Bob Marley & The Wailers - Natty Dread (Half-Speed Master)

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Natty Dread captures Bob Marley's decisive transition from Wailers band member to auteur, his singing and writing now front and centre, and the revamped band securely reined in to his defiant, rastafarian worldview. This 1974 release mirrors the line-up's more sinewy sound, carved by Al Anderson's spidery guitar fills, Touter's telegraphic keyboard, the i-threes' female vocal choruses and vamping horns - a potent brew that bubbles under his then most openly political songs. A position paper on the daunting ghetto realities of Jamaica's trenchtown, the album reels off a series of enduring Marley classics and kicks off with the giddy, sexy reggae anthem, Lively Up Yourself, with its hilarious but mysterious spoken fadeout ('what you got in dat bag, dere?'). It continues with the uplifting pep talk in No Woman No Cry, the grim dispatches of Them Belly Full (But We Hungry) and Rebel Music (3 o'clock Roadblock), as well as the exhortations of the title song and Revolution. Marley's own dreadlocks were still just growing in then, but this is nonetheless fully matured, riveting reggae at its most focused, righteous, and rhythmically irresistible.

Released 20/11/20.