In recent years, most of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ catalog has been re-issued as deluxe edition CD sets; typically with a second disc offering an alternate mix or a live performance correspondent to the era. In the case of the latest, a 3-LP/digital re-release of his majestic Live! album recorded in 1975, it’s a wonderful re-configuration of a must-own classic. The original record was culled mostly from one of the two July nights Marley and his Wailers performed some 40 years ago at London’s Lyceum Theatre, and edited as necessity to fit on one vinyl LP. This trio of wax returns not only that celebrated performance back to whole, but also the concert that was previously unheard, in its entirety.
To hear these tantalizing shows, from Tony Garnett’s introductions, through the hypnotizing exiting command of the “Get Up, Stand Up” finale, is spine-tingling. The London audiences were keyed up and quite vocal, almost coaxing out of Marley these indelible renditions, including the now-minted version of “No Woman, No Cry” that propelled the Rastaman from a ghetto-tough Jamaican musician to international star. There are definitely differences between the two nights of performances that reggae aficionados will relish examining and contrasting that make the largely-repeated setlist a formality rather than a hindrance.
Marley pushed his band, and at this point in his history, this was a unit out to prove itself, having emerged following the departure of original Wailers- Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer just a few years prior. Knife-edge sharp, brothers Carlton and Family Man Barrett establish themselves as a preeminent rhythm section, with American Al Anderson globalizing the island sound with blues and soul guitar runs. While the collection is available to be cherry-picked digitally for those wanting only what they haven’t heard before, the listening experience best suited for this complete overview of those two electric evenings should be as it lies in the grooves of the six sides of vinyl, for a trip in time back to ’75.