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Legacy ()

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There is probably no place on Earth that puts out more recorded music per capita than Jamaica, and there is no doubt that it's pop music, made for dancing in the dancehalls and then chilling afterward, but it's also a kind of folk music, too, where favorite rhythms are versioned repeatedly, with new songs growing out of the old ones, then dubbed and stripped back, only to be versioned again and again, constantly reentering the dancehalls in new clothes. It also means that on the business side of things, Jamaica is a licensing nightmare, with who owns what recording often in doubt, and when it comes to Bob Marley, it's an even bigger nightmare, because there's a whole lot of money to be made in that name. Bob Marley & the Wailers recorded regularly in fairly piecemeal style for several different Jamaican producers beginning in 1962 before signing to Island Records a decade later in 1972, eventually taking Jamaica and reggae to the world. So who owns these early tracks? It's a legal matter, and a complicated one, so who knows? But every year scores of haphazard and dubiously legal collections of Marley's pre-Island material hit the market, reconfigured in countless ways (but always with a bright photo of Marley and plenty of red, yellow, and green colors on the cover), and it's almost impossible to know what you're getting musically since Marley and company often re-recorded the same songs with different producers, who in turn might remix and dub them, plus there are the song demos Marley did for Johnny Nash in 1968 and 1971 floating around out there as well. This three-disc set has a little of everything, including Wailers self-productions from 1967 ("Nice Time"), Leslie Kong productions from 1970 ("Soul Shake Down Party" and Peter Tosh's "Soon Come"), several Lee "Scratch" Perry productions from later in 1970 through early 1971, and then more Wailers self-productions from the end of 1971 through 1973. That variety makes this three-disc set an OK budget purchase, but don't expect the smoother, more polished Marley of the later Island years. The Perry stuff, in particular, is essential listening, but that too has been licensed so many times that it's almost like freeware. A big chunk of the Perry sides is here, though. That's better than it not being here. ~ Steve Leggett, Rovi Hide synopsis

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