Bunny Wailer

Liberation

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The three original Wailers were an interesting mix of personalities. Bob Marley was the charismatic -- a prophet, mystic and ladies' man all rolled into one. Peter Tosh was the cynical revolutionary. And Bunny Livingston was... what? It was hard to say until the group splintered and the three all went on to varying degrees of solo success. Once Bunny was out of the shadow of Peter and Bob, it became clear that his was, in some ways, the more fully integrated talent and the more grounded vision. Listen to the rich, melodious speaking voice that introduces "Rise and Shine," the lead track on Liberation. Listen to the chesty, resonant voice that then proceeds to deliver the song itself. Bunny may simply be the best singer of the three -- Bob always seemed to be possessed by the song, sometimes shaken across the stage like a rag doll by the need to get the words out of his head. Peter Tosh always seemed slightly contemptuous of the whole singing process and invested minimal effort in it. But Bunny is always in control of both his instrument and his material, and is, in some ways, a more effective messenger because of it. There are so many highlights on this album that they almost don't count as highlights -- "Want to Come Home," with its Nyabinghi drum foundation and its simple, powerful repatriation message; "Liberation," with its effortless melodic hook; "Bald Head Jesus" with its matter-of-fact references to Jesus as a "dreadlocked Nazarene" and its incorporation of "Give Me That Old Time Religion." It just doesn't get much better than this.

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