-1800’s. The bridge chant is very similar to the chorus in “The Tra-La-La Song”, the theme for the 1968 Banana Splits TV show. I have always liked the laid-back cadence of this one.

“Jump Nyabinghi” continues with the Biblical laced lyrics, this one making mention to Jericho as well as Babylon. It also features some of drug references with the repeated chant “we got the herb” around the second verse.

“Mix Up, Mix Up” was the second single from the album.

The mid-tempo “Give Thanks and Praises” is a nice hybrid of reggae and gospel, giving proper respect to the Lord above.

Side two begins with “Blackman Redemption”. The song uses the phrase “cool runnings” which is Jamaican slang for “everything is all good”. That phrase also happened to be the title of the 1993 movie, which starred Doug E. Doug and John Candy, about an Olympic Jamaican bobsled team

The B-side to the single was “Trench Town”, a song about the neighborhood in Kingston, Jamaica, of the same name.

The lyrics of “Stiff Necked Fools”, which reference both Old Testament and New Testament passages of the Bible, are message about tolerance and acceptance.

On “I Know”, Marley acknowledges that life can give you twists and turns that might be difficult to navigate. However, he reminds us that we are not alone. This one has a more pop sound to it musically with a steady, almost dance-like tempo. It is a nice change of pace by this point on the album.

The final track “Rastaman Live Up!” talks about standing your ground for your heritage and for what you believe in.

My familiarity with Bob Marley & the Wailers comes from my older brother’s vinyl collection and the local album-oriented rock station. I remember hearing in particular the first couple tracks from Confrontation back in the mid-80’s. I enjoyed listening to the whole album for this review; the sounds of Jamaican reggae always put me in a relaxed kind of mood.

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