Ziggy Marley

Fly Rasta

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Coming up on his third decade of making music, Bob Marley's eldest son Ziggy had already climbed the charts with a series of reggae-pop hits before doing some of that mid-career wandering that artists often do, going off on pleasing larks such as children's albums (2009's Family Time) or a return to rootsy reggae (2011's Wild & Free). All the while, he watched his younger brothers Damian and Stephen launch the 21st century electro-roots revolution, but rather than join their fray, his superior 2014 effort Fly Rasta finds him acting as the Marley kids' proud elder statesmen. Here, he's able to bundle his past into an album that's a welcome combination of comfortable and vital, kicking off with the very jam band "I Don't Wanna Live on Mars," a playful number that punches and high-kicks before sliding into a funky groove that recalls Ziggy's old crew, the Melody Makers. Speaking of, the background vocals of Erica Newell plus Sharon and Cedella Marley mean this album features a Melody Makers reunion to warm the heart of longtime fans, while a guest shot from the legendary dancehall DJ U-Roy on "Fly Rasta" gives the album both a swinging highlight and an anchor dropped way into the deep end of reggae. "I Get Up" is a horn-driven blast of pop and positive that sounds like "Tomorrow People" with more wisdom in the words, and while "You're My Yoko" sits on the track list like something to talk about, it's really just frivolous fun, tossed off with lyrics like "You're my beauty queen/You're my fashion scene" as if bed peace and breaking up the Beatles never happened. Right-sized, organized in a sensible manner, and an alluring balance of cool and calm, Fly Rasta lives up to its title as it sits on Ziggy's top shelf.

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