Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers / Ziggy Marley

Play the Game Right

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With a mere three singles having appeared between 1979 and 1984, the Melody Makers had given little hint as to their true musical intentions. The arrival of their long-awaited debut album, Play the Game Right, changed all that for good. Of course, the young quartet had significant help from several former Wailers bandmembers, alongside many of the island's greatest sessionmen. But credit where credit's due, these legendary veterans appeared on virtually all the reggae records of the age, yet the Melody Makers still managed to lay the groundwork here for their own unique style. Behind the boards, an equally expert group, under the watchful eye of Rita Marley, gave the record a clean sound that balances a rootsy feel with a lilting poppy edge. The musicianship and song arrangements are excellent, while the young Marleys prove themselves worthy of all the time and attention. Fifteen-year-old Ziggy, who composed or co-wrote all the songs bar one, already exhibits a surprising maturity, in both his songwriting as well as his forceful vocal delivery. It says much that the weakest track on the album was composed by dad, a re-recording of the group's debut single, "Children Playing in the Streets." Elsewhere, all the ingredients for the Melody Makers' future success are in place, from exuberant party pieces like "Reggae Is Now" to a clutch of solid rootsier numbers, a batch of poppier offerings, and Stephen's first foray into dancehall on "Unuh Nuh Listen Yet." "Natty Dread Rampage" even foreshadows the synthi-wave hybrids that would soon mash up dancefloors around the world. An excellent album, and a formidable debut.

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