This is the very early Marley, the ska beginnings of the Wailers in the early-'60s Jamaican scene. All 20 tracks were set down from 1963-1966 in Kingston's famed Studio One, and it's really the freshest music the reggae icon made in his storied career. Yet it's also his least known. One look at the photos in the package amidst the liner notes would throw any layman; there's no dreadlocks or standard issue rasta getup, or wrinkles on his lion-maned grizzled face. Every bit the equal of the more-celebrated sensations that made the horrific poverty of third-world urban ghetto life a little less harsh, the young Wailers have all the best tenets of the brand new genre down. It's the staccato party trumpet blasts of "Love and Affection," the cooling presence at all times, the fast-but-not-too-furious off-beat bounce that went back to Cab Calloway and songs like "Minnie the Moocher," the spiritual love songs and calls to peace, and the general happy, warm tones. One listen to this super-early version of the later-staple "One Love" is enough to shock those who've never heard the pre-rocksteady days of these titans, who would do so much to put the much slower, later reggae style on the worldwide map. And anyone who had the little taste offered on disc one of the recent Songs of Freedom career-spanning box set will likely want to jump all over this; as will any fan of soul, R&B, ska, and just plain old good-time music. There's no hint of the pain and suffering and enormous burden of his later, admittedly just as brilliant, works. Even "Nobody Knows (The Troubles I Bear)" is a call to festivity. Put this on and dance the night away, and sing along.
AllMusic Review by Jack Rabid