Album #324 – Natty Dread

Album #324

Natty Dread is the first Wailers album without Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh. To replace them, Marley brings in a new female back-up group called the I-Threes, who would become an integral part of Marley’s music for the rest of his life and career. He also brings in a new lead guitarist who happens to be American (Al Anderson). Natty Dread continues the mixing of social comment with reggae beats and style that Marley is so famous for. Natty Dread marks a shift in his career from the original Wailers to the new era Wailers. This was now Bob’s band and with the addition of the I-Threes, Marley’s sound is now more universal than it was before. The I-Threes added more soul to Bob’s music. I cannot imagine the Wailers without the I-Threes so, it was a shock to me when I learned that this was their first appearance on an album by Marley. Another interesting fact about Natty Dread is that even though the songs were all written by Marley, the songwriting credits are given to other people including his wife Rita and friend Vincent Ford. This is because of a contractual dispute with Marley’s publisher. No Woman, No Cry has alone allowed Ford to keep his soup kitchen open through royalty checks. Proof that Marley’s heart was in the right place.  Natty Dread kicks off with the feel-good anthem, Lively Up Yourself, which sets the tone for the whole album. One thing I did notice is that on a few of the album’s cuts, a primitive drum machine is used. I’m not sure why but, to me, it somewhat cheapens the songs it is used on. One of which is No Woman, No Cry and because of this, the version on Live! is much, much better. But, I have to admit I was moving and groovin’ to this album. It makes you feel good but at the same time, has some good lyrical content. One of my good friends has become obsessed with Marley as of late and Lively Up Yourself instantly reminds me of him. About a month ago, he played that song for me as a way of cheering me up. Whenever I hear it now, I think of him. Since the release of Kevin McDonald’s documentary called Marley last year, many including my friend have become more appreciative of his music. Natty Dread starts to bring momentum to Marley’s career, which would blossom just a few years later. Other highlights include: Them Belly Full (But We Hungry), Rebel Music (3 O’Clock Roadblock), So Jah S’eh, Natty Dread, Talking Blues and Revolution. Overall, I give Natty Dread 4.5 out of 5.

Next: Rock Bottom by Robert Wyatt

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