Although they were well known in Jamaica when Trojan Records originally released the four LPs contained in this box set in 1970 and 1971, Bob Marley & the Wailers were totally unknown in the rest of the universe, and even in Jamaica -- always a singles market -- eyebrows were raised when these albums hit the racks. The first of them, called The Best of the Wailers, had been recorded for Leslie Kong's Beverley's Records, and shows a group still feeling its way toward an enveloping musical vision, with only Bob Marley's "Caution" showing the kind of political and lyrical balance that was to come, while "Soul Shakedown Party" hinted at the kind of impassioned charisma Marley could generate as a frontman. The Wailers strongly objected to Kong calling the set "The Best of the Wailers," since they were adamant that the best was still in the future, which proved to be exactly the case. The group moved on to work with producer Lee "Scratch" Perry on Soul Rebels, and the music grew darker and tighter, and a complete cultural and political vision began to take shape under Perry's guidance, who had also developed a stunning group of rhythms to lock down the emerging Wailers' sound. Perry brought musical and political focus to the band, and Marley's writing tightened as a result, while his singing began to exhibit the kind of easy, fluid lilt that would become his trademark. A second album with Perry, Soul Revolution, was arguably even better, featuring classic songs like "Fussing and Fighting," "Duppy Conqueror," "Kaya," "African Herbsman," and "Sun Is Shining," all of which offered a complete musical and cultural vision to the world. Perry followed things up with Soul Revolution Part II, which featured instrumental versions of the tracks. These weren't dub mixes, mind you, but simply the backing tracks with the vocals muted (occasionally you can hear the Wailers' ghostly voices bleeding into the open drum mics), and the taut, sparse power of these rhythms is amazing. The contents of these four LPs have been licensed, relicensed, and sub-licensed countless times, which has led to so many cheap compilations that it is easy to lose sight of just how vital and innovative these tracks were in their original configurations. Thanks to Trojan Records for restoring everything back to the initial packages, which gives this box set a historical dimension that the other compilations of this material woefully lack. Marley & the Wailers went on to bigger things, certainly, but they never sounded more like a group than they do on these very special recordings, and for many, they never sounded better.