Bunny Wailer

Crucial! Roots Classics

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After unleashing a hat trick of unforgettable cultural albums between 1976-1978, Bunny Wailer seemed to have followed the rest of the reggae scene into ever-lighter, more commercially acceptable territories. "Seemed" because his international albums were a far cry from the kind of music he was self-releasing on singles back home. These remained enticingly out of sight for non-Jamaicans, until some of the best were collected for this album. The songs date from 1977-1985, 14 incredibly powerful cultural statements, all self-produced and backed by the likes of the Revolutionaries and the Roots Radics. The numbers are not arranged chronologically, nor did much thought go into the sequencing, but that's irrelevant, so superb is every track within.

Many of the songs reflected Jamaica's political and societal events, with 1978's "Peace Talk" inspired by the peace treaty agreed by Kingston's gangs, "Power Struggle" and "Tugawar Game" reflecting the corrosive battles carried into the streets by the island's two political parties, "Innocent Blood" a plea to stop the slaughter in the lead-up to the 1980 election, and 1981's "Unity" an attempt to heal the island's still-open wounds.

"Crucial" was used without permission by the Jamaican Labor Party as their campaign song in that election, and Bunny makes clear his feelings on their policies in "Trouble on the Road Again," "Boderation," and "Here in Jamaica."

The earliest song on the set, 1977's "Bright Soul," is one of the loveliest, although the "soul" referred to is actually Satan. The superb "Old Dragon" tells Lucifer's story in full, while "Struggle" instructs listeners on how to defeat this determined demon.

Although there are some notable omissions, there's no denying the caliber of all of these songs, both lyrically and musically.

At times, Bunny cleverly uses catchy, often nursery rhyme-ish melodies to great advantage, turning simple singalongs into thought-provoking yet incredibly contagious numbers. Nyahbinghi drumming, pastoral elements, bouncy roots reggae, sweet melodies, dubby production, dancehall styling, and even calypso are deftly applied to emphasize or counterpoint the messages of the songs.

Every song within is a standout, and the album's title is absolutely accurate.

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