Escape from Babylon

( 1 )

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Jo-Ann Greene
So right on so many levels, yet in the end, so very, very, wrong, Escape From Babylon is one of the oddest albums to come out of the reggae era. The album was Bob Marley's first outside production assignment, and he was ably assisted by Lee Perry and Craig Leon, while the recording sessions were split between Harry J's studio in Kingston and Plaza Sound in New York. The backing band is the Wailers' own, the Barrett Brothers (Earl "Chinna" Smith et al.), with Zap Pow horns and the I-Threes providing harmonies. Of the album's eight tracks, three are Marley's own, a fourth is a Marley/Tosh classic, and a fifth is co-written by the Wailers and Velez. All in all, this should ...
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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Jo-Ann Greene
So right on so many levels, yet in the end, so very, very, wrong, Escape From Babylon is one of the oddest albums to come out of the reggae era. The album was Bob Marley's first outside production assignment, and he was ably assisted by Lee Perry and Craig Leon, while the recording sessions were split between Harry J's studio in Kingston and Plaza Sound in New York. The backing band is the Wailers' own, the Barrett Brothers (Earl "Chinna" Smith et al.), with Zap Pow horns and the I-Threes providing harmonies. Of the album's eight tracks, three are Marley's own, a fourth is a Marley/Tosh classic, and a fifth is co-written by the Wailers and Velez. All in all, this should be one hell of a reggae album, with fabulous versions of such masterpieces as "Stand Alone" (retitled "There You Are"), "Bend Down Low," "Hurting Inside" (aka "Happiness"), and "Get up, Stand Up." The music is wonderful, with laid-back, softly percolating rhythms; superb musicianship; and a warm, almost gentle production. And then Velez starts to sing, and it all falls to bits. Not only was Velez not Jamaican, she wasn't even a reggae singer; in fact she was a white American rocker. And as was typical of the time, her voice was unexceptional -- pleasantly generic with just a hint of grittiness. She was also a one-trick pony. She was put into a Kingston studio with one of Jamaica's leading lights, given a clutch of reggae classics, accompanied by one of the best reggae bands around, and she let loose with a mediocre rock performance, totally oblivious to the music being created around her. It's a telling moment. Jamaica had thrived on taking American sounds and making them their own. Velez was the first to show that it would inevitably always be a one-way street.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 10/14/2008
  • Label: Wounded Bird Records
  • UPC: 664140751521
  • Catalog Number: 7515
  • Sales rank: 94,059

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1 Money Man (4:50)
  2. 2 There You Are (3:39)
  3. 3 Wild Bird (5:23)
  4. 4 Disco Night (2:43)
  5. 5 Bend Down Low (3:36)
  6. 6 Happiness (3:05)
  7. 7 Come on In (5:06)
  8. 8 Get Up, Stand Up (3:28)
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Album Credits

Performance Credits
Martha Velez Primary Artist, Vocals, Background Vocals
Bob Marley Percussion
Rita Marley Vocals, Background Vocals
Judy Mowatt Vocals, Background Vocals
Al Anderson Guitar
Gladstone Anderson Piano, Keyboards
Aston Barrett Bass, Bass Guitar
Carlton "Carly" Barrett Drums
Tyrone Downie Organ, Keyboards
Marcia Griffiths Vocals, Background Vocals
Bernard Touter Harvey Piano, Keyboards
Lee "Scratch" Perry Percussion
Earl "Chinna" Smith Guitar
Winston Wright Keyboards
The Zap Pow Horns Horn
Winston Piano
The I Threes Background Vocals
Technical Credits
Bob Marley Composer, Producer, Author, Audio Production
Sylvan Morris Engineer
Lee Hulko Mastering
Toni J. Wadler Art Direction
Rob Freeman Engineer
M. Velez Composer
Pete Mackintosh Composer
R. Marley Composer
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 1 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2012

    Just buy it. Don't read the stupid posted review.

    Well, meeow. This toxic review of 'Escape From Babylon' has unfortunately propagated across the internet, and it is painful and unjust to have it be the prevailing definitive word on the work. "...so very, very wrong?" I love this album (along with anyone else not turned off by this review) so one of us must be wrong. Good thing you don't need a license to like or dislike a record. It is understandable that someone may have screwed up assigning Jo-Ann Greene to review this album, but it is irresponsible for Greene to accept a work clearly beyond her parochial little consciousness to review. 'Escape' is in the Jamaica Museum for the preservation of the Jamaican musical heritage.

    This is music citicism at its most frustrating. "Not only was Velez not Jamaican, she wasn't even a reggae singer..." Unbelievable. What next, "White Men Can't Jump"? In 1976, not even black people outside of Jamaica paid attention to reggae, and not much has changed in that respect thirty-five years later. Even the Jamaicans I know walk around crooning American R&B and rapping. If an American was asked to name the top ten reggae artists, he would fizzle out after Bob Marley, Eric Clapton, Men At Work and Matisyahu. Maybe people like Burning Spear are all geniuses, but on the Florida side of the Carribean they are on the order of Miriam Makeba, not that there's anything wrong with that. Between the accent and the jargon and the alien cultural context, nobody knows or cares what they are singing about. At least Velez brings an American sensibility to the table and she has the integrity to be herself. I'm sure if I listened to Marley for a thousand hours like Matisyahu did I would love him to death, but without an interpreter I can't listen to him for a thousand seconds. And yet I would have the humility to never dispute his greatness. And judging by sales figures most people are like me.

    That's what makes this album so significant and so prescient. Martha Velez was was a musicians' musician who was if anything too musically and lyrically heavy for the pop culture. She left her own footprints on folk, rock, soul, reggae and pop. Velez cannot be trivialized; she had grace and style and chops, had a musically adventurous and courageous spirit, moved in the top rank of the contemporary art, jammed and performed with the best, and expended the initiative and vision and respect to solicit a project with Bob Marley, who was little known outside Jamaica at the time. Too bad we can't read a review of the album by Bob Marley and his colleagues, who were not only open to putting their hearts into working with a non-black, non-Jamaican, non-reggae, non-Rastafarian fellow top-rank artist, but who toured with Velez to spread the spirit live in the Hudson valley.

    'Escape From Babylon' is a true fusion; a true collaboration, and it is the snobbish mentality of people like Jo-Ann Greene who ensure that Jamaica will overwhelmingly remain a net cultural importer. Have an irie day.

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