Although I love all types of music, one type of music I have always loved is reggae music. Ever since I was young I have reggae. Mostly it’s dub reggae I like, but I like all types of reggae. One artist who has always been a favorite of mine, is Bob Marley. Marley produced many great albums during his sadly, short, career. One of the best was Exodus, which he recorded in Jamaica and London in 1976 and 1977. It’s an album that since its release, has been considered one of the greatest albums of all time. Before I tell you why Exodus is such a great album, I’ll tell you a little about Bob Marley’s life and career.

Bob Marley was born in February 1945, in Nine Mile, Saint Ann, Jamaica. He came from a mixed race family. His father was a white Jamaican, who was a captain in the Royal Marines. Although he never saw his family, his father supported them financially, until he died when Bob Marley was ten. Marley’s mixed race background led to questions about his racial identity during his life. However, he saw himself as a black African. Two of his biggest influences were Marcus Garvey and Haile Selassie. From an early age, Marley’s political and religious views were established. Throughout his life he would publicize the Rastafari movement and Jamaican music, two things hugely important to him.

An important, but chance meeting with Neville “Bunny” Livingstone, who became Bunny Wailer would play a huge part in Marley’s future. Marley left school aged fourteen, to make music with Joe Higgs, who was a local musician and devout Rastafari. Whilst jamming, Marley met Peter McIntosh, who would become Peter Tosh, who like Marley, wanted to make music. In 1962, Marley recorded two singles, under the name Bobby Martell.

By 1963, Marley, Wailer and Tosh had established a ska and rocksteady band. They changed names often, but eventually became the Bob Marley and The Wailers. The group were active between 1963 and 1974. It was during this period that Marley became Rastafari and married Rita Anderson. Bob Marley struggled to become successful during this period. Success continued to allude Marley. Even an alliance with Lee “Scratch” Perry failed to produce success for Marley, ending in acrimony between the pair. The session produced some wonderful music, among the best of Marley’s career, and is well worth hearing.

By 1973, Bob Marley and The Wailers were still struggling. When Catch A Fire was released, it was well received by critics, but didn’t sell well. This lead to the Wailers splitting up. After they split, Marley continued recording as Bob Marley and The Wailers. 

Between 1974 and 1981, he was about to enter a period that saw him produce a number of classic albums, including Exodus. The album that gave his first hit outside Jamaica was Natty Dread released in 1975. It included the single No Woman, No Cry. That was a huge hit, and introduced the world to the wonderful music of Bob Marley. The follow-up to Natty Dread, was Rastaman Vibration in 1976. This was the album that broke Marley in the US. It reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and stayed there for four weeks. Little did Marley know that in December 1976, his life would be at risk.

Marley had agreed to participate in a free concert in Jamaica called Smile Jamaica. It had been organized by the Jamaican Prime Minister to ease tension between two political groups who were at war. Two days before the concert, Marley, his wife Rita and his manager Don Taylor were all shot and wounded, in an attempt on their life. Despite this, Marley still played in the concert. 

This attempt on his life lead to Marley leaving Jamaica. He spent a month in the Bahamas recovering and writing at Island Records owner Chris Blackwell’s Compass Point Studios in Nassau. During his stay there, he recorded material for his next two album Exodus and Kaya. The rest of Exodus was recorded in London, while Marley recovered from the attempt on his life.

Exodus propelled Marley to international stardom. The album was a success worldwide, firmly establishing him as global superstar. Three singles were released from the album Jamming, Waiting In Vain and One Love/People Get Ready. In the US, Exodus only reached number twenty in the Billboard Hot 100. It was a huge success in the UK, and other countries worldwide. SInce then, the album has been recognized as one of the best album ever recorded, with Rolling Stone magazine including it in their top 500 albums of all time. I will tell you what makes this album so special shortly.

After Exodus, only three more albums would be released in his lifetime. Kaya the follow-up to Exodus was released in 1978. It had been recorded in the Bahamas at the same time as much of Exodus was recorded. It has a very soft and laid back sound, with songs about love and marijuana. The album sold well, and entered the top five in the UK album charts.

Survival was released in 1979. It was a highly political album. Marley is at his most militant on this album, with African unity one of the key themes. The album was meant to be one of a trilogy of albums, with Uprising and Confrontation completing the trilogy. Survival sold well, and shows another side of Marley. 

Uprising was released in 1980. It was the final album released in Marley’s lifetime. O the album, nearly every song is to do with Marley’ Rastifarian beliefs. The album closes with Redemption Song, which has since become a classic acoustic folk song. Although the album sold well, in only reached number forty-one in the US Billboard Hot 100, but sold better in the UK. 

Bob Marley died of cancer in May 1981. He had been suffering from a malignant melanoma which was discovered when he injured his toe playing football in July 1977. Between July 1977 until his death, Marley continued to record and tour. The third record in the trilogy Confrontation was released two years after his death. It comprised unreleased material recorded during his lifeline. 

Having told you about Bob Marley’s life, I will now tell you what makes Exodus such a fantastic album. Exodus opens with Natural Mystic, which opens with a slow reggae beat and Marley singing softly. His voice is laid back, almost lazy, but he articulates the lyrics clearly, with feeling. The arrangement has left loads of space in the track, allowing it to breath. Bass, drums and guitar are joined by a brass section,  which brings the track to life. It’sa great track to start a classic album.

So Much Things To Say is the next song on the album. Like much of Marley’s music, spiritually is important to him, and this is the case here. It’s a very spiritual song, one that Marley sings well. He delivers the song passionately and powerfully. The way the song is arranged is quite simple, just drums, guitar, bass and organ. There is a similarity with the rhythm and that of Natural Mystic. Both sound quite similar. That is no bad thing as the rhythm is so catchy, it’s infectious. What makes the song is the lyrics, they’re powerful and the message delivered passionately.

Guiltiness starts with drums, crisp and loud, which are joined by organ, bass and guitar. Later the brass section joins. Marley’s vocal is clear, as if desperate to get across his message. As Marley sings, the rhythm section meanders along, playing gloriously, creating a masterful backdrop for his vocal. His lyrics are powerful and intelligent. Marley was a man with a social conscience, and was firmly on the side of the oppressed. He gets his message across here really well, via this thoughtful song.

The Heathen’s lyrics are like a cry to arms from Marley. He calls for the “fallen fighters to rise up and take there stance again.” This is Marley the militant, at his political best. Helping to encourage the downtrodden and oppressed to rise up, and crush their oppressors. I’ve always found this an inspirational song, one that is still relevant today, and always will be. Marley sings the song passionately, with just enough defiance. Behind him, The Wailers have produced a masterful performance, one to match the inspirational lyrics.

The title track Exodus is next. A bass plays, is joined by piano and brass section, then Marley enters stage right. When he does, he goes on to produce one of the best performances on the album. He sings some highly spiritual lyrics, that can’t fail to touch you. You experience the trials and tribulations, as well injustices suffered. When Marley sings the lyrics to Exodus, you can sense his anger and frustration, but also his hope for the future, and belief that one day, things will change, and improve. Exodus is a powerful track, one of the best on the album.

How do you follow a brilliant track like Exodus? Quite simple, with another fantastic track Jamming. This is a track that takes me back over twenty years, this album was the soundtrack to the summer of 1977. Exodus was on heavy rotation, and one of the most played tracks was Jamming. Immediately, when you hear the opening bars,  you know this is going to be a joyous slice of sunshine. Drums start the track, the piano plays, then Bob Marley sings, some joyous lyrics. It’s a feel-good track, one with a lovely catchy rhythm. It’s highly infectious, almost contagious. It’s no exaggeration to say that listening Jamming is one of the best three and a half minutes you will ever spend.

The quality keeps on coming with Waiting In Vain. Here the tempo drops, Marley sings a beautiful love song. As usual he sings the lyrics beautifully, they’re heartfelt, passionate, a plea to a lover. Waiting In Vain ambles along, Marley singing in front of a brilliant rhythm section. The arrangement is tight. Nothing is out of place. You’re witnessing some fantastic musicians at the top of their game. What you’re also privilege to hear is a lovely love song, beautifully sung.

One of my favorite songs by Bob Marley is Turn Your Lights Down Low. It’s a song that I never tire of hearing. A paean to love, one of the most beautiful and romantic songs you will ever hear. What makes the song, is they way its arranged. Throughout the song, from the drums that open the track, and Marley singing, the whole song is understated. There is nothing unnecessary in the in arrangement. It’s an example of where less is more. Marley is backed by a rhythm section, percussion, organ and backing vocalists. Each ensure they don’t overpower Marley’s vocal, and sit firmly in the background. Marley, in turn, sings quietly, gently, emphasizing the inherent beauty in the lyrics. The result is stunning. A brilliant love song, one that is timeless.

The tempo increases with Three Little Birds. Previously, we’ve heard Marley the militant politician, his spiritual side and Marley the lover. This song seems to fit into the first category, with him delivering a message, telling his people not to worry, things would be okay. Like Jamming, the track is an uptempo, feel-good track, one that lifts your spirits, gives you hope for the future. From the introduction with drums and organ, until Marley sings, the mood is positive. Thereafter, the track flows joyously, full of rhythms and hope. Marley is accompanied by backing vocalists, who are a perfect foil for his voice They compliment his vocal style perfectly. The Wailers, as usual, are a backing band with no equals, and played a huge part in shaping Bob Marley’s sound. 

Exodus closes with One Love/People Get Ready. This is a great way to end the album. A song with a powerful message, which is still as relevant today, as then. One Love starts softly, meandering along gently. When Marley starts to sing the lyrics, their power hits you. His sincerity and hope for the future shines through. Their message is strong, heartfelt and delivered in hope. It shows Marley’s talent as both singer and songwriter, and like much of his music, was one with a message, and with a purpose. The song is sung and played perfectly, Bob Marley and The Wailers reserving one of their best performances for the final track, on this seminal album.

Exodus is, in my opinion, one of the greatest albums of Bob Marley’s, tragically short career. Ten songs, covering politics, spirituality and love. Each of them of the highest standard. Not only was it one of his best albums, but it was one of the best albums between 1975 and 1980, a real low point in the UK music scene, when punk and prog rock tormented the ears of music lovers, masquerading as music. Between the same period, Marley was producing some of the greatest music of his career. Every album he produced was of the highest standard, and was crammed full of wonderful music, music that offered hope to many people. It’s a tragedy that in 1977, he first became ill, and that his life was cut short, dying too young, aged thirty-six. Had he lived, he would’ve had so much to offer, he could have become a spokesman for a generation. Thankfully, he left a wonderful legacy. He left behind some wonderful music, that we are all still able to enjoy. 

Exodus was a highpoint in his career, if you have never heard it, I would recommend that you buy it straight away. You won’t be disappointed, you’ll be privileged to hear some of Bob Marley’s greatest work. He produced many other great albums, but I would recommend Catch A Fire and Natty Dread as two other albums worth buying. They’ll allow you to experience different sides to Bob Marley and his music. Standout Tracks: The Heathen, Exodus, Jamming and Turn Your Lights Down Low.


1 Comment

  1. Tony

    I agree with exodus being one of the best. albums by bob marley, but I would recommend ablums like Survival(which I think is the 2nd best), Rastaman Vibration, Uprising, and Kaya. They are a little better than Catch a Fire and Natty Dread. The Heathen is not more of a standout track than Waiting in Vain, Three Little Birds, or So Much Things to.Say…You know that..

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