During my annual summer binge on Bob Marley and the Wailers, I had cause to listen to Exodus in the car. It’s a beautiful album that confirmed Bob Marley’s status as a global superstar, shifting truckloads all over the world.
When it was released in 1977, I felt a little let down by it. After the radical militancy of his previous albums, Exodus sounded embarrassingly commercial to my less-than-tolerant teenage ears. It wasn’t reggae as I recognised it. I felt certain that the people of Jamaica thought so too. It was a shiny album with rhythms that purr like a finely tuned Bentley, produced by Bob himself, full of soppy love songs. In the year of peak Punk, Bob Marley and the Wailers had become a frivolous Pop group.
Of course, these days I view it differently. Yes, Exodus is packed with infectious, bouncy tunes designed to brighten day-time mainstream radio, but side one is as subversive a collection of songs as any Bob has written. Side One is a manifesto for insurrection. Natural Mystic sets the scene of a world in turmoil that is still relevant today. The sequence of So Much Things To Say/Guiltiness/Heathen eviscerates those in power with withering precision. Exodus is as clear a clarion call as you could wish to hear. All these are strategically placed, so that the listen would hear them first before all the chart hits on side two.
It made me wonder who else has hidden such a revolutionary message within the confines of glossily produced popular song?
Any more suggestions from The Afterword?