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Catch a Fire [Deluxe Edition]

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    A Reggae Classic, But ...

    Universal Music, the mega-company that seems to have eaten and digested dozens of other labels, has issued an expanded and remastered versions of the landmark reggae album ''Catch A Fire'' by the Wailers. While the music has never sounded better, there are some significant and fundamental problems with this release. Except perhaps for the soundtrack album to the film ''The Harder They Come,'' the Wailers' ''Catch A Fire'' (1973) was the first reggae album that most listeners outside of Jamaica ever heard. The group had been together in some form for a decade and had enjoyed a long series of Jamaican hit singles. They had also moved easily from r&b to ska before becoming one of the earliest reggae acts. Although Bob Marley wrote and sang most of the songs, it was by no means his band. Peter Tosh also was a major contributor, and Marley, Tosh and Bunny Livingston (a/k/a Bunny Wailer) had been bandmates from the beginning, and their vocal blend was striking and beautiful. Island Records' founder and president Chris Blackwell had long followed the Jamaican music scene. When he heard the powerful results of the Wailers' '72 sessions he was ready to spring reggae on the rest of the world. Between this decision and the music's actual release, though, Blackwell got cold feet, and altered most of the tracks in London by judiciously and tastefully overdubbing rock keyboards, guitar and backing vocals in an apparent attempt to make the tracks more accessible to rock-oriented listeners. Whether these alterations were necessary, or even a good idea, ''Catch A Fire'' found an audience in England, the U.S. and elsewhere and became a modest hit. Although the original band broke up a year or so (and one album) later when Tosh and Livingston left, Bob Marley & the Wailers were on their way to international stardom. ''Catch A Fire'' (Deluxe Edition) makes available for the first time the original unadulterated recordings from the 1972 sessions, and they are really a revelation. These versions are rawer but more powerful; its as if a sonic gauze has been removed, revealing the true nature of the music for the first time. These tracks have an immediacy that was lacking in the originally released versions, and long-time fans of Marley and the Wailers will feel as if they've stumbled upon the Holy Grail of reggae. There are also two previously unreleased songs that fans will find worth hearing and owning. The remastered version of the original album, overdubs and all, is also here and sounds better than ever. Such Marley classics as ''Concrete Jungle'' and ''Stir It Up'' still retain their appeal. Its worth noting, though, that two of the album's most powerful songs, ''400 Years'' and ''Stop That Train,'' are written and sung by Peter Tosh. Tosh was one of reggae's greatest artists, and its a shame that his reputation seems diminished largely because he was so overshadowed by badmate Marley. The major problem with this release, and one that may make you think twice about purchasing it, is that there is barely eighty minutes of music on this two-disk set, which sells for the full price of two CDs. The Wailers recorded extensively in the period before ''Catch A Fire,'' and perhaps some of those tracks (many of which are excellent) could have been licensed by Universal for inclusion here. Another option would have been dropping one of the two outtakes and fitting it all on one disk. Serious fans of Marley and the Wailers will purchase this package without a second thought, but more casual fans might do better to seek out the earlier, budget-priced CD issue of ''Catch A Fire.'' The booklet of the Deluxe Edition includes all the original artwork and some nice and rare photos, as well as song lyrics, but the essay is second-rate and disappointing. In the last few months Universal has issued such classics as ''Blind Faith'' and Marvin Gaye's ''What's Going On'' in similar ''Deluxe Editions'' at a premium price. While there was a significa

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